This is a heated conversation and the only in my free parenting community on Facebook I’ve ever removed comments from or sent warnings to people about.
Parents of young girls are struggling with this far more often trying to protect their teen, their humility,and our perception of what girls wear relative to what that says about them.
A parent will post something like, “My daughter came out wearing XYZ right before we were going to a fancy family dinner, and I gasped it was so inappropriate! I told her, ‘You can’t wear that, go back in your room and change’.” Within minutes the comments heat up.
Look who young girls are looking up to and the standards being set .
What are the people they’re looking up to wearing that dramatically influences what they see as cool, normal, sexy or attractive. Right now, it’s a crop tops and high wasted jeans. When you and I were young, it was the longer top with low rise jeans-the margin just shifts up or down.
Then there’s clothing stores.
Even if your daughter doesn’t buy into that standard and all that’s available is crop tops, spaghetti strap tank tops, etc., what do you expect her to be wearing? It’s the standard in mass marketing, social media, rock stars, influencers, all portraying the same thing so when teenagers go to purchase clothes, it’s harder to find clothes outside of that.
Teens are already wildly insecure as part of the adolescent brain development so the LAST thing they want is to stand out because they dress differently. At the same time, girls are being raised to believe their value and worth as a human is measured by the attention they garner on the outside from people who also believe a female’s body is a tool used for their pleasure.
Why should women have to dress for safety?
As a university student and young adult no longer living at home under the strict rules of my parents, I dressed provocatively. I was starving for positive attention and, having been raised to believe my value came from grades, looks, and compliance, I used what I had–a rocking fit body. It was the one thing I knew had value so I used it, yet devalued my worth in the process. I deserved kindness and positive attention; I just didn’t know I was giving everyone else the right to determine my worth in doing it that way.
The good girl syndrome.
Don’t speak unless you’re spoken to, be polite, be compliant, be respectful and don’t speak up, look pretty, don’t talk back, don’t have an opinion, don’t be bold, don’t stand out, take up space, ask for anything, all of that bullshit. Be pleasing at all costs, which is confusing because does that mean dressing risqué or all buttoned up?? Females are hounded either way: slut or frigid. I’d like to tell you this is going away but it’s not, it’s just getting more covert with digital media. I was raised to be a ‘good girl’ and it felt stifling, yet oddly rewarding, and I still pushed back.
What if your daughter is dressing from confidence?
This is where girls get thrown into the fire. If they wear something you perceive as promiscuous, or wildly inappropriate, yet they’re wearing it because they feel confident and proud of the container they occupy, how is that different than guys walking around with no shirt on to showoff what they’re proud of? Do we call that slutty or promiscuous? Nope.
Only they know why they’re dressing the way they are. And haven’t you done this too? Dressedin that outfit youfeel badassand boldly confident in, and sometimes dressed a littleprovocatively because you know can work it and the attention feels good? Yes, you have.
The conversation starts with curiosity, not criticism.
Have a conversation with your daughter about the current state of women’s dress and how she feels, then share your take remembering cultural norms aren’t her fault. Making assumptions about why she’s dressing the way she is sends shaming messages deeper than what she’s already getting every day from social media.
What’s normal for her and her friends and her current social culture? Why is it normal? How does she feel about it Does she like some of it? Does she not like some of it?
Affirm her–who she is AND what she feels confident in, rather than obsess over looks, grades and performance-based outcomes. Talk about people’s character traits and value how people treat each other, allowing for different opinions and developing values/beliefs. Support your teen getting to know herself on the inside so even in her emotional mess and developing personality, she’s got herself and never needs to look a certain way to be pleasing or earn approval.
And for the Dads in the building...
Are you modeling what healthy male relationships look like for your daughter? Are you taking your daughter on dates and showing her what is healthy, respectful, and appropriate? Are you showing her what unconditional love looks like no matter what she’s wearing because you’re interested in WHO she’s becoming? Many of the posts I read are from Moms saying ‘Dad is freaking out and he want’s me to talk to our daughter’.
As a dad, if you have an issue with what your teen daughter is wearing because it’s too sexual, there’s work to do my friend. If you feel weird hugging or showing her healthy physical affection and are changing the way that you behave around her because her developing body weirds you out, that’s on you. She’s supposed to change, it’s normal. What’s not ok is perpetuating sexualized messages even if you were raised in a misogynistic culture.
The change starts at home.
It’s time to start talking about how clothes are being interpreted, where is her responsibility, and what is interpreted by others because she is NEVER responsible for someone else’s shitty choices. Talk about social media and what posting photos means, feels like, and the intention behind it. Be curious, be compassionate and listen.
Empower your daughter to know her worth comes from the inside, because of what you model in your life, focus on, and comment on. How do your teens see you and your partner interact overclothing choices? What is sexy, provocative, or inner confidence?
And lastly, your sons.
My own clothing sparked conversations about bodily autonomy with my sons around age 13because of a V neck t-shirt. I got curious about their comments and discovered they felt I was sending the wrong message. Instead of being upset, I said, “Let’s talk about you feeling uncomfortable. I’m delighted you want to protect me. What does that look like for you?”
We had many conversations about what girls were wearing and how they felt about that. They said they walked down the school halls with their eyes down because they felt uncomfortable and didn’t want to disrespect those girls by staring.
“You don’t know if that girl is wearing those clothes because she’s wants attention to fill an empty bucket on the inside. Don’t assume. If you feel it’s revealing clothing and has a sexual connotation that’s on you, my son.
Why is it that you believe that someone who’s dressing that way is trying to send a provocative message? Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. You don’t know until you ask.
Look her in the eye and say ‘Hi’, because sometimes(saying this from my own personal experience) that girl is the one who most needs to feel seen as WHO she is. Saying her name (if you know it) let’s her know she’s worth your effort of being seen, respected, and not ignored rather than invisible and less worthy.”
Let’s keep this conversation going so we grow as parents in our perspective and help our teens, no matter their gender, to feel loved and appreciated for WHO they are, not WHAT they wear because they’re more concerned about being pleasing than being a whole person. Click below to register for my FREE masterclass and ask any questions you have in the comment box and we will respond with an email.
This is hard. Let’s do it together.