Lifeguard Embarrasses Little Girl for Swimming Without a Shirt in Public

little girls poolAt what age does a young girl's body become a sexualized object? "Never" would be a nice answer, but probably not the one you're going to get in the world we live in -- as one Canadian mom just learned the hard way, when her 8-year-old daughter was embarrassed by a lifeguard for using the public pool without a shirt on.

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Anika Warmington and her family had stopped by the city of Guelph's public wading pool, and with the warm summer temperatures, the kids naturally wanted to get in the water. Since they hadn't brought swimsuits, Warmington's 8-year-old daughter Marlee and her younger brothers stripped down to their shorts instead to get their splash on.

As the kids were cooling off, her mom says a lifeguard came up to them and asked Marlee her age. When she replied, he informed her that she had to cover up -- the pool's policy required female guests over the age of 4 to put on a top. Marlee was obviously shaken and embarrassed by the sudden information that her prepubescent body was something that needed to be concealed for other people's comfort, and Warmington is speaking out about the situation on social media. Meanwhile a parks and recreaction spokesman has responded, noting, "Although it's legal for anyone to be topless in the public realm, when participating in city recreation programs or using supervised or enclosed recreational facilities, we require them to wear bathing tops.

More from The Stir: Little Girls Shouldn't Have to 'Cover Up' Their Bathing Suits at School Pool Party

Leaving aside the question of why the protection of public toplessness doesn't actually cover public property like a city pool: this obviously isn't for health and safety reasons, or boys at the pool would be subjected to the same cover-up requirements. Rules like thse aren't in place to protect children, they're to let adults feel more comfortable. Unfortunately, this measure of comfort for the adults here comes at the cost of a little girl's self-confidence and whatever sort of blithe 8-year-old happiness she was enjoying before the incident at the pool.

We shouldn't be setting up and enforcing rules that elevate the comfort of adults over the comfort of children; especially not when that 'comfort' is related to the sexualization of a young girl's body -- and then the enforced containment of that perceived sexuality.

Where is the harm in a little girl running around topless that doesn't exist for a little boy of the same age and exact same body shape? Remember, it wasn't all that long ago that the sight of the male chest was treated as off-limits, too. Hopefully it won't be another hundred years before we manage to get our priorities straight so that children like Marlee can play in public pools without being subjected to a good old-fashioned shaming.

When did you make your daughter start wearing a shirt and where?

 

Image via © iStock.com/ChiccoDodiFC

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