The past few years of my life have been eye-opening for me. I’ve watched friends of mine subjected to harsh criticism over their appearance from their spouses, been a part of many heated discussions about what my daughter will be “permitted” to wear with her father and watched the world turn against mother’s who breastfeed publicly.
A heated discussion arose today with my ex regarding what his daughter will be permitted to wear once she’s reached adolescence. Through this discussion, I pointed out that had I birthed his son, there would be no discussion about his attire. He asked me if I would let my daughter, at the age of 12 walk out of the house in a mini-skirt. I replied, yes.
Now before anyone tears me to pieces, let’s us women, look back on our adolescence for a minute while I tell you about mine. In my family, my school and amongst my peers, I (along with all western girls) were taught some basic rules from a young age about what was appropriate for me to wear. How someone could get the wrong idea about me or how I could appear to be older or more sexually developed, but most importantly, how dangerous that was.
I can recall the age when grown men began to watch me more closely or smile at me flirtatiously, I was 14. I can even recall being out to dinner with my parents, standing in line for a buffet where a man had started a conversation with me and his spouse glared at me with jealousy. Myself and my family can tell stories about how I told quite a few men that I was, “just 14.”
All the while, my outfit was that of any other typical 14 year old girl at the time. No I assure you, no breasts, ass or otherwise were exposed. I was, of course, flattered that an adult man would have any interest in little me, it made me feel pretty and desirable. I told all my friends as my mother clenched her jaw at the idea.
At that age, the most exciting thing about becoming a woman would be the interest that it brought from boys and occasionally, men. I reveled in the idea that I could be considered sexy someday. All the while, all those around me continued to tell me to contain my body as not to encourage this flirtatious behavior from others.
In middle school, my skirt had to reach the bottom of my fingertips when I put my hand to my side. My tanks tops couldn’t have straps thinner than two fingers width. I suppose twelve year old’s have particularly sexually suggestive legs and shoulders. If that isn’t humiliating enough, we would be pulled out of class if we didn’t follow these rules. Because it is totally logical that girls should be interrupted from their studies so they don’t distract the boys from theirs.
You see, the problem with constantly reminding young girls that their bodies are “sacred” or to be “modest” is that we are teaching girls and boys equally, how a woman’s body is a sexually arousing place. Never once did I catch a glimpse of the shoulders or legs of a boy and think…oh my god, that is incredibly sexy. We have tricked ourselves into thinking that women’s breasts are actually obscene rather than something that men and women both possess.
This concept of modesty reinforces the idea that women have something to hide on their bodies in the first place. Something so desirable that teenage boys will trick or persuade young girls to send them nude pictures, just to catch a glimpse. While her peers will call her a whore for having sent them.
We live in a society that finds teenage boy’s hyper sex drive humorous while girls are loosing their virginity, before they truly wish to, just to earn love. She’ll pay a huge price for it, being deemed a slut, public criticism of her lack of sexual knowledge, pregnancy or sexual diseases. Often, girls such as myself believed that my best quality, my only means of catching a guy or keeping him, was my sexuality.
So when my daughter’s father asked me why I would let my future 12 year old leave the house in a mini skirt, the answer is that my job is to teach her that her body is not obscene. Her confidence should come with how beautifully she shines from within. I cannot steal her freedom of expression through how she dresses. I’ll teach her not to buy into the notion that what you wear should define who you are.
If more parents taught their children these concepts, there might come a time where a woman’s legs, shoulders, stomach or breasts don’t exhibit any sexual obscenity. Because, as many statistics will show you, young girls who dress more modestly are still not less likely to be molested. In fact, as the following statistics will show, our society has a particularly unhealthy view of the innocence that young girls possess.
- Most popular word searched on PornHub in 2014: teen (although not always #1 every year, it is always ranked in the top 3)
- According to Glasgow University in the UK, 38% of young girls regret losing their virginity so young. The same study shows that 1/5 of those girls felt pressured to have sex.
- According to Cornell University, the majority of women first experience harassment (catcalling) between the ages of 11-17.
- According to Utah State University Sexual Assault and Anti Violence Information
– Myth: Rape victims provoke the attach by wearing provocative clothing
– A Federal Commission on Crime of Violence Study found that only 4.4% of all reported rapes involved provocative behavior on the part of the victim. In murder cases 22% involved such behavior (as simple as a glance).
– Most convicted rapists do not remember what their victims were wearing.
– Also according to Utah State University, “Nation-wide, one-third of college men reported they would rape a woman if they knew they would not get caught.”
- How young do we begin to teach “modesty” to our little girls? Do a quick Google search and you will find thousands of websites attempting to teach your toddler girl, modesty. Dr. Meg Meeker, M.D. suggests that you start to instill sexual modesty in girls alone (no mention of boys modesty in the article at all after kindergarten ages) in early elementary school years. She also recommends that mother’s and father’s should both chime in about their daughter’s clothing choices.
Now that we’ve established that you’re not protecting your daughter by teaching her modesty, let’s hope that instead, we teach boys and girls that your dignity isn’t tied into your clothing and everyone deserves respect. Women are not sex machines.
If you feel like reading a nauseating article titled: Why we owe it to our sons to teach our daughters modesty, I’ll just leave this right here…