ONLY A HEAD case wouldn't be troubled by the revelations in a recent preview of TLC's "Toddlers & Tiaras" of wacky pageant moms giving their daughters "go-go juice" and Pixy Stix candy, a/k/a "pageant crack," to hype up their little darlings for competition.
And how about that British mom who gave her 7-year-old a gift certificate for liposuction as a Christmas gift? And have you seen the adults who stood around and cheered for preteens gyrating to Wu-Tang Clan's "Clap Them Thighs"? I ran into that on Facebook recently.
When most of us read about such nonsense, we shake our heads and do nothing.
Not Miho Kahn.
The mother of a Marine son and high-school-age daughter, this West Chester interior designer recently wrote, illustrated and self-published a book called If You Give a Girl a Push-Up Bra. The paperback pseudo-children's book reveals the slippery slope for girls who become preoccupied with their looks and sexuality.
The book starts off simply enough with an illustration of a teenager trying on a push-up bra and liking what she sees in the mirror. Next the girl is shown applying heavy makeup to her face and weighing herself obsessively. It goes downhill from there. The girl winds up falling in with a fast crowd, getting pregnant, missing the prom and in the end - after giving birth and nursing a baby - really needing that push-up bra.
"This message has been coming at us for a long time. 'You've got to fit within this realm in order for you to be beautiful.' I'm just trying to get at the truth," said Kahn, who occasionally performs a one-woman show she created for the Fringe Festival called "Clean Sheets." "I don't know a woman out there who isn't caught up in 'I've got to lose weight.' "
Sitting in an airy, sun-splashed room at her large rambling home in West Chester, she railed against marketers such as Abercrombie & Fitch, which made the mistake last year of trying to sell a padded bikini top as part of its Abercrombie Kids line for 7- to 14-year-olds. It caused such a stink that the triangular-style top was pulled from the website. If they're trying to sell padded bras to 7-year-olds, what's next? Pint-size garter belts and stockings?
"It's not easy for parents. It's not easy for kids, and it makes me mad. I'm not a political person. I'm an artist," Kahn said.
Kahn, who had her own problems growing up in Princeton, including an eating disorder, an unplanned pregnancy and dropping out of high school, started her sketching crusade while waiting for her son when he was in an after-school drug-rehab program. She began drawing troubled kids with their pants hanging off their rear ends, young people with spiky hair experimenting with drugs, adolescents smoking cigarettes, and so on. As she did so, she started blaming herself for her child's troubles and thinking back to the time she'd allowed him to smoke a cigar at 15.
"What part of this is my fault?" she fretted.
The title of a book jumped into her head : If You Give a Kid a Cigar . . . , inspired by the children's book that she used to read to her own kids, Laurie Numeroff's If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.
Kahn kept drawing and eventually came up with the idea for a book aimed at girls and with the phrase "If you give a girl a padded bra." It stuck.
She published 500 copies of the book and she's been distributing them herself. For example, she took a copy to a neighborhood social-service agency where she showed it to teens in foster care. She asked one girl to finish the sentence "If you give a girl a push-up bra . . . ." The response? "If you give a girl a push-up bra, she rules the world."
Insert head shake here.
Kahn hopes her book will wind up in schools and in the hands of counselors and educators who deal with young people.
But Kahn isn't sure how to make that happen. "I don't know how to do that. I'm not the marketer. I'm an artist."
But as she's learned from her varied career - she started decorating other people's home after doing such a great job on her own, then garnering great reviews for her performance art - she's learned never to say never.