The man knows how to write a headline, huh?
I saw the link to this opinion piece on CNN shared by one of my Facebook friends early Tuesday morning. By Tuesday afternoon I’d seen it at least 10 times. And by the time I got home from work, I was fired up enough to craft this LONG response.
Before I share my thoughts, a disclaimer.
I am NOT a parent. My basic philosophy when it comes to making plans for future parenting is that I don’t know what I don’t know. And it’s crazy to try and make rules for what I will and won’t do until I’m there, with the little eyes looking up at me.
Having said that…
The writer’s thesis is an interesting one. He muses on an airport experience, in which he saw an 8-year-old wearing sexy designer clothes, makeup and jewelry and generally showing off her body.
“Her beautiful, long blond hair was braided back a la Bo Derek in the movie “10″ (or for the younger set, Christina Aguilera during her “Xtina” phase). Her lips were pink and shiny from the gloss, and her earrings dangled playfully from her lobes.
You can tell she had been vacationing somewhere warm, because you could see her deep tan around her midriff thanks to the halter top and the tight sweatpants that rested just a little low on her waist. The icing on the cake? The word “Juicy” was written on her backside.”
Yeah, that 8-year-old girl was something to see alright. … I hope her parents are proud. Their daughter was the sexiest girl in the terminal, and she’s not even in middle school yet.”
His claim is that parents need to buckle down and set rules, even when it makes kids angry. That moms and dads need to let kids know about propriety, the importance of being protective of sexuality and facing down peer pressure. And behave accordingly themselves, too.
I agree. And, I don’t.
When I was a kid, I had a pretty progressive series of female role models. My mom worked full time, splitting chores and financial decisions with my father. I played sports, took part in theater, had boy and girl buddies and believed I could do anything I wanted to do in life. I wore jeans and sometimes skirts. Sometimes curled my hair and sometimes chopped it short.
I was taught that it’s OK to look your best. I was also taught about sex, how to have it safely, how to make it special and why my body is about much more than attracting people.
(Hello — when I would complain about my big hips, I was told that they’d be good for having babies, NOT that they’d look hot in miniskirts while dancing on the bar)
I know that my experience is not the one that all young girls had or currently have. Between Jersey Shore, Toddlers & Tiaras, The Real Housewives and even Teen Mom, I see examples of women being taught to trade on their bodies every day. While I enjoy watching those shows, I feel confident enough in myself to believe that WHO I am is much more important than HOW I dress. And I take the Hollywood portrayals for what they are. Portrayals. Not goals to meet.
And yet, I’m the same self-confident woman behind posts like “Get Your Sexy On,” “Why Pole Dancing is like Social Media” and “Au Natural is Au-Verrated.” The same girl who knows that a short skirt and sexy smile can get you good service at the bar. And the same girl who has no problem standing out in the crowd by wearing hot pink high heels. I dressed like a sexy schoolgirl for Halloween in college (ahem. see above) and also once attended a Pimps and Hos party in full costume.
And I turned out OK. It was an experiment — part of figuring out what sexuality and feminism means to ME.
So, while I agree that in many cases, we’re teaching girls sexuality at a much-too-young age, I also worry that we’re sexualizing something that just doesn’t need to be. Kids in bikinis don’t necessarily wear them to look sexy — they just want to splash around with friends. Little girls who dress up in mom’s clothes and carry lipstick around in their tiny purses aren’t trying to attract attention — they’re trying to be like mommy.
And when girls do start to play around with clothes, makeup and more, can’t we let them do it in a way that doesn’t cause them to judge themselves or question their own morals?
I have talked myself in and out of this opinion all day, and I felt so torn about this issue that I turned to Twitter and Facebook for their opinions, and really enjoyed reading through them:
My final thoughts:
As a future parent, I want my kids to know that however they dress, I love them. That it’s OK to play with clothes and makeup. And that it’s OK to experiment with all kinds of personalities while on the journey to discovering themselves.
As a future parent, I want to instill safety and security with my kids while giving them the self-esteem and confidence to know that sex and sex appear are sacred things. And that for better or for worse, we do judge people on what they wear and how they act.
As a future parent, I want to not only give MY kids the benefits of that journey, but be a part of helping young girls and boys across the world the confidence to safely experiment with their look.
Now I’d like to know how you feel. Do parents need to take a stand, or is this out of proportion?