Prudish and Proud

prudish-flash1Several people have called me prudish for writing my “i love boobies” post.  I’m totally comfortable with this label because I believe our girls are growing up in a hyper-sexualized world.  If someone thinks I am overly sensitive about modesty, well, someone’s got to push the other way, right?

When I taught at a Catholic high school, I was in charge of monitoring the girls’ dress code.  What a great gig – extolling the virtue of modesty to teens everyday.  As I would walk down the hallways, girls immediately started checking the buttons on their shirts to make sure they weren’t unbuttoned too low or tugging at their skirts trying to make them longer.  This was good for them.  There was a voice in their head telling them to cover-up among all those voices telling them to bare it all.  It is all too common for a teenage girl to believe that her power lies in how sexy she is.  Being “hot” and making boys “want them” is the goal, not being kind or smart or funny.

And I’ve known all this for…pretty much as long as I’ve been alive.  I remember being really young, like 7, and knowing that if I rolled up my shorts to make them shorter, maybe that cute boy with the glasses might like me.  I was 7!  I had no idea why that would make him like me more, I just knew that’s how people on TV did it.  I didn’t know I was buying into the sexualization of women.  I just knew that a force (i.e. the media) out there was telling me I could get a guy because of my looks instead of being an interesting conversationalist or a good basketball player or a really great pog player.

Recently, Olivia and I were walking along a strip mall to pick up something for lunch and we passed by a tanning salon.  This salon had a HUGE picture of a woman in a bikini on the outside window.  It was larger than life.  The woman was probably 8 feet tall, tan, so skinny you could clearly see her ribs, and wearing a skimpy triangle bikini.  I noticed it because of its sheer size but really gave it no other thought and continued walking.  Olivia stopped dead in her tracks, let go of my hand, and gawked at it until I called her.

Having two little girls, I’ve thought a lot about how to raise them in a way that they are empowered by their talents and abilities rather than their “sexiness”.  I figured that once they started nearing middle school we would start talking about body image and such.  This incident made me realize, no, we need to start talking about body image right now.  Of course, I don’t think Olivia quite knew what she was looking at and was probably more impressed with the size of the picture, but this is how it all starts, right?  From the age they are able to identify what pictures are, girls (and boys) are bombarded with being skinny, being hot, having big “boobies”, etc.

I began doing some research on how to raise girls with self-confidence and a good body image.   I was really surprised by some things that I read.  Apparently, the average age that girls start dieting now is 8.  And while the media does its part, parents are a huge factor in how girls see themselves.  I read about how buying them clothes, even at this young age, will affect how they see themselves.  How we should dress girls in a way that makes them look like kids, not like little versions of sexy adults — women don’t get “good mom” points because their 4 year old looks hot.  How Brandon and I constantly complaining about our weight will affect how our girls see weight issues.  How we should be praising Olivia for how well she can run and jump rather than how pretty she looks in her Sunday dress.  Some pretty common sense stuff — but good to hear so we can be reminded.

As parents, and as people who have young girls in their lives (nieces, goddaughters, granddaughters,) we can do our part to make sure our girls know that God made them to look like themselves and not like an ad on the tanning salon window.

So if I come off as being prudish, fine.  You can thank push-up girls’ bikinis.

Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft

Vanessa, a Notre Dame grad, loves the Catholic Worker Movement, Catholic education, and overbearing Mexican mothers, which she may or may not be. She lives in Austin with her husband and three daughters and is a freelance writer. You can find Vanessa at v.kraft.im or follow Vanessa on Twitter @laluped.


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