And I see protecting her modesty as important as buckling her seat belt.
Even though she weighs 44 lbs and stands 43 inches tall, her little body is outgrowing it's preschool form. She's lost 3 front teeth. Her legs are lengthening. Her fingernails are stronger and her face is elongating.
My womanhood will influence her more than any other woman. It is my responsibility to model to her how we dress, how we act, and to teach her that a woman's body is beautiful and glorifies God.
Much of modesty talks of dressing in a way that does not cause a man to lust, and I do agree that teenagers and women need to be very careful in this regard. Not only is it a sin, but you attract what you put out. However, I grew up believing that most men were (good) lustful creatures who might pounce on you if they saw you in a swim suit. I learned that women can have power over men simply by smiling and wearing a v-neck. I thought my body, 'a temple of the Holy Spirit,' was a bit like the arc of the covenant--it held the glory of God in it, and I better respect that, or else someone who touched me might get struck down. (You'd think then, that this would have held more weight than it did, but I was still a flirty girl.)
Knowing my body could be a thing that could cause a man to sin was both empowering and shaming. If the Holy Spirit is in my body does that mean that my body is good or bad? If I'm covering it up is there something about my feminity that I should be ashamed of?
Truthfully, at 14 my perspective was something along the lines of: "I'm not dressing like Madonna, so stop worrying about it!" The most provocative thing in my wardrobe was my cheerleading uniform and my volleyball butt-huggers. I wore my first bikini when I was 21.
My mom, however, held the line. At least as it related to what I wore (and what she would buy). I've come to appreciate that she wanted to protect me from engaging my sexuality before I was emotionally, physically, and spiritually ready. I'm thankful for that, because I was a boy-crazy girl, and I probably would have crossed even more physical barriers than I did had she not guarded my heart for me.
When it comes to little girls though, shouldn't we set the bar even higher? Are some little girls these days dressing a little too sexual?
You've witnessed it, haven't you? You've been in the airport or the mall and you've walked by a 10 year old girl with PINK sewn on her bum. Or young girls wearing skimpy bikinis? Or a 3rd grader with the word 'Flirt' etched on her pink swoop-neck T?
I suspect most of you feel like I do. It concerns you too. Being that we each have our own 'lines' for modesty that we enforce, I thought I'd share with you mine. I'd be very curious to hear your opinions/thoughts and if you have a daughter, the standards in your home.
- I will not buy Peanut a two-piece swim suit. Why? Because I just don't want her to become comfortable at the age of seven showing her adorable tummy on a public beach. Because even though at her age she can still take a bath with her little brother and not notice or care about body parts, I see going out to the beach or to a friend's swimming pool, as different. You might be thinking, "Sheesh Karen, she's only seven!" and my response is "That's right, she's only seven!" Why do we need to be buying itsy bitsy bikinis for our 1st graders?
- I will not buy her a bra or underwear that is pretty, sexy, or silky. I was shocked to learn from a neighbor last year that some young girls in her daughter's class were wearing bras in the 1st grade! They had no breasts, and yet it was the peer pressure of not wanting to be the 'only one' without a bra that led some moms to give weigh and purchase an undergarmet 3 or 4 years prematurely. I recall as a 7th grader wishing I had pretty underwear and bras. I'd be changing for P.E. and many of my friends had cute matching royal blue or cherry red satin bra and panty sets. I looked like a 2nd grader in my cottons, but is that so bad? Should we be buying our daughters pretty panties before they are even yet a 'woman' (menstration)?
- I will not buy her a skimpy shirt (mid-drift or off the shoulder), nor will I buy her short shorts, or shorts with "PINK" on the bum, or low rise pants. There's no reason to pay hard-earned money for shorts that intentionally draw attention to the bubbly bottom of a 10 year-old girl. It's distasteful, and it won't/doesn't enourage a healthy sexuality. What it encourages is getting boys to look at your ass (and I use that word to make a point), to look at you like an object not a person created in the image of God. My mother had a rule of the seam of our shorts being finger-length long, which I greatly despised. But she did it for my own good, to protect me from what I did not know was out there, and to guard the minds of any young boys who might have looked, and to guard my own heart from feeling sexy before I even knew what sex was for.
- No makeup yet. Except for dress up. This seems like a no-brainer. She's not a grown up, and I don't need her to feel like a grown up. She's a child, not a mini-adult.
- High heels? No way. How will she run and play in high heels? High heels are for dress up, for dreaming of when she's older, for anticipating the woman that she will one day be. For today, she can wear sundresses and jelly shoes.
- Clothes that say "sexy" or "hot" or "hottie" or "your hottie" or "sexy and I know it." Clothes that have pictures of girls on them--girls that look trashy or scantily clad. Clothes that make her look 10 years older than she is. As I see it, it's my job to help navigate, train, and provide boundaries for Peanut. I'm the one who orients this by what I buy (and don't buy) for her. Since I don't want her labeled as hot, sexy, or flirty, she's not wearing clothes with those descriptions.
These are my boundaries for now, while she's seven, and probably for the next several years. And when the time comes I'll talk with her about sex, her beautiful body that He created and said was "good," and how she should carry herself so that she honors God with her mind, body, and spirit.
What do you think should be the boundaries for young girls in how they dress? At what age do you think one should give her daughter ownership of those boundaries? Do you have any additional thoughts regarding modesty, dress, and the sexualizing of young girls?
Some additional reading:
CNN Opinion Blog: Parents, Don't Dress Your Girls Like Tramps
Wall Street Journal Online: Why Do We Let Girls Dress Like That?
A VERY interesting study by the APA Task Force on "The Sexualization of Girls"
From CT: Why The Bodily Ressurrection Matters, Especially to Women, Modesty, A Female-Only Virtue?