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Is Gwyneth Paltrow 'sexualizing' four-year-olds with designer bikinis?

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow arrives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Benefit celebrating the opening of the "Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations" exhibition in New York May 7, 2012.

LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS

Gwyneth Paltrow is being accused of "sexualizing" young girls for selling bikinis targeted at girls as young as four years old.

The two-piece navy ruffled "new york bikini set," a collaboration with swimwear designer Melissa Odabash, is offered for sale on Paltrow's lifestyle website goop.com in four-, six- and eight-year-old sizing. The line is comprised mainly of adult bikinis, with the "super cute" kids one included so "your daughter can have a Melissa Odabash bikini too."

Photos of a young girl modelling the suit are featured on the homepage of Paltrow's site.

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News of the bikini line comes amidst ongoing debate over "grown-up" products like makeup and clothing targeted at young girls, and whether they contribute to the premature sexualization of children. Following a firestorm of criticism and a withering front-page story in The Sun, British fashion chain Primark stopped selling padded bikini tops aimed at girls as young as age 7. After that 2010 incident, Primark apologized, and announced it would donate all profit made from that line to a children's charity.

In response to Paltrow's bathing suits, Claude Knight, director of London-based charity Kidscape told the Daily Mail: "We remain very opposed to the sexualization of children and of childhood." She said the dangers of such products "have been discussed at length, so it is a great pity that such trends continue and that they carry celebrity endorsement."

Kristan Dooley, managing director of Women's Forum Australia told the Sydney Morning Herald: "Premature sexualization of girls is linked with serious mental health problems such as eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression."

A spokeswoman for Paltrow reportedly called such criticism "absurd," saying that such bathing suits have been worn by young girls for decades.

Odabash is a London-based swimwear designer whose clientele includes celebrities like Kate Moss, Rihanna and Beyoncé. Her suits have been described by British Vogue as "the Ferraris of the bikini world."

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About the Author
National Food Reporter

Ann Hui is the national food reporter at The Globe and Mail. Previously, she worked as a national reporter and homepage editor for theglobeandmail.com and an online editor in News. More

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