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Abercrombie Pushes the Limit

National retailer Abercrombie and Fitch made headlines last weekend with a new swimwear line for girls available on the Abercrombie Kids Website , geared toward kids ages eight to 14. The item in question? A padded bikini top.

CNN reported yesterday that the teen-focused retailer — who has been in the hot seat before for overtly sexual advertising campaigns featuring nude models — touted the swimwear as “padded” and “push-up.” Abercrombie makes this item available starting in size small, which fits girls 56-58 inches tall. According to the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics , girls usually reach this height by about age nine.

CNN also reports that, since their initial unanswered inquiries to Abercrombie about this item, the retailer has changed the description from “push-up” to “padded triangle.” Presumably, the product remains the same.

Critics have taken aim at the retailer for both the design and marketing of the bikini top. And Wheelock College sociology professor Gail Dines told a CNN affiliate that, among other offenses, the product “sends out really bad signals to adult men about young girls being appropriate sexual objects.”

Apart from the potential signals such a top might send to adult men, parents are also concerned about what such clothing says to young girls. Shana Moredock, a Fairfield mother of two and founder of Stop It Consulting , a company dedicated to educating communities on the topics of sexual violence and healthy relationships, said, “This kind of overly sexualized product makes an already confusing time that much more difficult for children. We should be teaching our children to love themselves for who they are, inside and out. Self-esteem starts in childhood and we carry those lessons with us into adulthood." Tom Henderson , a blogger for Parent Dish , offers a more sarcastic thought: “Your kid could be flatter than Fargo, N.D., but she'll be keeping up the Kardashians with [Abercrombie’s] latest line of swimwear." And child psychologist Dr. Michael Bradley told Good Morning America , "We're shaping [young girls’] beliefs. We're actually teaching them that this is their primary value in this culture."

What do you think of Abercrombie’s padded bikini for prepubescent girls? Is it an isolated incident? A marketing stunt? Or is it symptomatic of a deeper cultural trend? Start the conversation in your community and leave a comment here.

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