This post was originally written addressing this post, which I read the other day. If you don’t have time to read it, I’ll sum it up here for you: This mom is making the case that she has decided she does not want to put guidelines on what her daughter wants to wear because she wants her to feel confident in her choices and never ashamed for wearing something that she loves and her choices should not be limited by what others may think. I’ll pull a quote from the article:
“It is her job to be who she wants to be, however that manifests itself, with no apology. Viewing herself as autonomous is essential to her self-esteem. It will empower her to know she can be who she wants and feel comfortable in her body. Her clothing does not mean she is giving up control. It is never an invitation for something she doesn’t want. She needs to make clothing decisions based on what she feels, and it is my job to support her even if she makes clothing choices I would not.”
Dear fellow mom,
First of all, good for you for raising your daughter to be a strong independent thinker. I applaud you. I have an infant daughter who I’d also like to raise to be the person she wants to be, to not be afraid to have her own opinions and not have to follow the crowd. but that’s where our similarities end. It’s not often I would publicly disagree with how a parent chooses to raise their child because I truly believe every child is different and every parent is making decisions out of their best abilities and intentions. However, I also believe in engaging in a conversation when there’s a potential disagreement if opinions, specifically when a decision doesn’t just affect you or your child. Please allow me a moment to share another perspective on this same topic.
I have struggled with body confidence my entire life. My school friends were mostly built like dainty fairies and I was built like …a sturdy Viking fairy. My mother desperately tried to reason with me that I was not fat (true…now looking back on those tween photos ), but built with a different body type – which was just as beautiful. I truly believed no one would ever find me attractive. My parents played the typical (and important roll) of telling me over and over again that I was in fact beautiful and I was special and unique and I didn’t need boys to make that true. My mom also tried to help me choose things to wear that were flattering to my body, she also sometimes suggested things that were terrible fashion choices for an 8th grader because she is a mom and out of touch and that’s part of her roll as a mom. Sometimes I took her fashion advice, sometimes I didn’t. I wore all sorts of things (and still do) that make my parents roll their eyes – (pre-ripped jeans, they’ll never understand). However, the one thing I couldn’t get away with no matter how much independence I thought I was asserting, was skin. I don’t mean like my ankles were showing or my shoulders, I mean like..the cracks. You know, those kind (not between my toes people). Like boob and bum cracks. Was my pubescent/teenage self super sexy? No. Not really, and especially in my “ugly duckling” years when I believed I looked like the bottom of a pirate ship. I specifically remember my dad trying so hard to gently (albeit awkwardly) explain the mindset of every hormonal teenage boy walking around out there and his frustration with my naïve brush off “daaaadddddd…boys aren’t looking at me” (obviously I knew more about boys than he did. Sheesh, dad’s…so out to lunch), I truly (and naively) believed no one would be looking at me in a disrespectful way that I would be uncomfortable with. It wasn’t until the rise of MSN that boys could facelessly make advances that I suddenly got a clue and felt very uncomfortable. I actually have a very specific memory of a time I borrowed a fairly revealing shirt from a friend and put it on once I got to school (Sorry mom). I remember the sudden uncomfortable feeling of trying to talk to a boy who could not keep his laser beam gaze off my chest for our entire conversation (Thank goodness for large binders). I took the shirt off straight after that class. Now, this most certainly isn’t a rant/ hate on for teenage boys. Lord knows I may have one of those one day and puberty and raging hormones are part of growing up, but just as my potential son WILL learn to respect, self control and to protect and stand up for not just his sister(s), but every female he meets, my daughters will learn to respect men in the same fashion.
You want to know why? Why I will work so hard to make sure my daughter is dressed dare I use the M word? Modestly? I have a husband who was once a teenage boy. A respectful, wife-loving husband, who takes the time to invest and care about not only me, but his sister, his mother, his daughter, and friends. One of the many things I adore about my husband is my girlfriends feel perfectly safe to come over, cry on my couch while I eat sympathy ice cream with them and they often will seek his advice and guidance on what to do with guy issues. He’d be the first to admit, he’s no Dr. Phil by any means, but my friends would also be the first to say they trust his opinion is coming from a place of love and protection. I trust him implicitly. AND you know what else is great? As my husband of four years, I still think he’s smokin’ hot and what’s even better is he thinks I’m smokin’ hot. His eyes are for me and my eyes are for him. AND all the thanks and credit to those wonderful hormones, we have already made one baby, and I’m sure we will eventually make more.
Getting back to my point and away from my husband fan-girling, as much as he honors, loves and respects me as his wife – he still has hormones. He works hard to honor and respect other women – as women, like sisters. How many times have we been driving down the street during the warm summer months and he’s suddenly looking anywhere but the sidewalk – because women are wearing clothing that make it challenging for him to look at them as sisters. Now, you may think my husband sounds like a leering, creepy dude and I know I’m about to get a lot of pushback about this, but I dare to say that most (straight) men that says they can look at women with everything hanging out, without thinking something more than Disney rated thoughts about them, are lying (There’s a reason Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is their most popular publication of the year). It’s hard to remember, because we are bombarded by such sexualized media every single day and assume men are just as numb to it as ladies are. There’s a reason it sells, it’s how we’re made. We were made to enjoy sex and in the right context – it’s a good thing. (STRONG Disclaimer – this is by NO MEANS any excuse for any man to ever act upon those thoughts under the sorry excuse of “it’s her fault, she was dressed inappropriately or she was asking for it” or anything of the like. I think about doing things all the time, i.e. selling my child on Kijiji after dealing with her screaming tantrums in the middle of the night – but her behavior is not responsible for my actions. SELF CONTROL PEOPLE)
Now I could take this post a whole ‘notha direction and get into all the comments about ‘looking but not touching’ and ‘as long as he’s coming home to me at the end of the day it shouldn’t matter’, but I (we) are of the belief, when you compare, stare, covet something that isn’t yours, it’s not only being disrespectful of that person you’re oogling – they never gave you permission to do so in the first place; it’s also disrespecting and creating unhappiness with what you do have. Relationships are hard enough; we’d rather stop the inappropriate, ‘wishing what we didn’t have’ train of thought before it even leaves the station. Our marriage vows could have easily read “For richer for poorer, in sickness and health, through post partum bodies, wrinkles, weight gain, hair loss etc. I vow to love you and only you. You’re my one and only type, where my eyes will continue to be drawn and my desires dwell, even when they don’t, I vow to work at desiring only you”.
I say all this to say, when I wake up in the morning, I make sure to put on my most trendy potato sack. Just kidding. Am I dressed like a nun? No. But I consciously wear clothing that is respectful of others. Would my girlfriends appreciate if their men find me distracting? Would how I’m dressed affect how men other than my husband look at me? I want them to respect me, pay attention to me and work with me, not worrying about if they have to consciously think about how I am dressed. I love clothes, I really like shopping . I even think I’m a reasonably well dressed person that once and a while gets a compliment like “Your outfits always look so good! I’d like to think I dress well but still cover the lady-bits. I can’t control how every person will see or view me but I try to take out as many barriers as possible. I’m not perfect but this is the mindset I want to teach my daughter. Get wherever you want to go with your brains and talents, not cheap thrills and body parts (even if that’s not your intention, not everyone will see it your way). Treat your body right, learn to love it because it’s the only one you have and it’s perfect. Respect it, care for it – and someday that lucky man that has committed to loving and respecting you,– can enjoy it and cherish it. Not el-creepo hangin’ out the passenger side of his best friend’s ride trying to holler at you. (in the words of my good friends TLC). Therefore, be mindful of what you choose to put on your body.
Now, let’s get back to your daughter shall we? My husband (and if I may be so bold as to speak for many decent, respectful men) doesn’t want to look at someone’s teenage daughter, wife or girlfriend in any way other than a sister – he wants to look at his wife (Trust me, it’s flattering, heaven knows I’m no Victoria’s Secret model). Don’t hear what I’m not saying, I’m not assuming because you give your daughter complete control daughter over her wardrobe, she’ll automatically dress like a floozy, but I am saying, just as we teach our children their words carry weight and that litter goes in the trash – our actions, even the small ones, do affect others. Even things like our clothing, regardless of if we want to care about what it says or not, it still will still say something. While we can’t change everything in the world, we can choose how we conduct ourselves. We talk a big game about loving and helping one another out and the importance of community in a world that has become so isolated behind screens and busyness – but we also like to strongly chant “I’m doing my thing and no one can tell me different”. These statements when applied to the broader context of humanity cannot live in harmony; we cannot only look out for ourselves and expect the world to progress into a more compassionate, cohesive place. Let’s truly make strides to productively and positively coexist. Let’s help each other better themselves, and ultimately, better our fellow neighbours by choosing a mindset that is aimed at supporting and respecting each other. This is the overarching mindset I want to impress upon my children, even in their fashion sense.
Regardless of the safe bubble I wish we lived in, we do live in a world with sexual predators, abhorrent injustices and people who don’t have the best intentions when it comes to our children. Why would I allow my daughter to make herself more vulnerable? Lets teach our children their bodies are sacred, beautiful, and desirable in the right context, at the right time. Just as I am thankful my mom and dad didn’t allow me to make certain life choices I totally thought I was ready to make at the time, or put myself in a position where I may have been more at risk, I hope my daughter will thank me for helping guide her till she has all the information and can make her own informed adult choices, as an adult. So yes, I will help her, guide her, and engage with her when she makes decisions not only in what she puts in her body, but on it as well, because as her parent, not her girlfriend – that’s my job.
PS. All opinions expressed about my husband in this article have been previewed and OK’d by him. Supportive #BloggerHusband for the win!
Images credited to StockSnap