Last night at the MuchMusic Video Awards in Toronto, Katy Perry showed up on the red carpet with a bunch of little girls. Each child was dressed as a mini-Katy, in her signature costumes, from videos like "Last Friday Night (TGIF)," "Teenage Dream" and "The One That Got Away." But one little girl was wearing a blue wig, like Katy did in "California Gurls." The child also had her own version of Katy's cupcake bra: Two little cupcakes over her breasts, with two tiny red cherries as nipples. Yikes.
One can only assume the little girl — and her parents — okayed this ensemble. But everyone involved ought to know: It's not okay. It's one thing for a grown woman to cover sexualized areas with edible treats, announcing (however playfully) that her body is quite literally for consumption. But to transfer that message onto the body of a child is revolting.
There's a difference between this and a Little Mermaid costume with a shell bra, or a "hula" outfit with a coconut bra. Even though the little girl is covered up — unlike Katy in the video, she's actually wearing a shirt — those cupcakes are invitations: Put me in your mouth. Frosting is made for licking, cherries are for biting, and it's abundantly clear that the decorations are a declaration: I'm sweet, just taste me. There's no innuendo or subtext; it's straight-forward sexual communication: Eat me. (And lest we forget, a cupcake is also a vaginal proxy.)
Look, surely this kid is fine, not scarred for life, and can grow up to have a healthy, normal existence. Who knows, maybe she's already read Forever. And let's not stifle Katy's — or any other pop star's — creativity by whining, Won't someone please think of the children? I was only a few years older than this kid when I started listening to Prince, dressing like Madonna, and singing the lyrics to "Like A Virgin."
Of couse, I wasn't photographed on a red carpet by global media outlets. And self-sexualization/exploration is not the same as objectification; this child is being used as a prop in a photo-op. Maybe this is just as bad as the Toddlers and Tiaras kid who was dressed up as a hooker… but then again, at least a prostitute is a job, where a woman has agency ("I say who, I say when, I say WHO.").
A cupcake doesn't have voice, a brain, or feelings. A little kid persuaded into advertising her breasts as snacks? Inert, dehumanized, true, pure objectification, coupled with sexualization of a child. All of the adults involved — parents, stylists, Katy Perry — should have known better.