Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fresh Brewed Week 2: Modesty - Why Our Girls Don't Play with Barbies, Bratz, or Wear Bikinis

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Week 2 Topic: Modesty and Raising Kids, Especially Girls

Modesty is an interesting thing to teach in a society that markets mini-skirts and make up to four-year-olds. 

Throughout the centuries, and across a multitude of cultures, the value of modesty has always seemed to have a solid place and was viewed as a desirable quality by society at large.

No longer is that the case.

No longer do women just "show a little skin". But rather, leave very little to the imagination at all. And it is everywhere.  

Nothing reflects this lack of modesty more so than the entertainment industry, where young women, in very many ways still just little girls, are celebrated and idolized when they parade about in outfits that only a decade or two ago would have only been worn by strippers and prostitutes. Why does society then scowl and scold when those same young girls publicly behave like strippers and prostitutes? After all, there's a saying that says one should "dress the part". What, really, do we expect?

Am I a prude for being repulsed by the clothing that is being sold as popular and acceptable for my eight year old daughter? Since this type of dress and behavior is openly encouraged and tends to get a lot of attention, am I obligated to shrug my shoulders and simply accept that this is the norm? 

No, and absolutely, No.

Am I a mean parent for not buying or keeping dolls such as Barbie and the Bratz series for my girls to play with? 

No. I am not.

Our eyes are direct information pathways to our brains. We tend to believe what our eyes see as factual and true. Our brain is wired this way. Commercial companies and marketers know this is the number one way to persuade consumers to buy their products. People are much more likely to buy something they see, rather than just read or hear about. And these companies start very very young.

Did you know that the target age for Barbie is girls age 3-12? And the target age for Bratz is 4-8? The logistics of that amuse me as most three and four year olds do not even posses the appropriate motor skills needed to dress the dolls, and the majority of the accessories are still a choking hazard for children who often use their teeth as tools when their hands prove too weak! You are likely familiar with these other unnerving facts about the oh so popular party girl. 

I do not want my girls to repetitively receive the visual message that 1.) that is the standard for beauty, but more importantly 2.) that is an acceptable and desirable way to dress and wear make up in order to feel good about themselves.

My three year old has no business trying to dress, act, and think like a 17 year old (Barbie's intended age), but neither does my eight year old. They should look and behave like a three and eight year old. Not to be ignored is the fact that Victor and I regularly stress the point and try to encourage all of our kids to be genuine from the inside out. That it is a person's inner qualities, like kindness, thinking abilities, and empathy that are of true and lasting value. Also the values that we try to impart about budgeting money and spending carefully are completely opposite of what these toys encourage and represent.

We are far from the only parents who feel that we don't want clothes and make up to define our daughters' idea of beauty.

These are currently my eight year old's favorite dolls. La-La-Loopsies. I won't buy her the one that looks like a zombie, but otherwise, I have no objections to these dolls. Though we try to wait for them to go on sale since they can be somewhat pricey. My three year old still loves ponies and play dough, and I'll indulge that for a long time to come.

Children are led by their eyes, especially if it seems glitzy and glamorous. And those tiny little eyes send very powerful messages to their extremely impressionable brains. It is our responsibility as parents to provide guidelines, and to explain why those values are so important. And to protect our children from others that might do them harm, be it a commercial company willing to sell sexualized dolls to children because it rakes in the profits, or the predator you can't see because he looks like a perfectly nice guy when in reality he has hundreds of pictures of little girls just like ours in outfits that resemble those of strippers and prostitutes on his laptop. 

Perhaps you think it an extremist view, but think again. Get online and look up and type in your community. 

How do you want teenage boys and grown men looking at your daughter? If twelve year olds are being encouraged to dress and act like college girls, how do you think the 15 year old boy next door might view your preteen daughter who walks around with "juicy" on the back of her pants? And if your five year old thinks she needs make up to be attractive, and already plays games revolving around boyfriends and dating, where is her thinking going to be when she is 14 and finally getting the attention all that make up and mini-skirts bring, only she's no longer spending most of her day in the safety of your playroom? Nor does she have anywhere near the thinking ability and emotional maturity to handle that kind of attention.

It's not the five, twelve, or even fourteen year old's responsibility to think about or anticipate these things. 

It's ours. Their parents.

Are companies really targeting young girls with sexual messages?

Although extensive analyses documenting the sexualization of girls, in particular, have yet to be conducted, individual examples can easily be found. These include advertisements (e.g., the Skechers “naughty and nice” ad that featured Christina Aguilera dressed as a schoolgirl in pigtails, with her shirt unbuttoned, licking a lollipop), dolls (e.g., Bratz dolls dressed in sexualized clothing such as miniskirts, fishnet stockings and feather boas), clothing (thongs sized for 7– to 10-year-olds, some printed with slogans such as “wink wink”), and television programs (e.g., a televised fashion show in which adult models in lingerie were presented as young girls). Research documenting the pervasiveness and influence of such products and portrayals is sorely needed.

And what about those adorable leopard bikinis with hot pink trim?

In study after study, findings have indicated that women more often than men are portrayed in a sexual manner (e.g., dressed in revealing clothing, with bodily postures or facial expressions that imply sexual readiness) and are objectified (e.g., used as a decorative object, or as body parts rather than a whole person). In addition, a narrow (and unrealistic) standard of physical beauty is heavily emphasized. These are the models of femininity presented for young girls to study and emulate.

'Revealing clothing and bodily postures that imply sexual readiness.' 


Bikinis among women often offer far less coverage than the average bra and panties set. Would you allow your four year old, seven year old, thirteen year old, or sixteen year old to walk around in their underwear? Most of us don't even let them walk around their own homes like that. Isn't it possible that they may be getting mixed messages about what is acceptable? "Don't walk around in front of your brother's friends in a t-shirt and panties. But, you should wear that high cut bikini with tiny triangles that passes for a top in front of the same boys at the pool party this weekend." Does anyone else see the lack of logic here?

Isn't this the kind of thinking that leads some men later on to justify their deplorable, downright disgusting and immoral actions toward women and girls, including molestation, harassment and rape, by saying that these women and girls were "asking for it" because of the way they dressed, and even walked or conducted themselves? What if that were your daughter they were referring to?

Prevention of these atrocities begins even before our babies are born by way of our own attitudes toward these topics. 

We fortify our girls against it by helping them from a young age know how to respect their own bodies, know the proper names for all of their body parts, to know that those bodies belong only to them, and help them practice defending it by giving them strong voices with which to say No! Don't touch me! I'm telling on you. But also, and perhaps even more difficult, to be able to tell their friends No, I don't want to show that much skin. I don't need skimpy clothes to make me feel pretty.

But it is not just our girls who need to be educated and supported. Our boys need to be equally respected, and taught to love and respect, and defend, themselves. And that with respect for oneself comes respect for others. That girls and women are to be viewed as capable, smart, and strong, and that these qualities, far above physical attributes (which we should still encourage them to view as beautiful because they are!), are to be valued and respected. For these boys will grow into men along side our daughters. They deserve to know more about women than what they can clearly see from billboards and the toy aisle. They need to know that they have the power to heal or to hurt, even with a single word, look, or whistle.

I'll leave you with this illustration below. Whether or not it is an exact quote by his daughter, depicting an actual incident, I cannot verify. But the value of the lesson is beyond refute, and worthy of every parent's consideration, have we daughters or sons.  

An incident transpired when Muhammad Ali’s daughters arrived at his home wearing clothes that were quite revealing.
Here is the story as told by one of his daughters:
“When we finally arrived, the chauffeur escorted my younger sister, Laila, and me up to my father’s suite. As usual, he was hiding behind the door waiting to scare us. We exchanged many hugs and kisses as we could possibly give in one day.
My father took a good look at us. Then he sat me down on his lap and said something that I will never forget. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Hana, everything that God made valuable in the world is covered and hard to get to.
Where do you find diamonds? Deep down in the ground, covered and protected. Where do you find pearls? Deep down at the bottom of the ocean, covered up and protected in a beautiful shell. Where do you find gold? Way down in the mine, covered over with layers and layers of rock. You’ve got to work hard to get to them.”
He looked at me with serious eyes. “Your body is sacred. You’re far more precious than diamonds and pearls, and you should be covered too.”
Let this be the lesson we pass on to our children.

Next week's topic: Technology's Impact on Family Connections 

Linked up with Share With Me.


  1. Like the ending story. Nice way to teach our precious children.

  2. Very well written, Judy, and I can't help but think of how it harmonizes perfectly with other recent reminders we've had regarding modesty and clothing and the attention they claim and the messages they send. I appreciate the secular quotes you listed, as well as the touching moral story at the end.

  3. Great linky. Always great to get people buzzing about strong topics like this. Thanks for linking up to Share With Me #sharewithme

    1. Thanks! I appreciate the encouraging comments!

  4. This is so, so true. I have written two posts on this topic, and I have linked them up. As a mother of three girls, I am shocked by what clothes are available and what clothes these girls are allowed to wear.

    1. I thought of you when I was writing this and the one about your preschooler and her make up kit. I'm so glad you linked them! Yes, shocked is exactly what I feel so often.

  5. LOVE your insight and especially the ending of your post. Congrats for being featured at Mommy Crusader Sat. Evening Party. Carrie, A Mother's Shadow

    1. Thank you! I'm so glad you found it insightful. I've been enjoying your posts as well!