Are the Pussycat Dolls suitable for young teens?
Are the Pussycat Dolls, who perform at the King's Hall next week, really suitable for an audience likely to be be packed with 12-year-old girls?
I could probably tolerate the Pussycat Dolls had they stayed true to their beginnings: an adult-only burlesque troupe designed to titillate punters with raunchy striptease routines.
Dressed in bustiers, hot pants and suspenders, the girls would wiggle their way through a two-hour set of simulated sex for a mostly male clientele.
Legs were stretched akimbo, hips gyrated and bottoms slapped. When they weren't shimmying seductively around poles they were wrapped around each other in acts of faux-lesbianism. Still, all the adults had a good night. Men got a cheap thrill, the women got paid -- everyone was happy
What I find intolerable is that the troupe, who have since transformed themselves into a best-selling girl band, are now intent on bringing their own particular brand of strip-club chic to our under-12s.
The overly sexualised stage routines and explicit outfits are still there, only the audience is now little girls as young as four. It's a market the women (the lead singer is 31) have been groomed for since the very beginning.
They are meant to look doll-like, with their pneumatic frames, bee-stung lips and tumbling locks (which one's your favourite?).
The thigh-high boots and bra tops are now accessorised with little-girl cropped tees, denim minis and low-rider jeans, then there's the textese-inspired song titles such as Sticwitu.
Anyone in doubt that this band's target market is the tweenies age group need only visit Belfast’s Odyssey next Tuesday where they'll be greeted by throngs of pre-teens. The official merchandise provides more clues: tiny shorts, tawdry anklet bracelets and trucker caps.
It was evidenced further in 2006 when toy manufacturer Hasbro unveiled plans to create a set of dolls modelled on the group. Thankfully plans were scrapped when two American protest groups successfully lobbied the company.
The Pussycat Dolls are irrefutably being marketed towards the under-12s, but are taking no responsibility for the message they're sending them.
We all know impressionable pre-teens don't just admire girl bands, they idolise them.
They want to look like them, sound like them and act like them.
That's why we can't have role models who perform simulated sex routines, wear hooker-inspired outfits and sing innuendo-riven lyrics.
It can only serve to hyper-sexulise pre-teens and make them falsely equate brazen sexual theatrics with female empowerment.
Little girls should be at home playing with the Sylvanian Families, not standing in a concert hall singing along to songs like, "When I grow up, I wanna see the world, drive nice cars, I wanna have boobies" and "I'm a do my thing while you're playing with your. . ." (Transformers figure?)
As for those who reckon "it's only a bit of fun" -- consult the studies.
The sexualisation of pre-teens has been proven to affect cognitive functioning, physical and mental health and healthy sexual development, and has been linked to eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression.
Shame on the Pussycat Dolls, shame on the record company and to the parents taking their little girls to the Odyssey next week — shame on you.
Katie Byrne is an entertainment columnist based in Dublin.
As a little girl I used to dance around the house singing Madonna's Like a Virgin.
I had no idea what the words meant but I thought the pop singer was beautiful and I had posters of her in her underwear and fingerless lace gloves plastered all over my bedroom walls.
By the time Britney was in her school uniform telling the world to 'Hit me, baby one more time', and the Spice Girls were prancing around in their bras on stage shouting about girl power, I had moved on.
As a youngster, my mother ignored me when I was singing about an unplanned pregnancy in Madonna's number one hit, Papa don't Preach, and quite rightly so.
Just because I liked the song didn't mean that I wanted to be a teenage mother myself. Madonna never toured Ireland, sadly, but if she had I'd have saved all my pocket money to see my heroine perform her raunchy onstage routines.
If I had a daughter, and she wanted to see the Pussy Cat Dolls in action next week, I'd gladly take her along.
Would I be worried that she would start looking like a slut because she had witnessed a polished, manufactured American girlband dressed in skimpy outfits singing songs with dodgy lyrics for an hour and a half? Not at all.
Because the Pussycat Dolls, who were initially an LA burlesque group, are basically a group of well-managed copycats who are cleverly milking it, just like Posh Spice and Co did a decade ago. And why not?
These girls are not talented songwriters and will never ever become icons like Madonna or Christina Aguilera, but if they're going to be performing dancers and make that their profession, isn't it better for them that they're making lots of money on stage dancing for teenagers rather than swinging around poles for sleazy customers in dark basement clubs?
If the Pussycat Dolls weren't driving onto concert stages on motorbikes wearing skimpy leather, some other opportunistic girl band would be.
Better that than being background dancers in some rapper's video — while he smokes a cigar they bend over in gold bikinis pretending to wash his car.
I'd rather see the Pussycat Dolls make their own money than just be accessories to Snoop Dog.
There will always be people outraged at women like the Pussycat Dolls and they'll worry that their kids will be influenced by their music. But this isn't realistic.
My mother didn't like my obsession with Madonna but she knew I'd grow out of it, and I did. And now when I see the ageing songstress dancing around in her Godawful electric blue leotard, I wonder what I ever saw in her.
One day, the Pussycat Doll fans will do the same.
Mother-to-be Marisa Mackle is an author and columnist