Note: While this blog generally consists of topics that begin with eat, pray, love and work, occasionally I will get riled up and just rant. This is one of those rants... :)
It's no secret that our society has been attempting to sexualize our daughters at younger and younger ages. Just looking at the programs aimed at tweens on The Disney Channel and comparing them to the ones on my Disney Channel in the 80s I can see that young girls are maturing more quickly than the girls of my generation. The Bratz dolls initially shocked me, but I'll admit I've grown accustomed to seeing them on the toy shelves. The little girls wearing sweats and shorts with words like "Juicy" across their little bottoms no longer cause my jaw to drop. The day my daughter tries walking out of the house in a pair of those will be the day I ship her off to the Amish country to live out her teen years.
TLC has provided more extreme examples of this sexualization, with Toddlers and Tiaras commercials showing a 3 year-old girl dancing around portraying Julia Roberts' character from Pretty Woman. I was able to dismiss this as an extreme example, far from mainstream American life. Soon I was no longer able to be as dismissive because the extreme examples began hitting closer to home and no longer seemed so extreme. A while back I was shopping for my daughter at one of those high-end department store last call centers. I was looking for some great deals on hip and fun clothes for my toddler when I came across a Juicy Couture tee with a suggestive message that does not bear repeating; I suddenly felt like it was time to begin fighting to protect my toddler's innocence.
The big bomb came when I was browsing the Facebook page of one of my favorite children's boutiques. I loved perusing the unique outfits with huge flowers and ruffles and giant hairbows. Then I saw the Babi-kini. I did a double take. There it was, a baby in a string bikini starting,
It was like one of those really skimpy numbers from the SI Swimsuit Issue, but it was on a baby and it was available in infant sizes. I had plenty of thoughts about modesty running through my head. I have to admit, though, I was just as busy trying to figure out where you would put the diaper. It wasn't even practical. What if baby gets sunburned in all those places not covered by the string bikini? I worry enough about my child when she is wearing a one-piece bathing suit, a wide brimmed hat and SPF 60 sunscreen. Once my mind had processed the absuridity of the babi-kini, my thoughts once again drifted to this hyper-sexualized world in which my daughter will grow up.
As a Christian mom, the skimpy clothes for girls sadden me because I want my daugther to be dressed modestly and in a way that is pleasing to God. I might be a little more conservative than the average mom as far as modest dress goes, but even for those who are not as conservative the babi-kini can be appalling. What are the consequences of sexualizing our toddlers? In 2007 the American Psychological Association's Task Force on the sexualization of girls found a number of cognitive and emotional effects of early sexualization. The researchers defined sexualization as a person's value coming from sexual appeal or behavior. Beyond morality, early sexualization is detrimental to the mental health of our daughters. Sexualization is directly linked to objectification, and when we objectify our girls we undermine their confidence and comfort in their own body, leading to negative emotions such as shame and anxiety. Sexualization is also linked to the three most commonly diagnosed mental health problems in women--depression, low self-esteem and eating disorders.
I hope and pray I can teach my daughter that pretty is so much more valuable than sexy, and that pretty goes far beyond what is on the outside, As Christian mothers, we have to work diligently to combat the sexual messages our society sends our daughters from the time they come into this world.
"Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God." I Peter 3:3-4
God's word tells us we will find our beauty on the inside. I don't think God disapproves of outward beauty or outward adornment. After all, Lydia was a seller of purple, one of the finest adornments, and she was recognized in Acts 16 as a "worshipper of God." In I Peter we are told that our adornment must not be merely external; our true beauty comes from our hearts and it is with our hearts that we will please God and it is with our hearts that we will make a difference in our world.
Instead of working to help our daughters be "hot", let's set out each day to beautify the hidden person of the heart. It is with that heart that they will make a difference for the kingdom of God, and that precious spirit will help them find the joy that they deserve.