Don’t Make Your Daughter a “Skank”
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.