How do feminist mums of dds square the circle of bringing them up to feel they have the right to wear what they want, have a positive attitude to sex, etc AND stay safe at the same time?

(104 Posts)
breadandbutterfly Sun 30-Jun-13 19:14:32

Finding this hard now my dd is a teen - she wants to wear micro-minis and make-up etc - she knows she looks good and enjoys the positive attention from boys as well as other girls. As a feminist, I don't want to tell her she can't wear what she wants because people might get the wrong idea etc ie akin to blaming the victim - but as her mum, I want her to be safe, and not give boys the impression she's up for all things sexual because she isn't.

It was easy for my mum's generation - she could just say that 'nice girls don't' and that basically sex was not nice and best avoided until obligatory in marriage grin - not correct,but at least unambiguous. 'Nice girls' also didn't wear short skirts etc. But trying to give positive messages about sex whilst also making it clear it's best left till lots older (she's 13) and about the right to dress to please herself whilst also understanding that other people will judge you on the basis of what you wear, is a rather tricky balance to express.

How do other mums deal with this, please?

wonderingagain Sun 30-Jun-13 19:20:44

I think you can send whatever message you want - I started by saying 'that's SO Paris Hilton' and it put her off doing that showy thing. I taught her about wearing appropriate clothes for the weather and for practicality.

We talk about why people wear what they wear - eg high heels, baggy clothes, etc. I have a rule about either showing all legs or all arms but not both unless you're on the beach.

You need to be the adult and set the rules you want to and influence them in the way they want to. They can do what they like when they're 16, it's up to you.

wonderingagain Sun 30-Jun-13 19:21:34

-influence them in the way YOU want to-

wonderingagain Sun 30-Jun-13 19:29:10

Also I don't think anyone dresses to please themselves. We dress to please both ourselves and others - it's about identifying (and being practical). Perhaps this is why you have a problem with it - you are denying that there is a viewer or any other reason to choose your clothes.

Victim blaming is what it says on the tin. You are not victim blaming someone to tell them to dress appropriately. The bare flesh thing for example makes you seem vulnerable - not because it entices men into lascivious thoughts but actually you are - you get cold, sunburnt, can scratch yourself, get dirty etc. It's actually a bit pompous because you're saying 'nothing can touch me' or even a bit sad - you're saying 'I never go outside'.

Clothes always tell people something and it helps give perspective if we understand what they are saying.

meditrina Sun 30-Jun-13 19:32:03

Try asking why she has chosen those clothes and what impact she thinks she has when wearing them.

Even if the reasons as flimsy as 'because everyone else does' at leat you will have engaged her brain.

breadandbutterfly Sun 30-Jun-13 19:37:58

I have to admit to having been quite a prude at her age - don't remember having the age to wear revealing clothes so find it hard myself to understand why a 13 year old would wish to go out almost showing her knickers... confused

Is it a self-esteem thing?

breadandbutterfly Sun 30-Jun-13 19:39:55

having the urge to wear... sorry.

NiceTabard Sun 30-Jun-13 19:43:54

It's just the fashion. I wore truly horrendous clothes in my early teens - including the obligatory white mini-skirt with white mini-stilettoes!

In all honesty I don't think that what a person wears put them at more or less risk of whatever it is that you're worrying about. If a person comes across a predator and the predator has the opportunity, it won't make a jot of difference whether the person is wearing a micro-mini, baggy jeans or a sack.

I understand the <twitch> as a parent to see children dressed up in certain ways but it is simply the fashion. I don't think you need to read anything into it re self esteem unless she is exhibiting behaviours that might flag issues, and I think that whatever you are worrying about - in terms of how others will treat her? - will be affected particularly given that she is simply following fashion. Remember that people who don't follow mainstream fashion are often singled out - it is a tough line to walk as a teen, and always has been I think.

You could do what my dad did - take her to see the local prostitutes and what they're wearing, while explaining the symptoms of all Stds. Then teach her how to disable anyone who tries it on. It certainly helped my self confidence.

Happymum22 Sun 30-Jun-13 19:53:47

I taught DDs from the angle that they should grow up to have self-respect, dress appropriately and in ways which reflect them well. I would never tell them 'you can't wear that, you'll give a boy the wrong impression'. But I would tell them 'you can't wear that, it doesn't flatter you and means I can see your kickers/is far too short for this formal occasion'
Likewise I was telling DS off at a wedding when he was about 14 and took his shirt off like the other boys because it was a hot day, when he gelled his hair to a ridiculous degree for an interview at a new school or when he wanted to wear a vest style top to do for dinner on holiday.

NiceTabard Sun 30-Jun-13 20:00:50

What is the trick to disabling anyone who tries it on? I would love to be able to impart that to my girls, it was certainly knowledge that I never had! And it would have been a big help, that's for sure.

Startail Sun 30-Jun-13 20:06:59

I was a very 'nice girl' didn't have sex until I was 20. Didn't stop me going out drinking and disco dancing from 14 in make up and stilettos.

I don't care what the DDs wear, but I do care if they get drunk/take drugs and don't arrange a safe way home.

Of course boys shouldn't take advantage of drunk girls, but they do and drunk girls agree to things they wouldn't have done if sober. You don't need to get anywhere near rape to have regrets.

breadandbutterfly Sun 30-Jun-13 21:53:55

Some very good points - thanks.

NiceTabard, true about following the fashion - suppose I am worried about self-esteem as she does seem to be too keen to have boys fancy her incl boys she has no interest in, kind of toying with them, or collecting them, which I really don't like. So I worry about the clothing as a symptom more than just on its own.

And true, Startail, about the clothing not being v important in itself, and things like being drunk being far more significant - mercifully she's too young for that to be an issue yet.

ChunkyPickle Sun 30-Jun-13 22:02:29

I'm not sure about mothers having it easy.. I do know that my sister (not normally modest) was scandalised at the length of a dress my mum used to wear, and took the hem down a couple of inches for a 70s disco!

I think that at 13 you need to make sure that she has the confidence to tell people to get lost (which should get rid of most boys her own age) and to know that she can always call you and you'll rescue first, ask questions later. I think that some boundaries are appropriate (I like the legs or arms rule), but like others have said it really makes little difference if someone is trouble - people still take liberties with people in burkas.

BasilBabyEater Sun 30-Jun-13 22:15:39

Marking place.

DD is 11 so I haven't got to that stage yet but interested in people's ideas.

TheSmallClanger Sun 30-Jun-13 23:15:21

I think that lots of reinforcement of her right to say no, to remove herself from situations and stand up for herself against men is far more helpful than mithering on about mini skirts.

KaseyM Sun 30-Jun-13 23:30:31

FWIW DM recently told me that she used to worry herself sick at the kind of clothes I used to go out in - mini skirts and slashed fishnets (a la madonna). But she kept quiet and I would have mortified to think that people saw me as "asking for it" when all I was doing was following fashion.

My mum's a star for keeping quiet and letting me come through it all at my own pace. It wasn't long before I decided that it was too much effort and energy wasted on trying to look good to attract a bloke.

Sparklyboots Sun 30-Jun-13 23:39:58

One - discussion about how fashion functions (with optional V&A visits/ browsing old Vogues) with the key point that fashion reflects the values of the times it is, um, fashionable in; two, a discussion about what values contemporary fashions are engaged in reproducing. With an innocent face.

LittleTyga Sun 30-Jun-13 23:40:19

I've got a 13 year old who is doing very similar - tight, little clothes leaving nothing to the imagination, she is very confident and is quick with a scathing reply if anyone makes a comment although I keep trying to focus her mind on her future, what she wants to aim for and how she sees herself in 10 years - in a job? at Uni/college. Who said ambition is the best contraception? that's my plan!

sashh Mon 01-Jul-13 04:11:30

Get he to learn a martial art?

PromQueenWithin Mon 01-Jul-13 09:31:15

Watching with interest. DD is 6, and she really (really) doesn't care about what she wears. Think clashing colours and prints, strange layering choices and interesting footwear etc.

I'd like to think that I will be able to teach her to dress for herself, to make herself feel good, experiment and express her personality, keep warm / cool etc. Same advice as I'd hope to give DS really. But, we shall see grin

breadandbutterfly Mon 01-Jul-13 09:51:21

Thanks - helpful for me in untieing strands of thought in my head. I suppose my mother's messages may have got through to me more than I realised - I do just feel she looks like (or would like to look like) a slapper and worry that others will judge her this way too. Yet she hates pop stars like Rihanna and others chiefly famous for wearing very little - but doesn't see the contradiction in choosing to go out in skirts that hardly cover her bum. I don't think what worries me is strangers late at night as she doesn't go out unattended late at night anyway - more about her presenting an image of herself to others (women as well as men) which places too much focus on her physical appearance (esp legs) rather than her - even her form teacher apparently took the mick last week about her incredibly short skirt. I'd like her school teachers and friends to have an image of her and react to her as her (whole person) - not as 'that girl in the tiny skirt'. Of course, she should be able to wear a tiny skirt and be taken seriously - but I'm not sure people do in the real world. I wouldn't dress like that to work for a reason.

breadandbutterfly Mon 01-Jul-13 09:57:43

And thinking about it, I think I also have a problem with people blindly following fashion - if I teach my dcs anything, it's to be themselves, not to wear whatever stupid thing fashion dictates, and that just because everyone has the latest xyz, that is no reason to waste your money on it too. So 'I wear short skirts because they're the fashion', whilst true, makes me less sympathetic rather than more!

PromQueenWithin Mon 01-Jul-13 10:08:00

ZAK think there's a spectrum of allowing them to make their own choices. When they're 2 and want to walk to school in a summer dress in Feb, you restrict choice! As they get older, choice gets freer. I think (and she's not my dd) that I would not have a problem with miniskirts. In fact, I would defend, stoutly, her right to wear them and be respected. I would not have a teacher slut shaming my dd. That's actually making me quite cross.

But I would also be talking to her about where she gets her self-esteem from (from within herself or because she likes the attention she gets from showing off her legs). I would also be talking to her about feminism and about how short skirts, heels etc are ways that our culture restricts women's freedoms to move and be comfortable, so that they appear attractive to men. But, this is a difficult learning process. At 35 I still wear heels sometimes, even though I understand the feminist analysis.

Teenagers have more to worry about in terms of finding their way through life than we do, I think, and so I would be conscious of adding to that burden as well.

PromQueenWithin Mon 01-Jul-13 10:09:28

ZAK? Wtf is ZAK? IPad typing fail... Unless there is an alter ego within.

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