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.

breadandbutterfly Mon 01-Jul-13 10:57:35

Thanks PromQueen - thought there was an acronym I'd missed!

Good point about teacher (she's loathesome and yes, I was cross).

And what annoys me is that I do frequently have 'feminist' discussions with my dd about how clothing is and has been designed to restrict women eg she knows about Chinese foot binding etc! And I do practice what I preach - wear comfortable shoes and short skirts only on a beach holiday-type thing ie where culturally and weather appropriate.

Maybe what this comes down to is that I don't really 'get' third wave feminism (is that the right term?) ie the 'right' to wear non-existent clothing, pose without my clothes on in men's mags etc etc. I can't really see Katie Price as a role model. if she wants to do that, fine, but I can't get how that is supposed to be a role model for women generally, or my dd.

yamsareyammy Mon 01-Jul-13 11:05:18

I think there are 2 ways of looking at following fashion.
Foloowing fashion sheeplike, bcuase everyone else is wearign it, doing it etc,
and following fashion because actually, you like the clothes, or earrings, or whatever of the moment.

yamsareyammy Mon 01-Jul-13 11:06:49

In the first example, some self esteem may be lacking.
In the second example, it may not be lacking.

breadandbutterfly Mon 01-Jul-13 11:07:15

Just re-read your last sentence, PromQueen - "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." - and am feeling guilty now that I should just let it go. blush

You're right - and she should have the right to wear short skirts if she wishes without me or anyone else commenting. I think the fact that even her (female) teacher was commenting on it did upset me. Because dd is super-bright and has a beautiful face too - even if she wanted boys to fancy her, she'd probably get that effect in a ground-length skirt anyway. But I'd rather her esteem didn't come from how many boys fancy her (she has so many other good qualities). Is that an unreasonable expectation for a 13 year old?

PromQueenWithin Mon 01-Jul-13 11:08:29

My mental narrative runs thus: short skirts and heels are there to truss up women and present them for male titillation. So, women should wear comfy practical clothes that make them feel good. But comfy practical clothes do not make many women feel good, and anyway who has the right to tell women what they should wear, that has been used as a tool of oppression for centuries. So, if they want to wear short skirts, they should do so and not feel shamed. But, why do they want to? Who sets these standards of attractiveness? Oh dear...

And back around I go. Do let me know if you find the answer!

breadandbutterfly Mon 01-Jul-13 11:16:34

I think we do have the answer, as adult women. I - and I'm guessing you too - do not feel the need to go out in micro-minis or high heels all the time to attract random men. We might enjoy wearing either on an appropriate occasion but not out of a need to 'fit in' or to please men. I certainly don't get dressed hoping I look 'hot' today. hmm I wear what I like - within limits of appropriateness for the occasion/weather and don't really give a damn if it's fashionable or what anyone else thinks.

So that's all I'm asking. Maybe I'm being too ambitious for a 13 year old, though...?

PromQueenWithin Mon 01-Jul-13 11:17:18

Everyone enjoys the boost that comes with people finding you attractive, I wouldn't judge her for that. I suppose I would be talking to her about what she sees as valuable about herself, is it her: her personality, intellect, values and moral compass etc, as well as her looks? Not just her looks and the number of boys that fancy her.

I'd also be asking her about whether she feels her behaviour is acceptable in terms of is she being kind and fair to the boys that fancy her? Sort of a if you can like yourself and be proud of who you are and wear short skirts and be popular with boys, then fine. If only the skirts and the boys, then there's a problem here.

But it's hard and my dd is only 6. So come back to me in 7 years and see if I sing the same tune!

breadandbutterfly Mon 01-Jul-13 11:22:05

Agree, PromQueen, I have said it's not fair on the boys - I feel kind of sorry for them...

Enjoy the next 7 years - before teenage years hit. Aaargh!

PromQueenWithin Mon 01-Jul-13 11:23:45

I use heels as armour. I wear them if I want to feel powerful. I recognise that if people are looking at me and thinking I look hot (in a professional Alicia Florrick or Dr. Addison Montgommery way blush) then I will have power that I won't have if I look comfy. Sometimes I want that, even while recognising that I am colluding in patrichal values by doing so.

I guess my point, like yours, is that if grown up (ish) women still feel these pressures and are still struggling sometimes to navigate them, then a 13 year old will. A 13 year old will make mistakes and learn from them, and needs support to do so. smile

Dunno if I am helping

breadandbutterfly Mon 01-Jul-13 11:32:39

Yes, you are - lots. smile

breadandbutterfly Mon 01-Jul-13 11:40:32

Am now wondering if what my career has been missing is my being prepared to dress to look 'hot'. grin

Damn principles. grin

PromQueenWithin Mon 01-Jul-13 11:46:20

I view it like a costume. But my point is, everyone is judged to some extend on what they look like and how they present themselves. This seems inevitable.

Your dd will make mistakes and will regret some choices. That can't be helped. I hope that when dd and ds are going through this, that I can be there to help them avoid the worst, most regrettable mistakes and learn from (and recover from) the smaller ones, without making them feel judged.

But remember these are fine words backed up with limited experience smile

breadandbutterfly Mon 01-Jul-13 11:50:09

Often easier to state your principles and plans when not in the heat of the moment - or confronted by daughter in a pelmet. grin

breadandbutterfly Mon 01-Jul-13 11:52:05

But yes, agree that I should be trying to make my dd feel less judged rather than more. This is where MN is helpful in giving one back a sense of perspective.

breadandbutterfly Mon 01-Jul-13 11:53:20

So thank you all!

YoniMatopoeia Mon 01-Jul-13 12:31:51

This is interesting. I have 2 older boys, one of which is grown up, the other is 13 and just got his first girlfriend. I also have dd who is 6 and I do so worry about the additional pressures on girl teens now compared to when I went through all that.

In other words, I have nothing helpful to add, but am watching with interest.

curryeater Mon 01-Jul-13 13:07:01

I think we are being unrealistic if we don't tell our girls some unpalatable truths about how certain styles lead them to be perceived.

I am not victim-blaming. I just think that "a predator is a predator no matter what" is over-simplistic, because a. girls can suffer marginalisation and aggression in ways other than overt physical attack, and b. you can point out that some people will take a certain view of a certain look without actually blaming the person looking like that. You can be as rude and blaming of the person doing the looking as you like - "some dickhead men will think you are stupid if you dress like that, but I know you're not" - but still the men, however dickheadish they are, hold disproportionate levels of power in women's professional lives.

I have not worried about this with my daughters yet as they are too young, but I have worried about this as a manager of young women. I have seen them marginalised and ridiculed because of how they look and not been able to do anything about it because my gentle approaches to the subject (deliberately gentle in order to allow respect for their autonomy to dress how they like, and recognising that they are not actually breaching any codes which would call for a disciplinary approach) have just resulted in blank looks and "Have I done something wrong? No? Well it's ok then".

If we pass the message to young women that, because they have done nothing wrong (they haven't) everything is ok (it isn't), aren't we failing them? (serious question. I still worry about certain cases of this where careers of very bright young women have properly stalled because they are regarded as bimbos and I wonder whether I could have helped more)

PromQueenWithin Mon 01-Jul-13 13:13:13

I think you have some excellent points curry and would agree that how one presents oneself can be limiting professionally if done badly. But that's not the issue for a 13 year old! She's still forming her identity and should be able to experiment with her image, I think, without worrying too much about what others think.

At this stage in her life, she will be judged primarily on her performance in exams etc, not on those subtle signals and associated power relations that adults have to deal with. That will come, no doubt.

I fear I am not being clear in my explanations...confused

OctopusPete8 Mon 01-Jul-13 13:19:21

I would perhaps stay away from the sexual side or 'you look too tarty' kind of messages that may arise in conversations as stick to 'what you're wearing is inappropriate' line if the situation arises? Thats possibly a better tack and teaching you can't dress like you're clubbing all the time and the importance of dressing appropriately, as my mum did with me.
I was raised as basically I don't wanna see your bum/boobs put it away.
When I went to school the girls who had none of that kind of intervention often grew up lacking a basic sense of appropriate dressing and when 6th form arose with no uniform its was a sight to behold.

PromQueenWithin Mon 01-Jul-13 13:39:38

Perhaps the other angle to start a discussion is to point out what the boys wear. They do not tend to display their wares by wearing hot pants, for example. You could ask your dd how she feels about this imbalance: why should she display her body in this way when boys don't have the same pressures?

Who does she admire? Singers, sports stars etc? Can you discuss women who have an image that allows them to feel attractive without being "tarty" (sorry, hate that term and all it stands for). She is trying to find her place, fit in and develop her sense of self. Really hard to support this and input without either shaming or controlling what she wears.

Remember also that things in teen culture have different meanings today than when we were that age! They remake the world.

MiniTheMinx Mon 01-Jul-13 15:04:59

I am not so certain that anything like teen culture actually exists now. Music is controlled by corporate money swindlers, modern culture overrun with images of women making themselves look "available" to men, politics liberal and all about every choice being an equal individual freedom with no wider political consequences.

If young women are wearing what is fashionable you can bet that it isn't driven by any kind of sub-culture anymore but driven by the prevailing cultural hegemony. Everything has been turned on it's head, looking like you are available, self-esteem dependant upon how attractive you are, which of course is very much more influenced now by porn culture than Paris fashion and finally the realisation that if you don't perform the function of eye candy to the male species you are persona-non-grata.

Not much help, sorry. I would try and talk to her, maybe offer her some books to read. Beauty and Misogyny is often recommended on MN.

Free here www.feministes-radicales.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Jeffreys_Beauty_and_Misogyny_Harmful_Cultural_Practices_in_the_West__Women_and_Psychology_1.pdf

Would it be suitable for 13 years? only you know your own dd.

PromQueenWithin Mon 01-Jul-13 15:12:52

We might do an analysis that says teen culture doesn't exist (and actually Mini I agree with your analysis sad) but I bet that to a 13 year old it feels like its theirs, and so in one sense it is a teen culture.

breadandbutterfly Mon 01-Jul-13 17:39:03

Totally agree with all points made - well explained, Curry and Mini. Ironically, in one way dd would agree with your analysis of teen culture, Mini - she is always complaining about the relative tedium of youth culture v when I was young and lots of her favourite bands/looks come from her parents' era! Shall have a look at the book - wow, a free book!! dd reads well ahead of her age and is quite interested in politics/history/sociology etc so might be up to it? Will read and think...

breadandbutterfly Mon 01-Jul-13 17:50:45

PromQueen - Just realised why dressing to look 'hot' has never been an issue for me professionally - I'm a teacher, and if there's one thing I want less than any other it's for any of my students/colleagues to view me as 'hot'. I suppose if you work in a male-dominated office, the temptation to get noticed that way would be stronger.

PromQueenWithin Mon 01-Jul-13 17:53:44

grin

It is not something I am particularly proud that I do, but I do do it, when I feel I need that particular suit of armour.

TheDoctrineOfAllan Mon 01-Jul-13 18:54:44

Interesting discussion.

OP, I'm sure you haven't but I really hope that you haven't used the word slapper to her.

Does she have a uniform skirt or can they wear their own clothes?

Joiningthegang Mon 01-Jul-13 21:32:14

There is absolutely no correlation between clothes and rape (if that was the staying safe reference). And I am worrying about what to say to my dd when she gets older. I think that when we give messages that what you wear impacts on how others will treat you - it is victim blaming - ie if someone is alone on their way home, a bit drunk and wearing a short skirt - (a reasonably rare form of rape) - she may then not report it because she didn't follow te "safety" messages of society and therefore she was to blame.

However I don't want my dd being badly thought of so would try to discourage such clothing ( but realistically she either will or won't choose certain clothes in any case)

Joiningthegang Mon 01-Jul-13 21:33:18

I hope that reads as "she thinks she is to blame" n not that she would be at fault

NiceTabard Mon 01-Jul-13 21:45:10

Thing is as a girl/young woman, there is always something.

If you don't wear a short skirt, for boys to judge, there will be something else for them to remark on

Blonde hair
Big boobs
Small boobs
Too tall
Too short
Too fat
Too thin
Too pretty
Not pretty enough
Too clever
Not clever enough
and so on ad infinitum

Even if all the females in the country wore below the knee skirts, people would still find something to judge on and say to them.

I have blonde hair and got loads of shit about it as a young teen
My friend had big boobs and got loads of shit about it as a young teen
There's always something. This is the problem with trying to follow any "rules" to protect yourself - there aren't actually any rules. And so you could go around in circles forever trying to work out what to do to avoid the nonsense (and worse) and never ever come up with an answer, because there isn't one.

breadandbutterfly Mon 01-Jul-13 21:47:58

@ Joining - Afraid that I have used if not slapper certainly similar concepts. Have also apologised to her today following this thread for not being more supportive... Really agree with points above that growing up and finding your identity is hard enough without this shit... I think i'm worried because she does seem to be drawing too much of her self-esteem from being attractive to boys and being trendy which she doesn't need to make any effort to do anyway as she is naturally pretty and cool. But doesn't seem to really 'get' this. Plus doesn't seem to really value all her other attributes that are not appearance-based and sounds bored/hostile if anyone mentions other stuff - like it's not really important. sad

So am planning to focus less on skirt length and more on self-esteem issues. Am also hoping that more self-esteem = less arguments. But that may be wishful thinking...

Joiningthegang Mon 01-Jul-13 22:13:40

Haha- want me who said about the use of slapped! - that said I think it's not a nice term.
So nice to see some sensible views!!!

It would be more helpful to advise her on the warning flags that a man is a predator and a woman-hater (ie ignoring boundaries, trying to get her alone, making rape jokes etc) and help her develop self-confidence and an understanding that it's up to her whether or not she has sex or dances with or kisses or talks to any man.

FreyaSnow Tue 02-Jul-13 16:57:59

I do think this thread is victim blaming and leaves girls vulnerable to bad and criminal behaviour because some of you are teaching them that other people responding to what they wear is somehow their responsibility.

DD is the same age as the OP's. She wears lots of Hollister style clothes - short shorts (with leggings under on colder days), racer back dresses etc. Although it isn't what I'd have chosen as a teen, I think it looks very fresh, athletic, outdoors at the beach. I have no issue with her wearing it at all. I don't think she's being pressured to expose her body or that it is a sign of sexuality that can be 'read' by others.

I do not believe rape myths and do not believe she is making herself more vulnerable by wearing those clothes. I do not want her to grow up feeling judged or to think it is okay to judge other women. If she was going to work or to somebody else's wedding, yes, courtesy requires her to dress a certain way. The rest of the time, she should wear what she likes.

yamsareyammy Tue 02-Jul-13 17:09:24

One of my DDs wore short skirts right through from about 13 to 18 years old.
What made her change at 18?
Earning her own money.
Suddenly things had to be budgeted for. So she, and her friends realised that owning a cheaper phone was preferable to owning a dearer one. And suddenly, also, it sort of made her wake up to other decisions she was making in her life, including the short skirt issue. In short, I think,she grew up!

OctopusPete8 Tue 02-Jul-13 17:38:07

I don't think this thread is victim blaming at all, just a mum dealing with an age old problem.

Its not been 10 years since I was a teen and the idea of 'victimblaming' would have been laughed out of the room, the discussion itself shows times are changing.

FreyaSnow Tue 02-Jul-13 17:58:32

It's over twenty years since I was a teen, and the idea that victim blaming was a social problem was an issue then. It's how the law got changed so that various issues to do with the victim's past were no longer able to be brought up as 'evidence' in rape cases. I think there was a feminist backlash about ten years ago and that generation of women were not as exposed to feminist ideas as older women or teens now.

It is an age old problem and girls will be exposed to all kinds of judgements by society. There is no outfit that will exempt you from judgement. What you can do as a parent, and thus one of the most important people in your teen's life, is to not be the person who makes moral or sexual judgements about somebody based on their clothes.

I agree with SGB that girls should be taught to be aware of negative male behaviour and that it is potentially dangerous, and to view those men and boys as people to avoid and to see as people whose opinion's are to be ignored. There are some vile kids at DD's school. I teach her to see them and their behaviour as not her responsibility in any way whatsoever. She owes boys who behave like that nothing, no response, no attention, no change in what she does and who she is. It is not about her; it is their issue.

TheDoctrineOfAllan Tue 02-Jul-13 20:25:39

Good post SGB.

breadandbutterfly Tue 02-Jul-13 20:27:26

I think in theory I agree with you, Freya, but in practice it is a very strong-minded girl (much more strong-minded than I was or am now) who could routinely wear clothing likely to attract sexual comments or even hassle (which is not victim blaming, just facing reality) and deal with the fallout.

And it's a question of why one wears those clothes, as discussed above - if one wears them deliberately to be sexually alluring, then it seems a very complicated signal to send out (esp as a teenage girl) - to be saying at the same time both 'fancy me' and 'don't respond in any way to the fact that I'm trying to attract you'. Obviously, if one just wears them because they look nice, to be sporty etc as your dd does, then there is no problem. But with my dd, I'm not sure that she is not trying to send out conflicting messages as above. I feel she probably got those messages from a society that says 'girls should look attractive to men at all times, preferably by showing some flesh', and I think I'd like her to look at whether that really is how she wants to present herself and represents her core values, or not.

Is wearing a short skirt liberating or a symbol of patriarchal oppression? Second-wave v third-wave feminism, again. I'm really not sure where I stand on this myself.

breadandbutterfly Tue 02-Jul-13 20:31:07

And SGB, agree and have already touched on this and will do so more as she gets older.

FreyaSnow Tue 02-Jul-13 20:54:06

Breadandbutterfly, but that is classic victim blaming. You are assuming that girls get sexual comments or hassle because they are dressed a particular way because that is 'reality.' You only have to look at the everyday sexism website to see that women and girls dressed in all sorts of ways receive sexual comments.

DD has mostly Muslim friends who are very covered up, and they receive all the same sort of comments that DD does. There is no outfit you can wear as a girl or woman that does not lead to certain men and boys feeling they should comment on it. There will also be an excuse. Some men and boys will see a girl dressed demurely and see her as more sheltered, naive and vulnerable and choose her as a target.

'if one wears them deliberately to be sexually alluring, then it seems a very complicated signal to send out (esp as a teenage girl) - to be saying at the same time both 'fancy me' and 'don't respond in any way to the fact that I'm trying to attract you'.'

I don't think that is a complicated message. Teenage girls want to look attractive but if they are 13 they don't want sex. The true is also true for young teenage boys (I have one of them too). Who is that complicated to? I know my DS doesn't find the clothing of teenage girls confusing and complicated, so why adults should be confused I don't know.

Catmint Tue 02-Jul-13 20:55:54

Remember this?

Whatever we wear
Wherever we go
Yes means yes and no means no.

Women should be able to wear what they choose, but it is important to be aware of other people's limitations in the way they perceive, label and behave in the world, to stay safe.

FreyaSnow Tue 02-Jul-13 21:04:14

As for short skirts, I don't think they are either liberating or a sign of oppression.

They clearly are oppressive if you feel forced to wear one due to societal pressure or a dress code and you actively dislike wearing them.

But I like skirts in general, including short ones. I don't feel liberated by them, nor do I get any additional attention of any kind by wearing them, either positive or negative.

yamsareyammy Tue 02-Jul-13 21:15:45

Do you think Freya that short skirts on female, young or older, do not have any impact or effect on any men or boys.

grimbletart Tue 02-Jul-13 21:28:09

The most powerful message to give daughters is not to give a flying fuck what boys think. It short circuits everything else and saves them a whole lot of unnecessary grief and angst.

My (now middle aged) daughters told me it was the most useful thing they learned from me. Though of course I couched in in more elegant terms than my first paragraph. grin

FreyaSnow Tue 02-Jul-13 21:58:15

YAY, no. Why should they? They reveal less than a pair of leggings, tight trousers or PE shorts and why should anyone be particularly excited by a bit of thigh?

Almost the entire teen girl population wear short skirts to school. How much interest can boys have in something that they see all day, every day for seven years?

breadandbutterfly Tue 02-Jul-13 22:30:46

Love it, grimbletart! Nice and succinct. grin

Though presumably you mean 'men in general' rather than individual men - I'd like dd to care about her dad and brother, clearly. Or looking longer term, any male friends/partner.

breadandbutterfly Tue 02-Jul-13 22:31:21

That should be 'boys in general'

breadandbutterfly Tue 02-Jul-13 22:42:43

Freya - I've certainly had different experiences based on what I was wearing. Whilst of course some men will hassle all or any woman no matter what she is wearing, it is undeniable that more men will hassle women dressed revealingly. That's not blaming the victim - clearly the men involved need to get a grip on it and it is their fault alone - but it is to recognise the situation as it is.

It's not terribly helpful to say 'why should anyone be excited by a bit of thigh?' - go ask a biologist. They just are - not that that gives men any right to touch or comment on said thighs, but pretending that women in short skirts are not noticed does not advance the argument. You cannot deal with something if you pretend it's not there. It is - teenage girls nowadays grow up surrounded by increasingly sexualised images of women in states of undress. I don't think that just ignoring that is the solution. Confronting the way that women are portrayed so that you can make a conscious decision to reject being restricted in who you are is kind of what I'm trying, in my woolly-brained way in this thread, to get at.

grimbletart Tue 02-Jul-13 22:53:18

Yes breadandbutterfly: boys in general. In the context of the thread and appealing to boys generally.

And in case anyone with young daughters thinks that being their own person might condemn their daughters to be wallflowers I can assure them that my DDs were never short of male attention from decent boys. And the not-so-decent ones knew it was no use hanging around as they were given short shrift. grin

FreyaSnow Tue 02-Jul-13 22:57:21

I've never seen a research paper about thighs being an area either men or women were particularly attracted by. I thought the main area of appeal was hip to waist to breast ratio in women and shoulders in men. I've heard no mention of thighs. So maybe we should be out slut shaming women who wear belts, thus drawing attention to the waist.

I totally disagree that women in revealing clothing get more comments. I think that women who are perceived as unattractively addressed get the most comments because some men think they are a. vulnerable and have low self esteem to dress like that so are easy prey and b. sheltered, particularly if teens. I think that the second group to get the most attention are women who look attractive but demure and covered because some men see them as seeking sexual attention from men by attempting to look like wife/girlfriend material.

'teenage girls nowadays grow up surrounded by increasingly sexualised images of women in states of undress. I don't think that just ignoring that is the solution. Confronting the way that women are portrayed so that you can make a conscious decision to reject being restricted in who you are is kind of what I'm trying'

Yes, they do, but neither your daughter or mine are walking around in a state of undress. I think there are major issues with the sexualisation of children and teens and it worries me a lot. I don't think wearing a short skirt has much to do with it.

It would be nice if we were in a less sexist society, but while we are the best course of action is to not really care much about what boys think. This was not the case when I was growing up, but it seems to be now. DD has all female friends and her interests are those of a stereotypical girl, what boys think other than her dad and brother is neither here nor there. It is really sad that there is that division, but I see it more and more in young people. I don't see what else girls can do.

Joiningthegang Tue 02-Jul-13 23:04:53

In your op you said you wanted her to wear what she wants ..... But still stay safe.
So safety is your motive - lovely
As I said earlier there is no correlation between sexual assault and clothing - therefore changing the way she chooses to dress might make you feel she is safer - but it will make no difeerenxe to her safety

If you had said you wanted her to wear what she wants to .... Nf not have other women judge her for being x y z (choose your offensive word) then clothing would be a relevant discussion point

NiceTabard Wed 03-Jul-13 00:11:28

I agree with Freya smile

And on thighs, a few decades ago it was ankles. Just fashion. In some societies breasts are seen as no more than a bit of a woman's body that at some point might be used to feed children. A lot of stuff in our society is fetishised. Esp women's body parts. And, sadly, breasts, hence women feeling really uncomfortable with BF in public.

breadandbutterfly Wed 03-Jul-13 12:37:04

Oh it's not the thighs that worry me - it's the fact that when she bends over even a tiny bit (or presumably walks upstairs etc) you can see her knickers!

Name me a society in which knickers are not a sexual interest or research proving this. If it was just her thighs on display don't think I'd be that bothered...

BasilBabyEater Wed 03-Jul-13 13:00:17

People further down the thread mentioned that they felt a bit sorry for boys with regard to the way girls dress.

Why please?

My DS is 14 and it's never occurred to me to feel sorry for him because of the way his female classmates dress. Am I very remiss?

ElephantsAndMiasmas Wed 03-Jul-13 17:28:31

To put it bluntly, I think the less of a fuck everyone shows they give about how girls and women are dressed, the more confident girls and women will be. If girls want to wear a miniskirt or a full length victorian gown that's completely irrelevant to their abilities, their intelligence and their interest in sex. She's young and beautiful and she has the right to cover her body (or not) in whatever she wants. It's about looking what she sees as "nice", not scrawling a message across herself saying "up for it" - so any comment about "slappers" or similar will just make her think (quite rightly) that you don't "get" her and quite frankly have a bit of a dirty mind grin

"clothing likely to attract sexual comments or even hassle" - that'll be any clothes when worn on a female body then? Haven't you seen those blogs where women post pictures of the clothes they were wearing when they were raped/assaulted? Given that most attacks like this happen in the home a girl is probably more at risk wearing a dressing gown than fishnets out on the town.

Really glad that you're being more supportive of her, I'm sure she'll appreciate it in the long run. Her taste will change over time, god knows the gruesome things I wore as a 13 year old were NOT an indication of a future turning up to work in a one-strap lycra minidress.

ElephantsAndMiasmas Wed 03-Jul-13 17:37:02

Sorry, that wasn't really advice. If I were you I would:

- positively reinforce all her good qualities and abilities, not just her looks
- teach her that anyone who judges her based on her appearance/clothing is a total idiot
- discuss with her whether she's ever been catcalled etc (REGARDLESS of clothing, it's not the issue) and possible good ways to react/respond, both externally and internally
- talk to her about consent, and emphasise that whether she talks to/hugs/holds hands with/snogs a boy is totally and always HER choice, and people who think otherwise need their heads examined
- be happy that she is so confident! Being 13 is the pits so if she feels good about herself now you've probably brought up an independent young person

78bunion Wed 03-Jul-13 18:18:24

There is no correlation between dress and attack so make sure you don't suggest to her that there is. You could change your own thoughts. Believe girls have a right to show their sexuality, that we ought to be allowed to be totally naked more often than is currently allowed.

YoniBottsBumgina Wed 03-Jul-13 18:29:03

I don't know Basil, but I did once overhear a comment by a church leader (I am personally not religious but my friend is and it was at her child's birthday party) about how there was a lot of temptation around for teenage boys and it was good for teenage boys to come to church and church youth groups because the girls there tended to dress more modestly and it was easier on the boys!

I was totally shock that this was current thinking, in the UK in 2013. It sounded like something from the Deep South. I didn't say anything because I didn't want to make a scene at my friend's DC birthday party, but it troubled me quite a lot.

BasilBabyEater Wed 03-Jul-13 19:35:34

Gawd.

What a terrible opinion of teenage boys.

It's horrible how determined some adults are to turn perfectly nice boys into total wankers in between the ages of 12 and 17. Because we all know that kids live up to (or down to) your expectations of them.

Why do so many adults consign boys to the "will be a tosser" corner before they have a chance to develop into decent men? WTF is wrong with these adults?

breadandbutterfly Thu 04-Jul-13 08:56:35

Elephants - thanks for structured advice. I have already done point 3 - pointing out that her body is hers and no-one has a right to do anything she is not happy with ever - and will touch on more as she gets older.

But I don't really agree with your last point - I don't feel she is wearing small clothes out of confidence - more out of a desire to fit in with a fashion and attract positive attention from boys - she is aware, even if some on this thread deny it, that the wearing of short skirts and boys fancying you can be correlated! I'd like her to not feel the need to do that, to have the inner confidence that she can wear what she likes and any boy worth knowing won't judge her for that, that her real beauty is within not just without...but I'm planning to work on that.

Lots of helpful comments, thanks...

breadandbutterfly Thu 04-Jul-13 08:59:48

BayBasilEater - I don't know about the church leader but I don't think anyone else on this thread has suggested all teenage boys are 'tossers'. I daresay some are but some people of all groups are.

YoniBottsBumgina Thu 04-Jul-13 09:06:46

Without wanting to massively stereotype, we're not talking about some naice middle class boys but very "street smart" teenagers on an estate and a lot of them do outwardly express a lot of sexism, because to not treat women as objects marks you out as "not a man". But, it's still not a reason to assume that teenagers are slaves to their hormones etc.

I don't think anyone meant that wearing short skirts and boys noticing you wasn't correlated. Short skirts are something that in our culture are considered to be attractive to men. Boiler suits aren't!

What people have been saying (I think) is that the wearing of short skirts isn't correlated with sexual assault, and that to suggest that someone unfortunate enough to have been assaulted could have prevented it by dressing more modestly is victim blaming.

ElephantsAndMiasmas Thu 04-Jul-13 09:47:47

Sorry, I should have been clear that I meant physical confidence. It's a great thing to have and I hope she keeps it.

And yeah, all teenagers want people to fancy them - why wouldn't they? You're looking at it from a perspective of someone who has had relationships, probably long ones - she is still probably at that "Will I ever get a boyfriend?" stage, or if she isn't her friends are. She needs reassuring that she is attractive and at the moment (still being a kid) she gets that from people telling her she is, like, well fit. grin

BasilBabyEater Thu 04-Jul-13 13:07:11

Hi breadandbutterfly, I wasn't meaning to imply people on this thread were of the opinion that teenage boys are tossers - I was referring to the adults Yoni referred to, the ones who seem to automatically expect teenage boys to be awful.

What amazes me about these people, is that some of them at least, must themselves have sons. What on earth has given them the idea that their DS's are destined to be horrible people, even though they are the ones who have brought them up and given them their values? I can't quite get my head around it. Is it that they think that the culture around us is so strong that they can't fight it and they might as well just accept that they will lose their sons to it, is it that they think men are inherently horrible so it doesn't matter how they've brought their sons up, or is it something else altogether? It baffles me tbh, it seems to me to be such a betrayal of their sons, I get really uncomfortable around people who talk about their boys like that.

Quangle Thu 04-Jul-13 13:17:47

I agree that other people's reactions to her clothing are for them to manage not her. But at the same time, we all should dress appropriately and with respect for others.

I don't like it when men take off their tops and wander round town centres in nothing but shorts as soon as the temperature goes above 20 degrees simply because it feels slightly attention-seeking (in this case a sort of "look at me stripping off because I can" with a slight feeling of entitlement to it). And equally I don't like it when girls feel the need to dress in a sexually attractive way at all possible moments (going to Tesco etc).

It's not about "nice girls don't" - it's just about not needing to be front and centre with your attractiveness at all times. But it's a very hard message for a young, pretty girl to process at this age when that is absolutely the only currency there is.

So I wouldn't be afraid to talk to her about dialling up and down her look. It's not about repressing her but about helping her understand a range of appropriate ways to be a girl. I'm sure she won't listen, btw! But worth always having the conversation.

specialsubject Thu 04-Jul-13 21:04:10

oh yes, love it. Self-respect is the big one, and also not spending bloody hours on appearance every single day.

no-one else really wants to see your knickers; so if your skirt is that short, you need to spend all your time thinking about how you move. Fine at a party, but why make life so much work all the time?

also teach them not to judge or bitch about others because of THEIR appearance. What goes around, comes around.

specialsubject Thu 04-Jul-13 21:05:31

oh, and back on topic - everyone needs to stay safe. Girls are a little easier to rape, but both genders need to be armed with common sense.

Stay out of the dark alleys, take the earphones out, look where you are going not at your phone and don't fill your bloodstream with alcohol.

louisianablue2000 Thu 04-Jul-13 22:15:34

Clothes do send out signals that are not all sexual and you can talk about those to get herto think about the messages she is sending out. For example, you could talk about how some of the teachers at school are probably not that much older than the oldest pupils but look and dress differently from your DD and her friends do, or how how you dress affects how you are treated in some shops (in Pretty Woman the shop assistants refuse to serve Julia Roberts not because of how sexually she is dressed but how cheaply) or by the police (there's a scene in the first series of Mad Men where Don can easily walk out of a building having a police raid whereas Midge and her beatnik friends can't because Don is clearly a wealthy businessman in his suit).

Stay out of the dark alleys, take the earphones out, look where you are going not at your phone and don't fill your bloodstream with alcohol.

None of which will make a blind bit of difference, other than to make the victim feel as though they might, could, should have prevented it.

OneMoreChap Fri 05-Jul-13 16:10:12

Yah.
DD and her cousins wore all sorts of "scandalous" clothes.

Most danger is from people they know rather than strangers so some random staring at them probably isn't the highest risk.

Some women dress for male attention, and I'm pretty judgy about it 'if you try to impress me with a short skirt:FAIL; let's see the codebase'

FreyaSnow Fri 05-Jul-13 16:33:19

Breadandbutterfly, I don't mean to imply that people won't make assumptions about somebody wearing a short skirt(you only have to look at this thread to see that is not the case). What I mean is that every type of outfit carries a risk of people making particular judgements about it and having negative responses which could put your daughter at risk.

I think this thread has drifted away from the particular issues you raised, which is the motivations of your daughter (who you presumably think has internalised a lot of messages about valuing herself based on what boys think and how boys respond) and how she dresses. I can see that is a problem in terms of both safety and building of self esteem, because her boundaries are going to be weak because of her sense of self. I could be misinterpreting you though.

I am surprised by how many people on this thread are judging other women based on clothes (not talking about you OP). Does it not make you feel unhappy/isolated/cut off from humanity if you are walking around assuming all manner of negative things about women based on how much makeup or what clothes they wear to the supermarket? As my 15 year old DS says, they are just clothes, they are not who a person is.

GoshlyoHeavens Fri 05-Jul-13 16:39:33

Isn't the main thing she should wear what she wants? If other people have a problem with that that's their problem.

GoshlyoHeavens Fri 05-Jul-13 16:40:48

Agree Buffy.

FreyaSnow Fri 05-Jul-13 16:43:55

I agree that she should wear what she wants. But I think if the OP knows her daughter and thinks there are underlying issues with self esteem and confidence that needs addressing. That is very different from seeing a stranger and making assumptions about why they are wearing a certain outfit.

GoshlyoHeavens Fri 05-Jul-13 16:45:08

Trousers. Ooh, mmph,why will those men wear those fucking trousers? They get me hot. Mmm.

You just can't help yourself Goshly? Completely understandable. I mean, what do they think is going to happen, eh?

GoshlyoHeavens Fri 05-Jul-13 17:13:03

I cannot control myself with the look of their fucking trousers and the ha

GoshlyoHeavens Fri 05-Jul-13 17:13:25

HAIR

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