Monday, November 19, 2007

Letting Kids be Kids

After four boys, raising a little girl is different. I grew up with four brothers and no sisters. My poor mother didn’t get daughters until she had daughters-in-law and granddaughters. My wife has had to indoctrinate me about the female aspects of matters.

My beautiful little daughter is far from dainty. She’s pretty much as rough-and-tumble as any of my boys. But she does like to put on nice dresses and have her hair done nicely for church and formal events. (Mind you, she doesn’t like the process of getting her hair done, but she does like the result.) She especially likes “twirly dresses” that float beautifully when she twirls around.

One of the things that is different about having a little girl is that it’s hard to find modest clothing for her at stores. Many of the clothes available for preschool girls appear to come from the Playboy collection. There seems to be an earnest effort in our society to sexualize little girls.

When I see young children dressed in a provocative manner, it just chaps my hide. I fume inside and wonder what their parents are thinking when they dress them that way. Do we have to devalue their souls in the pursuit of imitating pop culture young women whose lives are in shambles? Can’t we let little girls have their childhood?

It’s not just clothes, either. Society works on many levels to sexualize young girls. Parents are encouraged to buy dolls that look like Las Vegas street walkers for their girls. We have whole product lines of dolls that look like little girls dressed in gear from the local sex shop. And we have cartoons and video games that go along with those products.

Among a recent spate of books that decry the oversexualization of young women in American culture is a book called Prude: How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Damages Girls (and America Too!) by Carol Platt Liebau. I heard an interview with Liebau on the radio, which makes me interested in buying and reading the book. As one Amazon reviewer writes, “The book's premise [is] that our culture's oversexualization has caused young women to believe that sexiness trumps intelligence and character….”

Authors of several other books in the same vein were recently members of a panel discussion at the Ethics and Public Policy Center on the topic of modesty. Emily Karrs reports on the discussion and offers some of her own insights in this NRO article. The panelists agreed that our girls are stuck in a system where parents and institutions do a lousy job equipping them for the real issues they face with respect to sexuality, and more importantly, with respect to love.

One of the popular themes pushed at our young people is to go to the “extreme.” We’ve got extreme sports, extreme candy and drink flavors, and even extreme dinosaurs (in the Dec. edition of National Geographic). We’re also raising a generation where extreme self-centeredness is encouraged. People with this kind of ethic disdain love and commitment, which they view as distractions. As Karrs writes, they “prefer to stick to the emptiness of playing the hookup game in lieu of maintaining a 24/7 relationship….” It doesn’t take much imagination to jump forward four decades to see what kind of life this path will lead to.

As a certified overprotective dad, I want my little girl to have a childhood without having to worry about whether her clothes are tight enough and/or low-cut enough. I want her to be a kid, not some mini slut. And I want her to develop healthy attitudes about love, intimacy, and family. It seems that popular culture is at odds with what I want for my daughter. I’m grateful for parents and institutions that refuse to abandon our young people to the emptiness of the pop culture.


Frank Staheli said...

I think your daughter has a great dad, from whom it will most likely be successfully and properly ingrained in her that having tight or low-cut clothing is NOT the thing to do.

It's ironic that some people say that they don't want their daughters to grow up as sex symbols, yet they think it is so cute to dress them in bikini swimsuits when they're young. Woops! We become largely what we are taught, and especially that from an early age.

The Lady Logician said...

It hurts boys too. I wrote about it on my blog 10 days ago. My biggest concern is what it is teaching your sons and mine! I am trying to raise my son to respect girls and women and here we have a culture that treats all girls and women like whores! Talk about mixed signals...