After a recent outing with the family to some local high school homecoming activities I had the following conversation with my 7-year-old daughter while brushing her hair:
7-year-old: ”Mom, weren’t those girls with the crowns pretty?”
Me: “They were. What did you think made them pretty?”
7-year-old: ”Well, I liked their hair mostly. I like the one that had a flower in her hair and kind of liked their dresses but don’t you think some of those dresses were way too short? I think they should have been more like down to here.(shows me with her flattened hand just below her knee) Even the cheerleaders had really short skirts! And I don’t think they needed to wear those crazy shoes! It looked like they were hard to walk in and way too tall.”
Me: “Yeah, I would agree. I think they were beautiful girls but would have been even more beautiful if they looked comfortable in a dress that fit them better and was more modest.”
7-year-old: ”I like to be comfortable too. I am never going to wear shoes like those.”
At that point we got distracted with her brushing her teeth and getting ready for bed so that’s where the conversation ended for the night. This is not the first conversation on this topic we have had and it certainly will not be the last.
I had to wonder though, did young girls who think that dressing that way makes them look beautiful ever think like my 7-year-old? Will she someday be persuaded by society to think that she has to have a shorter skirt, a lower neckline, a tighter dress in order to look her best and feel beautiful? My heart is heavy just thinking of it.
Don’t get me wrong, I know full-well that we will have conversations and disagreements about clothing for many years to come. I am so thankful that we are having those conversations already and that so far she sees the differences.
I remember being that high school girl though. I remember tanning beds, bikinis, pushing the limits with what I could leave the house wearing, comparing bodies with my best friend and arguing over who had the “poochiest tummy.” I remember feeling like I was only pretty when I was made up, hair done, perfect outfit, etc. Looking back at the athletic, toned, tanned body that I had then makes me sick to think that I didn’t realize that I was beautiful and that I was in fact good enough.
I also remember thinking that if people did not like what I wore than that was their problem. I remember thinking, like I imagine many girls think right now, that if boys are too perverted to be able to look at me without undressing me with their eyes or without lustful thoughts than they had an issue, not me.
However, I also remember the attention that I would get when my clothing did push the limits. I remember feeling pretty and being looked at in that way.
And I see that in the eyes of so many girls who immediately turn to the side and strike “the pose” any time a camera is aimed their direction. I see right through their cliche comments on social media about how they don’t care what people think about them, yet they constantly post provocative pictures of themselves in various degrees of dress, hungering for the comments to start pouring in to validate their beauty.
I see through all that because I was that girl, minus social media-thank God!
Then I had a son and a daughter.
Not only do I now understand that my own choices in clothing and how I present myself affects my kids, but I see even more now how what they see from other people affects and forms their perception of beauty.
Talk about crazy mixed messages.
Thankfully, I had enough older siblings and people around me that cared enough about me to call my attention to how I looked and helped me to see how the way you dress says so much about you. No, it doesn’t define you, but it gives a huge impression. For right or wrong, the way you dress and carry yourself will make other people think and feel a certain way about you. Even if those things are not true of who you are.
I was also blessed, although I didn’t think of it that way at the time, with parents who were not afraid to “be the bad guy” and say NO to buying me clothes that were less than appropriate. After all, it was their money and they had the final say on what was purchased, no matter what, it’s the way we were raised.
I have also come to understand that men struggle too. In this over-sexualized, anything-goes, society that we have allowed to take over, men are constantly berated with temptation to sin. Even if girls don’t intend to be looked at lustfully, boys/men will naturally be attracted and will be tempted to think all sorts of unmentionables. Does that give them permission to act on their thoughts? Absolutely not. But it does make it more difficult for them to maintain self-control. I understand now that the way I dress directly affects everyone around me.
So as I contemplate how clothing styles have changed, I can’t help but pray that my dear 7-year-old holds onto this girlish innocence and true knowledge that she is beautiful because God made her exactly the way she is supposed to be and that she is fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. I pray that she stands firm against the “latest style” if it contradicts her standards and that she always know that her body is a temple, to be cared for and respected. I pray that she always believes as she does now, that her body is a gift to keep wrapped up and only unwrapped by one other person if she is called to a vocation of marriage.
Not only do I pray for her but I also pray that my son will grow to respect women because of who they are on the inside. I pray that he will be able to fight the temptation to gauk at scantily clad girls and the desire to objectify them as society so wrongly tells him to do. I pray that he will help the girls/women in his life to feel appreciated, loved, and adored, not because of how much skin they show, but because of how important they are in the eyes of Our Lord.
I also pray for my husband, that he will continue to be the example of a true man for his daughter to hold out for as she contemplates a suitable husband. I pray that he continues to be that example for my son as he teaches him to be polite, be chivalrous, be respectful of the women that he encounters in his life.
I pray that both my husband and I are able to raise our kids with a true knowledge deep within them of their beauty and their worth that can only be found when they realize that they are the child of a King. I pray that if, or when, that time comes that our daughter wants to dress in a way that will send the wrong messages that we will have the wisdom and the courage to help her understand that we love her too much to allow her to portray herself that way and to let other people objectify her.
As a side note, I am curious about the fact that the same said school’s dress code states:
In addition, clothing that calls undo attention to anatomical details may not be worn. Examples include but are not limited to mini-skirts shorter than finger tip length, short shorts, bare midriff tops, tube tops, backless tops, open mesh clothing without proper clothing underneath, sagging pants, shirts with the sides cut out, or clothing with holes in inappropriate places.
It makes me wonder if this dress code is just plain not enforced or if it somehow only applies to school hours. We saw an example of nearly everything listed above at that event, on school property, by students who were representing the school. If I was a parent of a student at that school I would certainly be inquiring about the lack of dress code enforcement at school events where many little eyes are wide open.
For more great perspective on this topic I encourage you to read this father’s letter to his son: Seeing a Woman
“God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance.
The LORD looks into the heart.” 1 Samuel 16: 7
In case you’re curious, here’s a little picture collage of Yours Truly, back in the day!