Monday, May 01, 2006

Let girls be girls

For context, read yesterday's posts on father-daughter purity balls.

Back when I was a wee little elementary school girl, I developed the habit of tossing my cardigan sweater merrily over one shoulder when I grew too hot to wear it. I would hook it with my thumb and walk about on the playground that way. This impressed one of my little playmates, who informed me that this was quite "sexy". I had no idea what the word meant, so I asked my mother later at home.

I don't really recall her answer, but I do recall that she made the point, rather strongly, that the word "sexy" was not an appropriate one to use for little girls, and that there was nothing remotely sexy about me and my sweater.

That was, of course, a long time ago. That was before little girls were encouraged to dress like sexually provocative rock stars or like their much older sisters. Back in my day, none of my friends would have shown up for their prom dressed in the way the little girl in the picture is dressed. Even if they had dared to wear such a dress, their mothers would have never let them leave the house in something so revealing and so "grown up".

But now the sexualization of little girls has become so fashionable, so common, that we scarcely notice it any more until it becomes too extreme for our personal comfort zones. We may gasp when we see a toddler wearing a "Future Porn Star" t-shirt (I actually saw a picture of this) and we may complain about the clothing choices of young girls (do our six year olds really need black lacy camisoles?) but we are growing, sadly, more and more used to the messages that our culture screams to our girls at younger and younger ages.

There was a time when it would have seemed very unseemly to dress little girls up in prom dresses and force them to think about sexual matters. Now encouraging this sort of precocious sexuality is a growing trend in, of all things, Christian circles --- and it is being done, ironically, in the name of "purity". Instead of letting girls be girls, letting them climb trees and play with dolls and rough house with their brothers and dress up in girly (rather than womanly) clothes and have tea parties and run like the wind and swing high into the sky --- instead, we are supposed to be forcing them to view themselves as our increasingly depraved culture does: as sexual beings and sexual targets. Instead of letting them be little girls, we are supposed to be teaching them that they already possess some mysterious, powerful, dangerous sexuality and that it belongs to their Daddy until he gives it to their husband some day.

I am so glad that this was not a message that was given to me back when I was a little girl. It is certainly not a message I chose to give to my daughter.

Edited for clarity and spelling and to add this picture. Whatever happened to little girls dressing like little girls?


  1. I find this concept so very strange. While I certainly think fathers (and mothers!) need to nurture and protect their daughters, it seems to me that this is going a little overboard. When I was a young girl, I would have died a 1,000 deaths if I had to say something like "sexual purity" in the presence of my father.

    Purity in our bodies begins with purity in our minds. A father can surely teach that without taking his daughter to a ball at the age of 8 or 9 years old.

  2. Oh my! I'm so out of it that I didn't even know this was going on. This is all so creepy.

  3. Amen!!! I love the picture of the little girl dressed like a little girl. I am sure she isn't have thoughts of giving her "sexuality" to her dad until he gives it to some other guy. ;-) I agree with what Kim said...I would have found it quite disgusting and embarassing to go to some ball with my father and talk about my sexuality and have it be all about my sexuality.

  4. I'm with you on all of this. I have four daughters and they've asked questions before, but we give them just a basic answer which satisfies the current curiosity. They aren't ready for more, sure at 2 and 4, but even at 5 and 7.

    The frustrating thing is that shopping for little girls clothing is almost impossible. Everything is skin tight and tatooed with "Angel" or "Naughty" or some other inappropriate word, or spaghetti straps or slinky whatevers. It's getting to a point where I'm going to have to start making more and more of their clothing just to keep them looking like little girls. I'm happy to do that for them, but come on, I shouldn't have to, you know?

    Signed, a mother of four girls, who thinks every single day about what I can do to ensure they have as long a childhood as appropriate and possible...