Too Sexy, Too Young? How Clothing for Girls Has Changed, and How Parents and Schools Can Respond

Guest Post By: Lori Day

When I was in my 20’s, I assumed that once I became a parent, I would have it easier than other mothers. I was an educational psychologist who had spent years working in schools, counseling parents and directly serving kids. Having my own child one day would surely be a piece of cake. I could not have been more wrong! No parent “has it easy.” We all work very hard to teach and nurture our children and raise them to be empathetic, successful, happy human beings in this world, and we all face challenges along the way. Three degrees in psychology did not make me immune to the struggles presented by my own unique child or by the society and era in which I was raising her.

There are times in life when you see something differently, more clearly, or with greater nuance than before. It can happen gradually as the result of accumulated experiences and observations, or suddenly, as the result of a defining event that crystallizes for you what all those vague, nagging, tickling thoughts at the back of your mind could not articulate.

I am sometimes asked how I first became an advocate for girls and when I started writing about it. On September 7, 1999, I had one of those eureka flashes when this sense of purpose became clear to me. I was reading the New York Times and, in a watershed moment, I became acutely aware of my vulnerability as the mother of a daughter in what seemed like a culture going haywire.

"Mean Girls", the 2004 film based in part on Rosalind Wiseman's "Queen Bees and Wannabes"

After reading this article about the ways in which young girls were being turned into consumers of what had previously been considered adult-like clothing fashions, I became so angry I went straight upstairs to my clunky old Dell computer that ran a Windows 95 operating system, opened up WordPerfect, composed my first-ever Letter to the Editor, and emailed it over my dial-up connection via my free Juno account.

Here it is, excavated from the early Internet archives of the NYT by my tech-savvy new husband. It had to be shortened, but it remained essentially authentic to my feelings, conveying my dismay about girls’ fashions, the quickly changing landscape of raising daughters, and my disconnect from other mothers who did not share my concerns or values.

Looking back now on this NYT article that so disillusioned me, it is rather tame compared to what I read these days about girl fashions and what I see out in public. The clothes girls were starting to wear the year of that article were inspired by the new pop sensation Britney Spears, whose hit song and music video “…Baby One More Time,” launched in 1999, forever changed the image in my mind of the Catholic girls’ school uniform.

My sudden inability in 1999 to find a basic t-shirt for my daughter that was not chopped off just below her nonexistent boobies was enough to send me into a silent rage as I walked in—and directly out—of all of the children’s clothing stores at the mall. Jeez! Would I need to hire a seamstress, at great expense, to make appropriate apparel for my seven-year-old daughter so that she would not have to play, run and climb in a ridiculous half-shirt that was no longer just being marketed to teens, but had trickled down into the children’s market?

Before we fast forward to 2012 and the contemporary girls’ clothes that I could not have even imagined in 1999 at the pinnacle of my maternal outrage…the tiny thongs and t-shirts with suggestive slogans and kitten heels and such that you’ve read about here on Pigtail Pals…let’s go back briefly to my own childhood in the late 60’s and the 70’s.  I can see myself clearly in a picture taken when I was in 6th grade wearing elephant pants (high-octane bellbottoms for those of you too young to remember) and some sort of cropped top. The cut-off top was standard hippie fashion for a while there, and my own mother dressed me like that. So why does this not confuse and concern me?

My parents were very strict in how they raised me. The clothes I wore were not shocking to anyone as far as I can recall. I did not even pick them out. I hated shopping. In those days, my mom came back from Sears and handed me a bag and said, “Here are some new clothes.” Why was there a greater sense of innocence—at least in my mind—about the clothing I wore compared to what girls the same age wear now? I think it’s perhaps because, somehow, and please help me out here…those midriff-bearing tops were considered “cute” rather than “hot.” So when the style came back in 1999, ushered in by a 16-year-old Britney and her gyrating bellybutton, was there something different about how it felt or was perceived?

I know one thing. At 11 or 12, I had no idea what “sexy” or “hot” really meant. I had never heard those words applied to a child, I saw no music videos of girls wearing them in a sexy performance I could emulate, I consumed no other marketing messages that I was or should be “sexy,” and I did not view myself as wearing those clothes to look grown up or to attract the gaze of boys. If anything, I wore them because I idolized Marcia Brady! Maybe the changing context of girl-in-society explains a lot, or maybe it’s a red herring, but I remain fascinated by the question.

The other day I saw this article in the Washington Post, and put it on Facebook because I was overjoyed that the topic of the sexualization of girls’ clothing had crossed over into educational journalism, with discussion about how schools can help parents with this problem. The clothing marketed to girls is coming under increased scrutiny for looking “hookerish” around (or before) puberty, so soon after passing through the very feminine and innocent pink-sparkle phase. Shoes, lingerie and cosmetic usage among teen and preteen girls has also changed dramatically. In England, where uniforms are common, several schools have now banned make-up because girls are acting “obsessed with their appearance” and “vain.” In one American Catholic school I read about recently, the uniform for girls has been changed from the traditional pleated skirt to unisex khaki pants, because the girls were rolling down the waistband of their skirts to make them shorter. So, even when uniforms are used, can they even work? What should we do? I am of so many minds on all of this.

As a former school administrator: The way some girls dress today—at ever-younger ages—is a huge distraction to themselves and boys. It detracts from their learning and the learning of others, and disrupts teaching. For those who assume it has always been this way, I can only say that it is very different now than when I began my career in education 25 years ago. And let me be clear. I do not place blame on the girls themselves for the societal pressures exerted upon them.

As a child who grew up wearing a school uniform: I can tell you from personal experience that kids need some freedom of self-expression, and they will subvert attempts to make them dress “appropriately” as defined exclusively by adults. I know I did! I also lampooned this behavior when I was the cartoonist for my school newspaper, making sure the administration knew how collectively put upon we all felt.

As a mother: I did not want my child going out of the house dressed as many of her peers were dressing, and fortunately she had her own well-grounded sensibilities. I asked my daughter, who is now 20, for a quote I could use about her observations of girls’ dress in middle school, and this is what she said:

“I feel that there was much more bullying and social pressure within the groups of girls who wore the skanky clothes, because if you were going to hang out together, you all had to have the same look to compete for boys’ attention, so kids trying to fit in were constantly comparing themselves to other girls who were considered popular. They didn’t bother people like my friends and me. They picked on each other more. That’s how the whole mean girls thing played out in my middle school.”

Because I did not experience the clothing wars with my own daughter, I would love to hear from some mothers who have!

One of the worst things that we do as adult women is to shame girls for dressing provocatively. I think we do it out of frustration, fear and embarrassment, and because we are all very conflicted in this society about how women should look and act. We have our own love/hate relationships with sexy clothes and beauty and youth, and it all changes and evolves, often in deeply dissatisfying ways, as we age and watch our daughters flowering. Lashing out at girls with their size zero bodies in micro-mini skirts is not helping them. But we do need to help them…I think…don’t we? Do we need to take any steps as parents to advise our daughters on how to survive in a culture where looks are everything for females, and the sexier the better?

Co-ed schools are a stage upon which some girls perform their sexiness. If schools are to be first and foremost places to learn, how can teachers and parents work together to help create a healthier environment for girls where they can be themselves rather than who the media tells them to be, at least during the academic day? This article does a really good job explaining a way schools could adopt dress codes that have enough structure to mitigate the hooker look, while leaving enough flexibility for girls to dress uniquely and creatively.

But an essential question that is hard to answer is, whose responsibility is it to police how girls dress? Should it be the school, through some sort of uniform or dress code, both of which do fundamentally require a lot of adult time be put into supervision and disciplining infractions? Or should it be parents, who lay down the law at home, and if so, how should they do this and when should they start?  Personally, I’m most invested in advocating for corporate social responsibility, but that does not help parents in the moment. Finally, for the sake of argument, how about the parents who don’t think it’s a problem—should anyone be telling them how their young daughters should dress?

I would love to hear from all of you. Please weigh in with your experiences, thoughts and ideas in the comments. Tell us how old your daughter is and how you view the roles of society, schools, parents, family, community and girls themselves when it comes to the “so sexy so soon” fashions of girlhood today. Let’s do some brainstorming!

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For more information on Rosalind Wiseman’s watershed book “Queen Bees and Wannabes”, click HERE.

 

 

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Lori Day, educational consultant

Lori Day is an educational psychologist and consultant with Lori Day Consulting in Concord, MA, having worked previously in the field of education for over 25 years in public schools, private schools, and at the college level. She writes and blogs about parenting, education, children, gender, media, and pop culture. You can connect with Lori on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

Comments

  1. this is such a difficult subject. Although I absolutely agree with everything in it as a mother I feel like I’m facing an uphill battle on so many fronts. I think I have made the right decison in talking to my daughters, not supporting companies or products that are detrimental to womans self image but then there’s me. Its hard to not feel like a hypocrite when the things that I don’t want for my two daughters I’ve fallen into myself. I

  2. have insecurites, I put on make up (at least mascara) most mornings, I worry about how I look and sometimes I find myself judging other women based on these ridiculous standards that are encouraged by our society. I basically feel like I’m telling my kids “do as I say not as I do” which I’ve always thought was pretty lame.

  3. My daughter is 7 and I clearly remember the day that we moved from the toddler department to the girls department. While there had certainly been “sexy” clothing styles in the toddler department, there were always enough other choices that I could easily ignore the clothes I found inappropriate. But in the girls’ department, there was almost nothing that was just “little girl” attire — it was grown up and screaming sexuality. Some of it I wouldn’t even allow a teenager to wear. My daughter is still relatively accepting of the “it’s not appropriate” comment when we’re shopping, but I often find myself buying clothes that I still feel are a little too grown up, but just not oozing sex appeal because their are so few other choices.

    I don’t feel it’s the schools responsibility to monitor my child’s dress. I certainly welcome appropriate dress codes, but ultimately feel it’s my job to help her select appropriate clothing, and to explain why I make the choices I do about her clothes so that someday she herself can make more informed choices.

  4. I am very conflicted about this as well. I live across from a Catholic school. Each time I come across a group of girls leaving that school, I wonder if the administration really thinks that those cute skirts are modest or that they are protecting the girls with those uniforms. They come well above the knee, and I KNOW that there are plenty of men driving past who are having trouble concentrating on the road. And the girls are young. The boys, of course, are protected by boring khakis.

    I think I will shop for my child for as long as possible, but eventually I will explain the honest truth. There are people out there who are not nice, and she needs to wear fun, childlike clothing that does not attract those people. I hope that I can avoid that conversation for as long as possible and just let her be a little girl.

    We had a dress code at my Christian school, and honestly it was a pretty good one. Skirts had to come to the knee. These days, I think I’d say skirts should come to an inch above the knee…that just tends to rule out the ones that are the wrong kind of skirts for young people. Clothing that isn’t skin tight or low-cut makes sense too. Shorts that come a couple inches above the knee are a much harder sell, and I’m not sure what we’ll do about that. It depends a lot on what our neighborhood is like, what our child is like, etc.

    Hopefully we can keep her out of the clothing wars by helping her develop so many interests that she has no desire to be involved in that silliness. Based on the sheer volume of “reading” she does with us at age 1, things are looking bright there. :)

  5. My daughter is 4 (and a half), in a public school pre-K this year. And we already deal with clothing issues! She has a particular favorite friend she met in class, whose mother has told me “refuses to wear pants,” and that it began in daycare when she was only two, where a few of the other little girls always wore dresses and tried to exclude any girl who didn’t also wear a dress from their play. I buy most of my daughter’s clothing myself and ‘weed’ any less-appropriate gifts before they hit her closet, so her normal attire consists of jeans, or a pair of the overalls I got specifically for the start of the school year. A few weeks in, however, she started saying she wanted to wear a dress or skirt to school instead. I said (often!) that I didn’t think she’d be able to enjoy herself as much, and run on the playground, if she wore some of the things that the other girls did. After a few various incidents (one where she did wear a skirt and tights, and fell and hurt her knee) and sharing observations about everyone else’s attire as well(so-and-so can’t run in her boots, due to the wedge heel), she now picks more practical clothing most days.
    A lot of the stuff her classmates wear is not particularly sexualized, although it is almost all clearly VERY gender-specific. The building she is in only goes to 2nd grade, and I have seen some of the slightly older girls in short skirts and high heels, taking shuffling steps down the hallway. I can only imagine the lack of active play at recess.
    I did bring up the whole “I want to wear a dress” thing with her teacher at conference, and asked how the kids seemed to interact in terms of gender. But mostly I feel it is my own responsibility to talk to my girls and get them thinking and talking back.

    • Sara, I am trying to visualize the “teetering on high heels” thing with such a young girl. It’s obviously sad and disturbing, but think also about the consequences of stopping active play at recess at such a young age. Once the obsession with beauty and sexiness sets in, some girls stop being athletic, or even physical at all, with terrible long-term health consequences. A recent Girl Scout Research Institute study showed that girls are beginning to drop out of sports in huge numbers because they don’t like how their bodies look while they are exercising, don’t want to get sweaty, don’t want their hair and make-up messed up. Yikes.

      • Well, I was at school in the 90s and I stopped all my sporting activities for body dysmorphic reasons, so it was pretty normal then. That and the fact that because I was slightly overweight my thighs rubbed together. In a skirt this was horrendously painful. I had to wear shorts under my skirt and eventually refused to do PE unless I could wear joggers. Otherwise girls wore tiny gymskirts. Sexist bastards – I can’t even believe we have to wear different kit. Beloved swimming, netball and running, all fell foul of this fear of being objectified as a fat person by. I stopped all those things which of course contributed to my overall health sliding and becoming inactive generally. I have been robbed. I won’t let it happen to my daughter.

    • My daughter (5) wears almost all dresses. It started as my preference for her, especially when she was potty training, and now it’s what she prefers. I don’t choose dresses for her because they’re gendered. I actually find them very practical. They have never gotten in the way of her running, jumping, or climbing. She’s at a nature-based preschool where they spend an hour outdoors every day, rain or shine, and we usually spend an hour on the hill of the school’s lawn where she plays in the mud and climbs a giant magnolia tree after school. She does have a few knit pants, but jeans and overalls don’t seem very comfortable to me and I think she agrees. She complains about the waists (which we often have to adjust one way or another) or the rise, etc. That being said, we have not yet experienced peer pressure to wear clothing that is inappropriate. Our school calls itself “progressive” and seems to attract like-minded parents. I would be shocked to see wedged boots on a child at this school. While I’m fine with gendered clothing like skirts and dresses, I have to work hard to avoid the teeny-bopper or adult looking clothes, particularly because my daughter is tall for her age (wore a 5T/5 at age 3, a 5-6 at 4, and at 5.5 years is almost in a 7).

  6. Both. I think it is appropriate for a school to have a dress code that instructs what is allowable. I have a dress code at work. Learning to dress appropriately is just part of life. But parents should also play a role in teaching their children what is appropriate dress and what isn’t.

  7. As the mother of an 8 year old girl, I wholly agree that something needs to be done about girls clothes! My child has a few friends who are physically ahead of the curve (both parents over 6ft) and by the time they were in first grade could fit into the XS sizes at places like Wet Seal, and their parents let them. One vivid memory is the little girl wearing a black tank top, but instead of straps it had CHAINS. I believe that when it comes to “preserving” the modesty of daughters (and sons) it is mostly the parents job to decide how to dress them, but I also believe there is a strong social responsibility that clothing designers are not living up too. Just because they can make and sell a thong or padded bra for a seven year old, should they? It is far too difficult to find plan tee shirts or length appropriate skirts/dresses for little girls these days. I am utterly grateful that the matriarchs in my family taught me how to sew because I can (and have) made my daughters clothes from time to time because there was nothing available in stores. A quick tip out there I learned from my Grandmother who grew up in the Depression Era, use men’s button up shirts to make into little girls dresses. Easiest dress ever.

  8. You ask: “whose responsibility is it to police how girls dress?”

    Short answer: the girl and her family.

    I am torn on this subject. First, I only have boys so our clothing issues are primarily ones about cleanliness and holey jeans–yes, some stereotypes are based on truth. As a family we discuss the way people view each other on appearance alone. Our primary lesson: don’t presume to know the values, politics, expectations, etc. of someone just because they dress in a certain way.

    Would I be for more regulation if I had a girl? I’m not sure. I know fundamentally I am usually against any kind of rules that bind self-expression, but I know the reality of what women and girls are up against in terms of fashion (what is available and what feels “in”) complicates the situation.

    I guess I’d prefer to see an industry shift (starts with parents of course) rather than a regulatory one.

    Having said all that I must confess I like the idea of gender neutral uniforms in schools more than rigid dress codes where the too many gender specific rules muddy the water.

  9. I have a four year old daughter and twin infants (a boy and a girl). I find the problem of inappropriate girls’ clothing to be pervasive and a real pain in the neck when I’m shopping! I try to shop without my 4 y.o. whenever I can, because I don’t want her to see all the “choices” out there. I’ve always bought her trousers from the “boys” section – I don’t think it is necessary for girls’ trousers to be low cut! It’s hard to find clothes that are practical – good for playing, easy to wash and (for lack of a cooler word!) respectable! I spend a lot of time these days un-teaching the things my daughter learns from her peers at school – girls wear dresses all the time, pink is for girls (and only girls, and if you aren’t wearing pink you might not be a girl!), etc. I am really concerned that when the girls in her class grow out of their “cute” princess phase, then sexy is the only place left to go. I’m so concerned that I’m actually considering homeschooling – I don’t want my daughter to feel odd at school because I won’t let her wear pink from head to toe and I won’t buy her adult style-child size clothes.
    The world I’m raising my children in is a different world from the one I grew up in – but I was a child before marketing to children was deregulated. My parents looked out for me, sure, but companies weren’t allowed to target me in the same way as my kids can be targeted.
    I don’t want my daughter to think about looking “hot” or “sassy” – I want her to play in the mud (snow would be nice, but we haven’t had a lot of that in New England this winter)! As a former teacher – I taught in the UK for 10 years, where uniforms are the norm. They are economical, sold in grocery stores, and wear well. Everyone wears them and there’s not a great deal of kick back (apart from the boy in Cambridgeshire – Comberton Village College, I think – who campaigned to be allowed to wear a skirt in warm weather!). It’s not as unusual a ‘thing’ as it is here. – I think that schools need to impose a ‘sensible’ dress code and be a support to their students’ efforts to learn. I guess everyone’s mom used to say – “You go to school to learn, it’s not a fashion show!”. I think parents and schools need to step up and enforce that more. Uniforms are one way. Discussion with students about what is acceptable and why is another. It was tough to be a teenager when I did it, I can’t imagine it now with the ‘triple bind’ (Hinshaw) that young women face.
    I often have discussions, limited to a 4 year old’s point of view, about why I won’t buy my daughter princess toys, why I won’t let her wear allpinkallthetime, why I won’t let her paint her nails or pierce her ears, and why she can do all this, and anything else she wants, as soon as she’s done university :-). I feel like I’m bailing against a hurricane, though. Other people think all this stuff is no big deal – but I know it is. I know it matters and I know my decisions and actions will impact my daughters’ and my son’s life. Do you think this is how the suffragettes felt?
    Thanks for the article – enjoy this sunny day!

    • “I am really concerned that when the girls in her class grow out of their “cute” princess phase, then sexy is the only place left to go.”

      This is exactly what happens. Some people say that the princesses turn into Lolitas. Given how much peer pressure now exists in preschool in terms of policing gender via pink=girls (and no pink=”Are you a BOY?!”) you can imagine the peer pressure years down the road that girls put on each other to dress hot and sexy. I hear from a lot of parents who say parents should control this. I do agree parents have responsibility. But I have a concern that we must maintain and increase pressure on the media and corporations, because the stark reality is that while it’s relatively easy to control what girls wear when they are young, they do eventually wander out into the Big World where parents are not their whole world anymore, and where they are consuming–according to a recent study–10.5 hours of media/marketing PER DAY. Add that to the peer pressure, and parents can easily be worn down by daughters clamoring for the latest provocative clothing. Corporations would not spend billions of dollars on marketing if it did not work! And unlike so many other developed countries, the US has ZERO regulations on marketing to children. We became deregulated I believe in the 80’s. So it’s an uphill battle parents are facing, and many of them who think it is not a big deal either have their own values, as is their right, OR, simply have not experienced yet what is is to have a 12-year-old girl rather than a 2-year-old girl, and therefore can’t anticipate all the competing influences. I also worry when parents say it is ONLY about parenting. Because then what you have is parent-shaming! The “good” mothers do it this way, and if you don’t, then maybe you’re a “bad” mother. It’s just way more complex than that. Thank goodness for places like Pigtail Pals where mothers (and others!) can collaborate. It’s rough waters raising girls today.

    • I’m also thinking about home-schooling because school is such a sexist environment for children. It chills me to the bone to think of the wake-up call my innocent kid will get.

  10. *** Why was there a greater sense of innocence—at least in my mind—about the clothing I wore compared to what girls the same age wear now? I think it’s perhaps because, somehow, and please help me out here…those midriff-bearing tops were considered “cute” rather than “hot.” ***

    I think the difference is that now it feels like girls are being taught to treat their sexuality like a currency — like something they should sell rather than something that they keep for themselves. They are wearing middriff-bearing tops BECAUSE they are sexy, not because they are cute or because it’s hot (as in, y’know, the weather) or because sometimes it’s fun to not have every inch of skin covered. There is an awareness of the “sexy image” that was not present in the collective childhood consciousness 20-30 years ago.

  11. My daughter will be ten next month. We have lots of talks about what is and isn’t appropriate…my particular quandary is earrings, what constitutes too “dangly”. I think it’s the parents’ job to enforce appropriate dress code. That said, I believe clothing is one way kids get to express themselves creatively, and I support my daughter’s fashion choices, as long as they’re age-appropriate. I have to say, though, that I love the idea of her going to an all-girls’ school in middle school because I like the idea of uniforms de-accentuating the focus on fashion. Although I hear that those all-girl school girls take a lot of liberties with skirt length…

  12. I love this conversation. And I am happy to hear so many view points and comments about this topic. I am a 28 year old mom with a 4 year old daughter. I am super paranoid about peer pressure and girl culture. I read Queen Bees and Wannabes book when my daughter was 2 because I want to be prepared. I’m mostly freaked out because as a parent who is super involved and resourceful about doing the “right” thing, I know I don’t have all of the control.

    Right now my daughter picks out her own clothes. She has all second-hand clothing that I go through before it enters her closet. She has a mix match punky brewster style. At first I would tell her that something doesn’t match. But she would say, “mama it’s okay. I don’t like to match. I’m different. God made me that way.” Now if only she could hold on to this forever, I’d be a happy mama.

    My parents told me what wasn’t appropriate as far as fashion goes when I was a pre-teen. My school had a dress code and let me know when I was violating it (I was a repeat offender in middle and high school). I would sneak clothes into my backpack and change my clothes. Clothes were not as sexy even 15 years ago, but young kids find ways to be “sexy.” I would buy clothes in the little kids section, so I could have mid drift tees. And these were not shopping trips with my parents. Most parents let their teen children go to the mall on their own.

    So even if schools and parents are saying something is not appropriate, kids will still find a way to do something if they have the desire. I feel our only armor is to dialogue with our children and their peers often. Create community with families that have similar parenting styles as you. Know the kids your kids hangs out with. And know their parents too. I got away with so much stuff because my parents did not know my friend’s parents.

    Some parents get lucky and their kids don’t fall into the trap of hanging with the “cool” kids. These kids get to avoid the peer pressure to be cool. But honestly you never know who your children will gravitate to. I think your child’s circle of friends is the biggest influencer of what their adolescent/teen years will be like.

    I was super smart and I loved to read books. I was a straight A student, class secretary and president in middle school. I played sports all year long (softball, track, basketball, volleyball, cheerleading). But during my middle and high school years I also skipped school, hung out with the popular kids, got distracted by boys and I loved the attention I got for being “pretty” or “sexy.”

    So with my experience of being smart and boy crazy, I’m definitely afraid of what my daughter will have to face. My husband and I talk about all girl schools. We discuss homeschool options. But all of these things can cost money. These are big decisions to make.

    I encourage parents to ask your kids what they think about the mixed messages they hear, the marketing ads they see, the peer pressure they experience. Let them be involved in developing their own thoughts about girl culture with your gentle facilitation.

    We don’t watch tv in our home (we watch DVDs), but there are times when my daughter may see a commercial somewhere else. And when she sees a commercial, she wants it. I let her know that commercials make us want to buy things we don’t really need. But just because I tell her this message, it doesn’t mean that the desire to want to buy or do something isn’t there. And that’s where I get scared. If I was not in the way, she would buy that thing that she wants. But she’s 4 and she can’t buy it. But she will reach an age where she can get away with buying or doing things that she wants to do if she feels compelled to do it – whether I like it or not. Yikes!

    I know I will always be open to talk to my daughter about anything. I was a health and sex educator for middle and high schools, so I feel comfortable talking to my daughter about these things. I just hope I give her every ounce of wisdom she needs to know she is loved and valued as an individual and that her identity does not just correlate with the modern girl world culture.

  13. Thanks for this great comment.

    “Some parents get lucky and their kids don’t fall into the trap of hanging with the “cool” kids. These kids get to avoid the peer pressure to be cool. But honestly you never know who your children will gravitate to. I think your child’s circle of friends is the biggest influencer of what their adolescent/teen years will be like.”

    Jadah, I do agree with this quite a bit. It goes back to the point of looking at the difference between having a very young daughter and believing you have control (because you still do), and assuming it will always be this way if you are a “good” parent. But when I look at the kids my daughter grew up with, and their moms (many of whom were my own friends), it’s amazing how much of a crap shoot it turned out to be. Some of the kids who were tight in preschool and elementary went in completely different directions in middle school. Once the queen bee/mean girl thing started, some girls became popular and others didn’t, and the sands shifted bigtime. And all of the moms had been attentive, open, communicative, stressing of values, etc. all along. And then, BAM! Some kids ended up in social groups where pushing boundaries and acting out sexually was what it was all about, while others settled into “unpopular” friendship groups where these behaviors did not occur as much. But I can’t look back on it and definitively point to any of my friends and find fault with how they parented. Good parenting is VERY important, but there is also an element of luck as relates to the social group a girl winds up in, and it seems counterintuitive, but I saw it happen all the time. It’s scary to let yourself contemplate it, because that means you have to admit that no matter how “good” a parent you are, things will not always be in your hands. So you have to do the best you can all along the way and be prepared rather than assume it will not happen to your child, because assuming that stops you from being proactive in certain ways, and undercuts your effectiveness down the road.

  14. “Some parents get lucky and their kids don’t fall into the trap of hanging with the “cool” kids. These kids get to avoid the peer pressure to be cool. But honestly you never know who your children will gravitate to. I think your child’s circle of friends is the biggest influencer of what their adolescent/teen years will be like.”

    sadly, my 5 year old kindergartener seems to fall into that category. i love that she is such a social butterfly but it scares me down the road. luckily right now she seems to be a ‘trend setter’ vs. a ‘trend follower’. my husband and i are actively involved in the music scene but more of a punk/rock scene vs. some other more revealing scenes so she tends to steer towards more conservative, yet darker colored clothing. she proudly wears a star wars sweatshirt (bought from the ‘boys section’) though and will tell anyone who says it’s a ‘boys thing’ that they are mistaken. i like that she can stand up for herself and be proud of who she is and i hope that regardless of what her friends are doing, she’ll always be able to continue to do so. i always remember that one popular girl who could get away with being ‘different’ and i hope that if her group ends up in that category, she can be that kid.

    we’re actually running into the opposite with my 2 year old son. he LOVES pink and we recently had an issue with a store refusing to sell him pink Vans. strangely enough, even after going through some of the ‘popular girl drama’ i can see him having more issues staying true to the things he loves than my daughter.

  15. I’m the mama of 2 girls, ages 7 and 4. We are Self Directed Learner-Homeschoolers for many many reasons, and limiting their exposure to our culture’s sexualization of children is one of them.
    I find appropriate clothing in consignment and thrift stores or places like Lands End or LL Bean. I have noticed that their kids clothes are getting a little more mature these days too. Sigh.

    I want to talk about this a lot and find that a lot of moms dont know what the hell Im talking about. Sometimes I just want to scream. Many of the public school girls in our Girl Scout troop dress provocatively. My 7 year old hasn’t come outright and asked to buy those clothes (old navy, target, kohls, walmart, etc) yet. I do allow for her self expression in clothing; for example she will tie a dress tightly aound her waist. I dont allow the ‘wrong’ clothes into her closet. Same with the 4 year old.

    The main argument I get when discussing why its wrong to promote mature dressing in girls basically goes that as parents, we are the ones responsible to discuss what is right and wrong, what the messages being sent are, and how society works. I hope I am making that clear. Sort of like the analogy I read in the comment section of the mattel im pissed blog post: about cake in the home. Im suuposed to let my kids eat cake all the time but tell them how bad it is for them. Obviously I dont buy this but (and heres my biggest gripe) I dont know how to effectively debunk this and convey my position in a few short and sweet sentences. I want a list of maybe 10 lines to offer when appropriate; something that doesnt blame or shame but instead educates and inspires. Please help me!

    And…I want to be invited to the sit in at the crap store where they sell thongs and padded bras for 7 year olds. I want to sing a-la Joan Baez and bring down the Corporations that agree to sell this garbage. Grrrrrr

    • Lisa –
      I think you misunderstood the cake analogy. I was saying it is okay to enjoy every once in a while, but not every day. If we allow toxic toys into our home, it is like allowing cake every day.

      Here is what I said: “Media is a diet, so let’s compare it to food. I allow my kids sweet treats, but in moderation. So we enjoy cake, but we surely don’t eat cake every day. You’ve allowed your children to eat cake every day, even though you sit around the table and ask them to think critically about why it isn’t a good decision.”

  16. Why is there such a jump in style between the girls infant-to-toddler clothing and the girls school-age clothing, even within the same store? As the mother of a 2-year old girl, I love that Target has a fashionable line of clothes for such a young age group. But once you move into the school-age section, all of the styles become tween/teen styles. I don’t want to dress my 6 year old as if she were 12 years old. Why don’t the toddler styles, which are trendy but age-appropriate, carry through?

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