Jessica Simpson’s 3-year-old daughter Maxwell strikes a pose for the camera. (Photo: @jessicasimpson/Instagram)
As the weather continues to warm up, expect your social media feeds to fill up with cute kids by the pool. Celebrity children are no exception – except their photos are under a lot more scrutiny.
On Tuesday, Jessica Simpson posted a photo of her 3-year-old daughter, Maxwell, wearing a bathing suit with her hand on her hip, her lips in a slight pout. In a second shot, captioned “kiss,” Simpson’s mini-me is holding onto the side of the pool, puckering up for the camera.
Some critics are saying these photos of Jessica Simpson’s 3-year-old daughter are overly sexualized. (Photo: @jessicasimpson/Instagram)
Both pics, if you ask me, are adorable. What’s sweeter than a toddler enjoying some summer fun? The poses seem a perfect imitation of Maxwell’s mom, who often gives her own pouty face on Instagram, and has blown kisses to the camera in online photos with her daughter.
And while most of the commenters on Simpson’s Instagram account hail the photos as “adorable” or “precious,” a few are taking issue with the shots, accusing the actress and fashion designer of sexualizing her young daughter. “Why would she have her posing like that?” asks suzie.king.39. “Modeling as a child would be one thing. Posing seductively is another,” writes another user. “I don’t know why anyone would imagine that this ‘association’ is good. This isn’t ‘judgmental.’ It’s protective. A ‘baby’ shouldn’t have to be aware of its sexuality and feel compelled to look alluring or even pretty. Or even be aware of it’s outward appearance at all.’” And priscilla.jones writes, “I’d like to see her pose as herself. That hand on the hip is not good.”
Jessica Simpson’s daughter, Maxwell, then 4 months old, wearing a bikini. (Photo: ABC)
In 2012, Simpson came under fire for posting a photo of Maxwell, then only 4 months old, in a bikini. At the time, the director of the British charity Kidscape called the photo “disturbing” and told the Daily Mail that, “It is hoped that parents will understand that 'baby bikinis’ are totally inappropriate and that they contribute to the sexualization and commercialization of childhood. We should not be compromising the sanctity of our children’s early years.”
Whether you agree with that or not (personally, I’m on the fence — I don’t dress my 2-year-old daughter in bikinis, but I don’t have problems with moms who do) it’s important to note that in the recent photos, Maxwell is wearing an adorable one-piece suit from Janie and Jack with what look to be shorts on top. Hardly a scandalous outfit.
I’m pretty sure that there are some photos from my own childhood where I’m striking similar poses, and I think I was just a kid being a kid. I’d argue the same is true in these photos. Can young girls not wear bathing suits anymore without moms being accused of somehow corrupting their girls?
Tovah Klein, Director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development and author of How Toddlers Thrive, says people shouldn’t make too much of the photos, which are likely meant to be innocent images of a little girl enjoying the weather. “Young children learn by observing. They imitate what they see. The most powerful role models for these observations are the close adults in their life,” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “What I note in these photos is a toddler, in an adorable bathing suit, posing in the ways she has seen adults and others pose. Being flirtatious is one way that children relate. Does it have to be sexual? Only if adults want to read it that way.”
And these days, considering how often are kids are being photographed, they learn to strike a pose early. “Children charm adults in many ways and this generation of children are being photographed at unprecedented levels. Some children shy away from photos or find it intrusive. Adults need to respect that. Yet others enjoy it and happily pose, as this little girl is doing,” she says. “It can be fun to act like mommy or daddy, to be like the adults. But it does not have to be sexualized.”
So, this summer, as I sign my daughter up for swim class and we practice being in the pool, I’ll have my camera ready. And if my toddler wants to blow a kiss to the camera, I certainly won’t stop her.