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Beyond the Discourse of Sexualization

An Inquiry into the Adultification of Tween Girls’ Dressing in Singapore

Bernice Loh

Keywords: children; culture; clothes; consumption; fashion; sexualization; South-East Asia

In order to explore the adultification of tween girls in Singapore through the way they dress, I begin this article by taking stock of the arguments in the discourse of sexualization. In further elucidating the cultural specificities of girlhood, I point out how tween girls’ fashioning of themselves after adults in Singapore presents some challenges to the ways that the adultification of tween girls’ dressing has been commonly theorized. I show that although the adultification of tween girls’ dressing forms a large part of the debate in the discourse of sexualization, tween girls’ fashioning of themselves after adults should not be assumed to be an exclusive outcome and process of improper and premature sexualization in culturally-specific contexts like Singapore. This article, therefore, explores a different way of thinking about tween girls who are dressing up in more adult-like ways, and suggests the need to be careful about extrapolating from arguments made in the (Western) discourse of sexualisation about this phenomenon.

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