In her recent Wall Street Journal column, “Why Do We Let Girls Dress Like That?”, Jennifer Moses delivers a common argument that young girls of today are naughtier than their mothers and grandmothers were at the same age.
The piece claims mothers of a liberated generation struggle with the decisions of their own pasts as well as their daughters’ anxiousness to mature and engage in adult activity. The girls want to don “plunging necklines, built-in push-up bras, spangles, feathers, slits and peek-a-boos”, and their desire to grow up leads Moses to ask: “Why do so many of us not only permit our teenage daughters to dress like this—like prostitutes, if we’re being honest with ourselves—but pay for them to do it with our AmEx cards?”
Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America, told The Daily Caller that she’s in accordance with Moses’ assertion.
“As a mother of an early teen daughter I whole-heartedly concur with the author’s alarm over the early sexualization of our kids,” Nance told TheDC. “Science and common sense tell us it’s unhealthy.”
Nance added that the MTV reality television show “Sixteen and Pregnant”, which follows the lives of pregnant teens, sets a negative example for young girls and could be a contributing factor to the “sexualization” of adolescent females.
“We moms need to be the draw a hard line against a culture that lauds ’16 and pregnant!'” Nance told TheDC.
Moses tied girls’ trouble-making tendencies to lax parenting methods, as lots of mothers and fathers prefer to be best buddies their children rather than authoritative figures.
“The girls in the sexy clothes are the fast girls,” Moses wrote. “They’ll have Facebook pictures of themselves opening a bottle of Champagne, like Paris Hilton. And sometimes the moms and dads are out there contributing to it, shopping with them, throwing them parties at clubs. It’s almost like they’re saying, ‘Look how hot my daughter is.’ But why? ‘I think it’s a bonding thing,’ she said. ‘It starts with the mommy-daughter manicure and goes on from there.'”
Rachel Simmons, author of “The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence” and New York Times bestseller “Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls”, told TheDC that clothing choices mean nothing about a person.
“What a girl wears never makes her a bad person,” Simmons told TheDC. “Clothing does not suggest behavior; it suggests…clothing. There is nothing inherently wrong with girls wearing revealing clothing. The problem is why they’re wearing it. Girls are targeted by billions of marketing dollars that tell them their worth comes from their sexuality. When girls define their value in terms of how sexy they look to others, they don’t get to think about what feels sexy to them. Dressing becomes about how they look rather than how they feel. Not every girl who dresses like this is overly invested in others’ opinions, but many of them are.”
Simmons added that parents of these days tend to let certain behavior slide.
“[P]arenting is much more permissive today than in earlier generations, and not just when it comes to clothing,” Simmons told TheDC. “That said, parents allow their daughters to dress provocatively because there may not be much else for sale at the stores. Visit a store girls love, like Forever 21, and you’ll see what I mean. Is it really fair to place the blame entirely on mothers’ shoulders? These stores establish trends for girls. So if the popular or cool kids are wearing it, and your daughter tells you that she’ll be a loser if she doesn’t have it, it’s not easy for a parent to say no.”
Simmons’ book “The Curse of the Good Girl” examines the notion that young women are pressured to become “unerringly nice, polite, modest, and selfless.” As a result, their power and potential are curtailed.
“I do think that conventional expectations of ‘good girls’ are that they be chaste and modest,” Simmons told TheDC. “That said, I think this parent is speaking out against the sexualization of girls. And most people who work with or love girls — including the American Psychological Association, which linked sexualization in its 2007 report to depression, eating disorders and anxiety — agree with her. It’s the reasons this writer uses in her argument that are so problematic. This isn’t about parents: it’s about a constellation of corporations and media companies that profit from making girls feel insecure, un-sexy and not good enough. To shame girls who dress provocatively and suggest it’s their fault for whatever follows is closely related to the blaming of girls who get sexually assaulted, as we saw in a recent New York Times article that attributed an 11 year old’s clothing to her victimization.”
Salon columnist Mary Elizabeth Williams seemed to think Moses was being too hard on young ladies, all of whom Moses speculated “need therapy more than [they] need condemnation.”
Williams wrote in a response article, “As they grow up, I don’t want my own tween daughters to ever believe that their sexuality is a performance, or that how they feel about themselves and their partners is tied to how provocative they look or act. I want them to value themselves and their peers — to not judge other girls as skanks, to not view boys as those creatures whom they have to guard against at all times… I want them to know it’s not the length of your skirt that matters; it’s what’s going on between your ears. And I wish someday for my daughters — and their friends, both the girls and the boys — what plenty of us not named Jennifer Moses have been able to achieve: a lifetime of healthy self-esteem, varied experiences and zero regret.”
Could dressing down lead to promiscuity? According to National Center for Health Statistics research released earlier this month, perhaps not. The study found that teens are having less sex and delaying sexual activity. In 2002, about 22 percent of youths aged 15 to 24 said they had never engaged in sexual contact with another person, while 27 percent of males and 29 percent of females reported this as applicable to them in 2006-2008.
In a more recent Salon piece, sex writer 52-year-old Susie Bright acknowledges the idea that some of her documented underage sexual experiences, which might shock individuals who think teens shouldn’t be getting it on, could be perceived as “controversial”, but added that she’d basically been all grown up by the time she began having intercourse.
“When I talk nonchalantly publicly about becoming sexually active at 16, people are like, ‘Oh my god you were underage!’ And I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me?!’ You think I was wearing diapers?” Bright wrote. “You want to see a picture of me at 16? I’m working, I’m going to school, I’m having sex, I have a huge social life, I’m politically involved in meetings from morning to night, I take care of a household with my dad… When you think about this on more of a global or species level, it’s kind of ridiculous how we infantalize teenagers.”
The National Organization for Women did not return calls for comment.