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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?

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


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.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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).

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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

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.

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