lynthia: (polycon)
[personal profile] lynthia
I made a decision this morning based on a lot of FB articles and comments and stuff, and I didn't feel like starting a flame war, so I'm putting it here instead. I would like to make it clear that I am open to reasonable discussion, like always, so if you profoundly disagree with me I don't mind if you say so. I'd just like you to be fair about it and if you do, you'd be willing to change your mind if presented with the right evidence, just like you'd want me to. No soapboxing, 'kay?

That said: I do not plan on teaching my daughter modesty. I've decided it's a word and concept laced with meaning that I don't want to convey, and I'm just going to skip it entirely. Instead I choose to teach her self respect. And if I do that well, she'll get so much farther than modesty would have taken her anyway.

I'm practicing now, when I see teenagers walking around in clothes I'd NEVER wear. I feel that gut reaction of "Not MY daughter!" and then I ask myself why. Why not? What is it that is bothering me about those clothes, that look? Is it *my* discomfort with *my* physical body? Is it some message *I* internalized somewhere along the line that I don't even believe in anymore? And the answer is always yes, to both of them. Do they look like they're uncomfortable? Are they tugging up or pulling down on anything? Okay, then maybe fit is an issue. I'm a seamstress, I get fit issues. If not... and they aren't too cold, or too hot... then who cares?!? The idea that we've decided we all get to judge someone based on what they are wearing (or not wearing) is making me so angry today I'm actually tearing up. That girl wearing the short shorts and crazy shoes, she's a PERSON. She has thoughts, and feelings, and she's so much more than the clothes she's wearing. And if she put those clothes on today because she LIKES them, because they make HER happy, then that's it. End of discussion. I don't care if they leave less than nothing to the imagination. It's her body, her choice.

But the thing is, she has to have self respect, or she might be doing it for the wrong reasons. Is she wearing them to make someone else happy? Because she thinks that the only value she has is the looks that she gets from others? Because she has such low self worth that this is the only way she can think to get attention? Then that's not okay. But the solution isn't to force her to wear something else. You can't cover up a lack of self esteem. So telling that girl (or boy, or anyone) that they must be "modest" in their mode of dress accomplishes nothing. It's just more training without meaning. We're not drilling times tables anymore, right? Let's not drill this either. You want kids to dress in a way that is appropriate to the event? Teach them what that means. Don't just create a set of inexplicable rules and walk away.

Oh, and let's try not to get hung up on clothes being "distracting," okay? Because if my clothes are distracting me, then we're back to a fit issue. Is it itchy? Is it too small? Am I cold or hot? Those are legitimate distractions, and I need to learn how to to fix that for myself. But if MY clothes are distracting YOU, guess who has the issue? It's not me. This is something else that we can really only fix if we start putting the responsibility in the right place. I find my daughter to be terribly distracting. She's got these big, beautiful blue-grey eyes that look very surprising in her vaguely Chinese face. But that's not her problem, she's going to have those spectacular eyes her whole life. She might have a classically beautiful body to go with them, who knows? But if she does, what I need her to know is that it's her job to take care of her body, and to feel good about living in it. And however she decides to decorate it is up to her. It's not up to anybody else to tell her that she's a "distraction to others" when she dresses in a certain way. That's a short step from "well, did you see what she was wearing? Not surprising," and that's just so much crap I can't even write anymore about it without resorting to expletives.

I've practiced this rant at my husband, and so far he hasn't told me I'm utterly full of nonsense. He's a good check that way; if I WAS utterly full of nonsense he'd tell me. So I feel like I'm on the right track. :) Obviously we both have a long way to go before we're dealing with a teenage girl and all the fun that entails, so we'll see how it all holds up to reality. But I feel pretty strongly about this one.
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Hallie Smith

November 2016

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