Since this week was spring break for lots of schools, I saw a lot more teenage girls out and about than I normally do and I was struck by how inappropriately they dress themselves these days (and I don’t mean just this 1980s comeback which is bad enough in and of itself). I found this article this evening and found it very interesting and relevant:
In the pale-turquoise ladies’ room, they congregate in front of the mirror, re-applying mascara and lip gloss, brushing their hair, straightening panty hose and gossiping: This one is “skanky,” that one is “really cute,” and so forth. Dressed in minidresses, perilously high heels, and glittery, dangling earrings, their eyes heavily shadowed in black-pearl and jade, they look like a flock of tropical birds. A few minutes later, they return to the dance floor, where they shake everything they’ve got under the party lights.
But for the most part, there isn’t all that much to shake. This particular group of party-goers consists of 12- and 13-year-old girls. Along with their male counterparts, they are celebrating the bat mitzvah of a classmate in a cushy East Coast suburb.
I’ll be honest, I don’t really know what this is like. Maybe the other girls my age did, but when I hit junior high, I turned into the biggest dork ever (that’s me on the right, don’t worry, things got better after university). It seems worse than when I was their age and I’m not sure why, but maybe the author is on to something:
I have a different theory. It has to do with how conflicted my own generation of women is about our own past, when many of us behaved in ways that we now regret. A woman I know, with two mature daughters, said, “If I could do it again, I wouldn’t even have slept with my own husband before marriage. Sex is the most powerful thing there is, and our generation, what did we know?”
[ . . . ]
So here we are, the feminist and postfeminist and postpill generation. We somehow survived our own teen and college years (except for those who didn’t), and now, with the exception of some Mormons, evangelicals and Orthodox Jews, scads of us don’t know how to teach our own sons and daughters not to give away their bodies so readily. We’re embarrassed, and we don’t want to be, God forbid, hypocrites.
I think she might be a little hard on herself here, calling herself a hypocrite. It’s perfectly okay for us as human beings to change our opinions and views on things over time. It’s okay to learn from past mistakes.
I’d like to see more girls respect themselves enough to cover up more. If you ask me, when it comes to the superficial, pretty is way more important than sexy. And as a dork, I have to point out that what is on the inside is what really counts. It’s not hypocritical, it’s GOOD if mothers teach their daughters these things. When girls stop treating themselves as objects, it’ll make it much more difficult for men to do treat them as objects. Personally, I plan on being an obsessive control freak mother and will dress my daughter (if I have one, we’ll see in a few weeks) every day until she’s 18. (Okay, maybe not, but I won’t let her dress in 1980s fashions. Or 1990s. Or 2010s since they’re just a repeat of the 80s. Okay, I’ll just try to give her really good advice.)
Véronique adds: As the mother of four girls (so far) I consider myself to be an expert of sorts. We can say what we want about society but I lay the responsibility solely at the parents’ doorstep. It is the mother’s job to lead by example from a very young age. My daughters have never seen me in a triangle bikini, a painted-on t-shirt or with my boobs sticking out of my cocktail dress. You may say “after 6 kids, thank goodness” but whether I would look good in these items is beside the point (and if you have been to a water park recently, you know that looking good is not a factor, holy TMI people!) There is no need — certainly not the demands of comfort — to show so much anatomy to the public at large. It is the job of the father to avoid objectifying women, whether it is by the movies they watch or the magazines they read or the drinking holes they patronize. But most importantly, it is the job of the father to teach his daughters how men are wired when it comes to physical attraction. My husband is brutally honest when he tells my oldest daughter what 15 year-old males think when they see skin. Sex-ed is about more than the birds and the bees… If my daughter left the house for a party looking like a clown, I would tell her in that many words and why.
Modesty and good taste have never been issues with my oldest daughter. But her two younger sisters, who are competitive gymnasts, are a bigger challenge. Gymnasts, for one, spend a significant amount of their childhood wearing what amounts to a bathing suit. Their notion of “enough fabric” is not the same as mine, let’s say. They are very comfortable in their own skin, used to be trained and spotted by male coaches and quite proud of their six pack. Every spring, I have to explain to my daughters why they cannot have a bikini. Who cares if they look great in a bikini? Pedophiles? Seriously!
Deborah adds: I could not put it better myself, Véronique. Maybe I’ll make you my go-to woman on raising children in the near future! I must confess that I do wear a bikini. However, 95% of the time it’s covered by a 5mm full-body wetsuit (which makes a person look like a black pillsbury doughboy).by