The Sexualization of Young Girls
So, I woke up today and all I could think of is my older daughter starting high school in a couple of weeks and my younger one beginning middle school. As much as the reality is setting in, it’s not the actual academic experience that I’m obsessing over, but rather that female hormone zone. Changes in their bodies, desires and feelings. Puberty setting in and the transitioning into womanhood. This is all happening way too quickly! As much as they’re gaining an incredible amount of independence, I still know that rule setting is in my favor. Now more than ever, they’ll be throwing caution to the wind and testing the limits! While I realize this is all normal and a part of their discovering who they are, I also know that we’re living in a very sexualized culture. Regardless of what they’re exposed to from the moment they walk out of the house, I know that I’m ultimately the one responsible for how they hold up their values.
As the mother of a 14 and 11 year old, I know that they are going to see sexualized girls the same age from the minute they leave the house. Images on billboards, bus stops, buses, store windows, magazines, and pretty much everywhere they turn. And then of course, at school. My daughters both love clothes and style. They relish in the new fashions and designs, and I totally get cute and trendy, but I seriously can’t believe the sexualized messages the clothing industry is selling to the population of tween and teen girls. There’s more cut outs, holes and less material made up in one single garment. It’s not even fair to say they’re sexually suggestive clothing. That’s an understatement. Shirts that have graphics blatantly designed with “Just Kiss Me” or “Waiting for Tonight” makes me think WTF is our generation being exposed to?
Dress shopping and shoe shopping have become a daunting experience knowing that we have to rummage through at least 10 or more stores before my girls have even a few outfits and shoes to choose from that’s halfway appropriate! Did I mention what 12 and 13 year old girls are wearing to Bar and Bat Mitzvahs these days? The frightening phenomenon is that these young girls are wearing body dresses that make them look like they’re going on a porn shoot. More pathetically, the parents are taking pictures of their daughters dressed like this before they’ve even stepped out of the house! Proud of how they look, and knowing the dresses barely cover their privates. Let’s not forget the shoes, that’s a whole other story. Watching these girls try to walk in their heels at these parties is like seeing clowns on stilts at the circus! Not flattering at all, just so darn ridiculous.
It’s not enough that parents are allowing their daughters to dress this way, but they’re actually purchasing the clothes for them! The message it sends is… it doesn’t matter what values you were taught at home or the self-respect and modesty that were instilled from a young age. All that goes out the window as soon as mom takes out her wallet to pay for their shopping spree at the mall, or gives their daughter money to buy whatever she wants. And what about the boys and men who prey on young girls? The sick, perverted ones that see the girls who flaunt their half naked bodies.
Then we have the billion dollar makeup industry and the billions of girls buying it all. When I’m out re-stocking on cosmetics at Sephora, I’m in line waiting for the 12 year old in front of me who’s wearing more lipstick and foundation than Kim Kardashian getting ready for her next magazine shoot. This is not to say that girls shouldn’t be wearing any makeup at all at that age. Some girls actually struggle with breakouts and many young girls’ self-esteem is seriously affected by their blemished skin. The stress, hormones, acne and flare-ups are all apart of their bodies changing (as well as the foods they’re eating and contributing to skin attacks). So, I get it. In those cases, makeup can help hide those flaws and actually help their skin.
From the moment I knew I was having girls, I knew I had something to worry about. I can only protect their innocence for so long. We aren’t living in a bubble. I just pray that my daughters will embrace their beautiful bodies as they continue to change and grow, but more importantly, that they have respect for their own bodies and realize that beauty is from the inside out. Sure, they want to look good and feel pretty, and buy all the trendy cool clothes. But it’s not about what all the other girls and friends are wearing. It’s not about what’s cool or popular. It’s not a one size fits all world we’re living in. It’s about what compliments their own bodies and figures. It’s about fitting into clothes that make them look their actual age. It’s about having all these conversations at home as a family first before they walk out the front door.
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