Middle school fashion bullies

Filed under: Just For Moms, Big Kids, Teens, Places To Go, Media, Day Care & Education, Decor, That's Entertainment

When I was in school, there were very few designer labels available for kids. We had Izod and Gloria Vanderbilt, but very few kids were wearing them. Generally, if your clothes were clean and well-matched, it was all good. These days, however, things have changed. It seems that women's obsession with fashion has trickled down to their daughters and middle school has become the new fashion proving grounds.

High-end clothing and accessory designers like Marc Jacobs and Armani are now targeting children and creating more opportunity for girls to judge and exclude other girls. Dorothy Espelage, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, says this proliferation of designer clothing for girls has resulted in an increase in "bullying related to clothes", pitting the haves against the have-nots. As if fitting in with your peers at that age wasn't difficult enough, she says the ability to buy expensive clothing gives some "the opportunity to become popular -- and that protects you and gives you social power and leverage over others."

13-year-old Becky Gilker agrees. "The better brands you wear, the more popular you are," she says. "If you don't wear those things you get criticized." And it isn't just the label - or lack of - on your clothes that can make you a target. When Becky wears pink, she says, "I get the snarky 'Nice clothes!' when people walk by in the halls."

This just makes me mad. Where do you suppose a girl learns to treat other people like that? Personally, I don't blame the designer labels, I blame the parents. Specifically, the mom who herself judges others by their clothes and passes on those values to her child. The mom who freely disparages others in front of her impressionable kid. I know that the social life of a young girl is a complicated thing, but teaching a child to be respectful of others is not. Maybe I am living in a dream world, but I strive each and every day to stress to Ellie that it is not only important to be yourself and not be influenced by others, but that it is just as important to allow others to be who they are.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.