A hit and yet a miss…When I first ran across this article I thought, “Wow! The secular world is finally taking note of our young girls being sexualized. That’s great!” But I feel like the article left something to be desired.I completely agree that t.v. shows and movies have lead girls and tweens that dress/act inappropriately and/or have bad attitudes. But even if the shows are somewhat family friendly the tween (or younger) role models are then plastered on our news stations with drug issues, dressed like a promiscuous college student or any number of things we don’t desire for our children.
But, that’s where my agreement with the article stops. For, she quotes Peggy Orensein the author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture. Saying that this sexualization actually starts with toddlers’ love for princesses. Wait. What?! Yes princesses. She goes on to explain that, “Sexualization is not only imposing sexuality on children before they’re ready and viewing girls as sexual objects, but also valuing a girl for her appearance over her other attributes.”
First, I have not found this definition of sexulalization anywhere. In fact, the definition according to the American Pychological Association is, “1) When a person’s worth is assumed to only come from his or her sexiness; 2) When a child is expected or encouraged to act or dress sexually; 3) When a person is treated as a sex object rather than as a whole person; and/or 4) When physical characteristics are considered to be the only indicator of sexiness.” – Now, point one and four may correlate with Orenstein’s definition but then she’s equating appearance for sexiness, and I think we need to separate the two.
I also don’t think that a love for princesses (or the princess movies) teach girls that they “should want to be the Fairest of Them All.” Why don’t I think this? Well, Cinderella was a slave in her own home working harder than the non-princess, ugly, snotty step-sisters. Snow White was sent away and worked diligently within her home made up of the seven dwarfs. Belle loved to read and think, she wanted adventure, and selflessly gave up her life for her father’s. I haven’t seen Princess and the Frog or Tangled (although, it seems like Rapunzel was portrayed as pretty vivacious!) so I can’t speak about them. Now, don’t get me wrong Snow White and Sleeping Beauty have some pretty messed up mother-figures in their lives seeking the beauty of youth and causing others harm in order to gain it, but the princesses themselves didn’t really seek beauty, rather it found them, and it was found not only in their appearance but also in their character. Besides all that, my daughter is almost three, loves her princess bed and her princess dress up, and even her plastic, jeweled, feathery high heeled shoes, but are those things in and of themselves really teaching her that physical beauty is the only place worth lies or that she is valued only for her appearance? No.
The article continues, talking about a mom who took her 4 and 7-year-olds to a salon in Disney’s theme park for the whole spa treatment and how she regretted it in the end. The girls didn’t enjoy their beauty make over and thought the treatments itchy and uncomfortable. First, I must say, 4 and 7 seems awfully young for mani/pedis and updos. But just because this is true doesn’t mean we should condemn being a “girlie-girl” either, which is what the author of the article essentially does. The author basically says that as moms we shouldn’t bond with our daughters over shopping and spa treatments. Again, is it the shopping and spa treatments that are really causing our daughters to be sexualized or even teaches our daughters that beauty is the end-all? I don’t think so and hopefully we’re bonding over other things too. And while my daughter has yet to see the most fabulous chair of all chairs, the pedicure chair, I have most certainly given her “pretty toes” a.k.a. I’ve painted her toe nails. And she loves it! Why? Because they’re like mommy’s!
Finally, the author gives suggestions about avoiding this sexualization by putting your daughter in sports rather than dance and by not sexualizing a boy-girl relationship. Like when your five-year-old daughter goes off to play with your friend’s five-year-old son you shouldn’t giggle about what a cute couple they make and plan their wedding.
While putting girls in sports is not wrong, in my experience the more sporty a girl is the more she losses her femininity, and some just don’t enjoy or are not good at sports. It’s just not a good solution. I also disagree with the idea that giggling over the cute five-year-old couple somehow sexualizes the boy-girl relationship. It’s just cute, (and I doubt at that age they realize that marriage = sex. Hopefully, mine would think marriage = friendship) and I venture to say women have done it through the ages without consequences to boy-girl relationships.
So what would my answer be to this problem within our culture? As I reflect on this I realize, our daughters view themselves a lot how their mommy views herself. I remember an older (than me) woman in my life while I was in college had a toddler daughter. She expressed the fact that she wanted to loose the rest of her baby weight, but more than anything wanted to be content with her body and her self image so that she didn’t pass those negative feelings to her daughter. This is where I think we need to start.
As mothers we need to show our girls how we dress modestly and still feminine, how we do our hair and makeup and take care of our bodies, not only for ourselves and to please our husbands, but also because we desire to glorify God. It means teaching them the joys of being a woman, even if that includes shopping and spa treatments, but making sure it includes submission to our husbands and contentment in serving our families. It means teaching our daughters through example that we don’t find our worth in how we look or what we do but rather in who we are in Christ. If we can teach our daughters and give them a firm foundation that their self-identity is grounded in Christ and not the world I think we will have done our jobs. This may include getting rid of television and magazines, even worldly dance classes, and certain music, but that doesn’t mean we should have to forgo entertainment and the arts in general, raising our girls to dislike the femininity that comes with womanhood.
So whether our girls play sports or aspire to be a prima ballerina, a CEO or a homemaker, let’s teach them an appropriate view of sex and sexuality. Let’s teach them to be feminine and beautiful, yet that true beauty comes from who we are on the inside. Let’s teach them how to find their worth as a daughter of Christ. Most of all, let us ask God to mold us into being the ultimate role model for our daughters.
Now, will someone help me be that kind of mother!
Note: There are other things about the article that I question/disagree with, but a blog can only be so long. 😉