Fashion has been hijacked by our hyper-sexualized woke culture. The extent of this hit me this summer when I saw two young women near our house. The first was walking her dog with her boyfriend. She was wearing only a G-string bikini. The second was standing at the bus stop. She was a very young, cute, fresh-faced girl wearing a red and black bikini that was attached to various garter belts, stockings and complete with high heels. And this was on the same day in a suburban neighbourhood!
Now that it is fall, there’s only a bit less skin. It’s commonplace to see young women in the mall wearing lace-up shirts in which a good six inches of skin is exposed from neck to bellybutton allowing passers-by a view of half of their chest. This issue isn’t going away anytime soon.
Three of our daughters have grown into young women (with the others close behind). We haven’t had outfits such as the above, but there have been various forms of “expression” which have expressed a bit too much in some ways. My husband and I decided to sit down with the oldest three and discuss our house rules and the reasons behind them.
Before we did this, I looked on the internet, hoping to find some ideas for the conversation. There was much less than I expected, so I sat down and wrote out some ideas for the message we wanted to convey to the girls. (And soon I am going to take these basic ideas and speak to my younger ones as well.)
We told the girls that we wanted to have a little meeting with them. I printed out my thoughts (below) and started with these ideas. We let the girls talk, of course, as it was meant to be a conversation, but it was helpful to have the thoughts on paper in front of us for the moments when the conversation went off-course. Another thing we did was to choose a time when they were all relatively happy and fairly open to talking.
Here is the message we conveyed to them:
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We are so glad you guys can tell us about things that matter to you and we really want to be able to talk about things even if we disagree. It’s fine to disagree on some things. We can still love each other like crazy.
This is why we think it’s important to dress in a way that respects our bodies. You can also frame this as a question to allow more dialogue and insight into what they are thinking.
- It’s GOOD to be comfortable in our own body, even in a bathing suit. We have nothing to be ashamed of. This is not about shame! You guys are such beautiful young women. You’ve got great figures and we want you to dress in a way that highlights your figure. We aren’t suggesting anyone has to wear only ugly, baggy clothing. We want you to look nice!
- We are not going to talk about the fact that males from age 10 to 80 have an actual physical reaction to revealing clothing because it reminds them of the sexual organs that are underneath. That is NOT the focus of this conversation. (You can skip this part or say it quickly and don’t dwell on it. Teen girls HATE the argument that they have to dress in a way that doesn’t provoke men. I’m sure they would say: “Men just have to control their eyes!” And, honestly, this is not the main reason for dressing with dignity.)
- The fact is that you all have a HUGE value. You are in fact priceless treasures! Your personalities are all so unique. You are smart, talented and you are meant to do great things in this world. Your clothing and behaviour reflect this reality.
- Certain parts of our bodies are private because they are connected with sexual love (which is a beautiful gift humans have) but also a very private act and one that is only beautiful and true in the context of marriage.
- It’s hard to remember this because we are bombarded by messages through shows, ads and media that tell us it’s ok to show our body. But what would you think of a woman walking on the street with a see-through top and no bra or not wearing a bathing suit bottom to the beach? Why is that wrong, but showing cleavage is OK?
- Even though a person isn’t naked with a bikini (or tight, short top etc), that way of dressing draws attention to those sexual areas (then the “look” becomes about this, not about being comfortable in our skin). And keep in mind that clothing looks different on different body types. A two-piece bathing suit can be possibly even more modest than some one-pieces. It depends on the cut and on a person’s body type. So, we aren’t about rules like skirts have to be this many inches past your knee, etc. We are all individuals and this has to be evaluated individually.
- We have to rebel against this culture we are in that pushes sex as a recreation activity, dehumanizing people, treating people as objects to be used. You girls are leaders, not followers! (If you have any budding feminists, this is a good point to talk about more.)
- You have a HUGE value – you are an amazing, priceless treasure.
So, in our house:
- We wear clothing that looks nice, flatters our bodies, and is respectful to our bodies
- This means … no cleavage or lots of midriff (especially at church or more formal occasions) or tight everything (leggings are ok, with proper shirt)
- Exercise clothes are fine for exercise. If you are in a room alone you can wear different clothes than if going to a gym.
We love you guys so much. You may not understand or agree with us, but we are telling you these things to help you grow into mature, happy, confident young women. We are doing this with your ultimate good in mind. What do you guys think?
Then discuss. Hopefully amicably.
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That all looks very nice on paper, of course. In real life, conversations rarely go according to plan, so my husband and I went into this fully expecting some pushback. And, yes, there was some, but the conversation went fairly well. And, very importantly, we expressed how we felt to our daughters, trying to do it with love and giving them the core reasons for why we respect our bodies with our way of dressing.
Now that the conversation is over, we aim to just keep giving them lots of love and to keep the lines of communication open. Most likely one of the girls will struggle with some of these ideas. They are young and influenced by our culture and it’s hard for them to understand. So, we will have to remind them again. And again. We’ll also have to keep our word regarding consequences.
In her book Thriving and Surviving Raising Thirteen, Anne Perrottet describes one instance when her daughter came out of her room wearing a too-short dress, telling her mother that her standards were too high. Anne asked her whether she would like her to set the bar high or low. The girl surrendered. She wanted the bar high.
Anne says: “Believe it or not, kids actually want rules, standards and boundaries; they know they need them and they want direction — they need an anchor to pull them back if or when required.”
I have to be honest. Not all of my daughters would have responded as Anne’s did. But whether they realize this now or in the future doesn’t matter. In the not-so-far-off future, they will mature and, if we have been both kind and firm, they will understand and be grateful.
One last thought: in many ways women are more powerful than men. What women do, men follow. (Think Adam and Eve.) This argument has been made by intellectuals such as Alice von Hildebrand, Gertrud von Le Fort and, more recently, Dr Carrie Gress.
Our power can be destructive or a force for good. It may seem a small thing, but the way women dress influences others. This is not simply a disciplinary issue for parents. It has great cultural ramifications. Teens want to rebel and protest oppression. In this area, let’s encourage that.