Clothing, Power, and Adolescence

I was reading Aunt B’s “Gentlemen Please.”

This is one of those areas where I agree, but have reservations. I have an eleven year old stepdaughter. She’s pretty, scary pretty. Ivy can vouch for this. The rules are different in our house than her mom’s house. We don’t pretend ours are “better” rules, we just matter of factly enforce them. We dress somewhat conservatively, compared to today’s standards. I’m not saying we ask her to wear ankle length skirts and a head covering. No, if she’s going to be active, then we ask that she wear shorts, that preferably do a little more than just cover the crease where her butt meets her legs. If we go to the waterpark, then we request a one piece suit that fits. The second is mostly because I don’t want to deal with the ‘trauma’ of her searching for her top at the bottom of a waterslide.

I completely agree with this point:

Women are not responsible for how men act. You are responsible for you and we are responsible for us. If your self-control has not progressed past the back seat of the car fights you had with your brother when you were six–“But he made me hit him!” “But she made me fuck her!”–then you should not be out in society. If a grown-ass man can’t see a 14 year old girl as anything other than a potential fuck, that’s his fault, not the girl’s.

I have a feeling This will probably be the summer where we have to offer a real explanation. So far, we’ve just been able to say, “It’s just not appropriate.” Now, that she’s older we’ll have to explain more. It’s such a tightrope walk, how do you convince a girl that while she has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, unnecessarily flaunting isn’t the way to go, either. I guess at this point, we hold on for the ride and pray that we instilled the right foundation.

I’ve taken her to art exhibitions, with nudes, so she could see the beauty of the female form. I pointed out the beauty of the middle aged women, the ones that had the stretch marks and crows feet. We looked at the sculptures of the elderly women, too, with the wisdom and love in their expressions. I’m doing my best to teach her that beauty is more than sexuality.

I want her to be confidant and proud and to not throw away her diginity because some boy tells her she’s pretty. I want her to feel powerful, but I don’t want that to stem solely from the ability to turn a male on.


#1 S~~ on 04.13.06 at 7:23 am

You stated the problem so perfectly. Now, if we could find an answer ~~~

#2 Joel Maners on 04.14.06 at 2:51 pm

I think what you are searching for is a more comprehensive view of what we do with our bodies. There is a certain dualism out there that says “my spirit is in one place, and my body is in another. My body is not the real me, so I can do with it what I want.” True but while your spirit is living in you, you’re body is the “real you.” You can choose to honor God and yourself with your body or dis-honor yourself and Him.

There’s also the element of power working here. Young girls learn quickly that they can force a boy’s attention by what they wear. It’s much easier to use the power of your sex appeal than it is to attract someone with your inner person. It basically boils down to the ethic of “use what you have to get what you want.” Girls need to be taught the perils of using their bodies and other people for selfish ambition.

A great book to read is Real Sex by Lauren Winner. Check it out on Amazon. She has some very good reflections about this.

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