Parents regularly flock to social media, blogs, and go-to forums to vent and parade emotions on the much-debated issue of children with piercings. With Channel 5’s June release of new series Blinging up Baby - a tactfully-titled nod to Hepburn’s 1938 film of the same name – the debate surrounding parent-led piercing has once again been sparked. The TV documentary sees the UK’s taste for diamanté embellishments - once satisfied by Channel 4’s My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding - take an arguably tasteless turn.
Blinging up Baby captured the lives of individuals driven by their desire to decorate their child in insurmountable glitter and bling. Far from frivolous, this infatuation with tiny, glitter-drowned garments and accessories in fact drains these parents of their money, causing individuals such as UK benefit citizen, Carissa Spark, to live on the breadline. These mums go to extreme lengths to ensure that their little darling daughters are receiving the finest jewellery, dresses, and above all - bling.
For many of viewers, as was rampantly displayed on twitter, the most uncomfortable element during the broadcasting of this indulgent lifestyle is the piercing. As an un-pierced child myself, I remember nothing more ‘pierce-off-putting’ than seeing a child placed in the window of Claire’s Accessories squirming and crying, onlookers passing by, while adorning parents swooned upon the bejewelled lobes of their now impaled, whaling child. Child cruelty, some might say.
Indeed, Internet campaigner, Susan Ingram has built up a petition on 38 Degrees this summer calling for action; over 42,300 signatures [at the time of publishing] have currently been submitted, all with a plea for a minimum-legal-age requirement. The success of Ingram’s campaign indicates that, particularly in the UK, the predominant view is that this sort of pain and fear is at least unnecessary for a newborn and, at most, a form of child harm.
In some South American countries such as Argentina and Uruguay, however, piercing is seen as a simple cultural tradition akin to Jewish circumcision. Babies often have their ears pierced very soon after they are born, some even before they leave the hospital. Brazilian supermodel, Gisele Bündchen, posted an image on social media in July 2013 of her newborn wearing gold studs, clearly indicating that for herself, this decision sits in line with the cultural norms of her birth place.
Cultural diversities aside, a counter-argument commonly voiced across online discussion groups is that it is safer to carry out this ordeal when the baby is younger due to the fact they are less likely to tug at their ear lobes, therefore decreasing the risk of infection. Some parents believe that they are causing less harm, ensuring their child does not have to endure the pain and effects of piercings when they are old enough to remember the experience.
Yet it appears from Blinging up Baby and from the growing momentum of anti-piercing campaigns, that it is vanity rather than well-being that prompts most parents to get their offspring’s ears pierced. The Channel 5 programme certainly added fuel to this argument by carefully composing the piercing event in a vulgar manner, in one instance allowing the older sister to view their baby sister endure the pain, powerless to help.
So how about that age requirement then? Is it time for the law to protect children until they are old enough to speak for themselves? Maybe so - and yet, arguably the law has more pressing responsibilities to address. Perhaps the topic of child piercing has been blown way out of proportion. To refer to these tiny little holes that cause minutes of pain as child cruelty arguably undermines the horrific abuse - physical, sexual and verbal, all with legal punishments that can result in years in prison - to which many children are forced to endure.
It may be sensible to set an age at which children can decide whether or not they want to get their ears pierced but for some, this issue is simply providing a comfortable distraction from confronting the real issues of child cruelty.
In this current era of immediate online commentary and viral clips, shouldn’t we instead be talking, blogging and texting about the bigger issues in our society and contributing to petitions that raise awareness of serious real child abuse? Perhaps it is time to realign our focus to big issues rather than just tiny holes in little lobes?
Do you agree? Get in touch with your views @PETRIeINVENTORY.
Words: Chloe Trimmer
Image source: Channel 5