January 2, 2008

Don't Make Your Daughter a "Skank"

Marc Comtois

As I've written before about the perils of allowing our kids--especially our daughters--to be to "in the know" about the latest tween pop culture icons. Being a Dad to a couple 'tween girls certainly heightens one's awareness of how our culture seems hell-bent on having our girls grow up too fast. Today's ProJo contains a piece by Debra Curtis, an anthropology professor at Salve Regina University, who argues that parents should resist our pop cultures penchant for sexualizing girls (Bratz dolls, for instance!) I don't know if Curtis is going too far, but she's worth listening too.

Men who prefer prepubescent girls sexualize them. In the eyes of a pedophile, girls are highly eroticized objects for their sexual pleasure.... I can say without a doubt that 99 percent of mothers would just as soon cut off their right arms as permit their daughters to be alone in a room with a known pedophile. And yet, these same mothers are seduced by, and let their daughters be seduced by, the demands of our popular culture, which sexualizes girls. We all know what this looks like — preteens dressed as young adults, the 6-to-10-year-old set wearing cropped tight-fitted T-shirts, low-cut jeans, jewelry and lip gloss — over-sized and hyper-sexed Bratz dolls. The message is clear, “looking fashionable means looking sexy.” On the positive side, a slow but growing social commentary is critical of this unhealthy trend. My personal favorite is Stop Dressing Your 6-year old Like a Skank!

Experts tell us that children who have been molested often live with depression, eating disorders and low self-esteem, all of which, negatively impact the quality of their lives. Guess what? A team of psychologists recently reported that exposing prepubescent girls to a media culture that teaches them to be prematurely sexual is also strongly associated with depression, eating disorders and low self-esteem.

Critical of the sexualization of girls, Rosa Brooks, in the Los Angeles Times, wrote that capitalism is “busy serving our children up to pedophiles on corporate platters.” I would add that many mothers are acting as the caterers. I’m not talking about the JonBenet Ramsey beauty-pageant mothers; that’s a given. I am pointing my finger at the mothers who buy their 6-to-10-year-olds platform shoes, short leopard-print skirts, and the childrens’ version of the bikini swim suits seen in Victoria’s Secret catalogs. I am pointing my finger at the mother who doesn’t say no when her preteen begs her to let her get her ears pierced — and who then allows her to wear dangly earrings....

When we buy into the rules set by popular culture, when we believe that our daughters have to dress like celebrities, when we limit their choices in life by teaching them early on that looking good always means looking sexy, we are seeing them through the eyes of pedophiles.

I am not arguing that when mothers dress their preteens provocatively they are asking for trouble from pedophiles. That’s not it. I believe that this world should be safe enough for women to dress as they please. The key word here is “women.” I understand why many mothers dress their daughters in the latest inappropriate fashions. It reflects the same complicated reasons why I enroll my daughters in private golf and piano lessons, drive a gas-guzzling SUV and take pride in my husband’s occupation — it speaks to the desire to fit in and present the proper social markers of status and prestige. But take it from a woman who did not shave her legs for most of the ’80s — we can resist dominant cultural norms. More importantly, we must change them.

Like I said; perhaps this is an over-reaction. But I can't deny what I've seen with my own eyes: too many parents seem in too much of a hurry to have their kids grow up.

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I walk through the mall which I hate going to anymore because of the teens, (I guess I'm getting old) and I think to myself, good lord, do these girls actually think they're cute or pretty or good looking. Most of them show more skin then what you see on the beach anymore. And the sad thing is they are not shapely but they're fat and it is bulging out all over the place, they bend down and you see the thongs and the boys aren't much better with the pants half way down their backsides. If I want to see underware I'll look in the mirror at my own or go to the lingerie department in the store. And they wear so much makeup you can't see their actual faces. I am the mother of two girls and there is no way I would let either of my girls dress like that. I often wonder to myself why do these girls dress like this and I realize it's because of the parents. Where do the kids get the money to buy this stuff, the parents. Do the parents ever check to see what the kids have bought, no because they don't have the time and they don't want to be bothered by an angry kid. Of course all I can say is that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I look at some of the mother's in the mall and think to myself, and then they wonder why they get attacked or worse yet raped. Why are we in such a hurry to make our kids grow up. Whatever happened to kids being kids.

Posted by: Laura at January 2, 2008 11:16 AM

I don't understand what's so hip and happening about muffin tops. My 12-year-old home-schooled niece is doing pretty nicely without getting into this garbage.
However, Laura, you're treading pretty close to the "She was asking for it!" rationale guys use to justify despicable acts.

Posted by: rhody at January 2, 2008 11:59 AM

I believe that this world should be safe enough for women to dress as they please.

Such idealism is cute, but pointless.

Rhody, the world is chock full of despicable guys who can and do use that very rationale.

Good luck to the woman who trusts in her pointless idealism and dresses like a tramp. She's going to be treated like one whether she wants it or not.

Posted by: Marty at January 2, 2008 6:21 PM

The problem is we aren't talking about women, we're talking about teenagers, who don't even know what they want to be when then grow up, they are dressing the way they are because their parents are enabling them. Stop buying this stuff and you won't see it on the girls. Like I said my girls don't dress this way because I won't let them. I really don't care that they get mad at me for those few moments, and then we walk outside the store and there is a girl walking by with the outfit my daughter wanted and I said no to and my daughter says the girl looks terrible. I then say, I rest my case.

Posted by: Laura at January 2, 2008 9:18 PM

No person should be physically assaulted because of the way she or he dresses. The primary, IMO, reason any person is violently mugged, robbed, raped, etc., is that the risk:reward ratio is not high enough to discourage the intended conduct. If a person knows that the intended victim can stop the attack by any means necessary, including but not limited to killing the predator, the number of attacks ought to diminish dramatically.

When is the last time you read or heard of a guy coming between a bear and her cub so that he could force an unwelcome meanage a trois? Bad R:R ratio!

Posted by: Jaguar at January 27, 2009 2:51 PM
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