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sexualisation of children vs slut shaming

(583 Posts)
bikeandrun Fri 17-Jul-15 09:34:21

My DD is y6, having a great time with a fancy dress parades and final party. Being having lots of discussions with other mums and my mum about what the girls have been wearing. Finding my responses to this difficult
" cant believe mums let their daughters out of the house dressed like that" response to crop tops, mini skirts, lots of slap high heels etc

"girls don't understand the effect they have on men when they dress like that" this was aimed at a girl in dds year who has obviously gone through puberty and has a woman's body
Are just a few quotes I have heard
As a young single woman i used to enjoy dressing in an extreme and sexual way and felt empowered and confident.BUT

These girls are not sexual beings yet but is it slut shaming or just protective parenting to not want 11 year olds to dress like this.

I persuaded dd to wear converse rather than high heels mainly cos I know she wanted to jump around like a manic but I also really didn't like how she looked in those heels.
Help me find a feminist way through these feeling as I support my daughter as she grows into a woman

laurierf Fri 17-Jul-15 13:50:08

That's an interesting and difficult question I think. I suppose the main thing is to talk about why we make the choices to wear what we do. Why did you, as a young woman feel empowered and confident by dressing in an extreme and sexual way? I suppose we would want young girls to know that they can choose to wear what they want and make up etc. but to think about why they are making those choices, why other people don't really have those choices etc. without going down the 'slut shaming' route...

You can bide your time with the high heels from the protective parent point of view because surely they are just not good for you irrespective of whether they are too 'sexualising' for an 11 year old...

HedgehogAtHome Fri 17-Jul-15 13:51:28

I don't have a daughter (yet) but I am trying to raise a body confident, respectful pre teen boy.

Personally I'm planning on assuming responsibility for my son's development until he is mentally mature enough to do so himself. So he has internet access, but only supervised by me, as I don't think he could handle the www and snapchat and everything his pals are into.

I'd do the same with a daughter. Until I believe she is old enough to make a mature decision about how she presented her body she would be dressed modestly. Not because her body is wrong, or sexual, but because she could get a reaction she is unequipped to deal with emotionally, whether that reaction is slut-shaming or unwanted sexual attention.

I would also try to protect her from the 'effect on men' mother and if I couldn't would be very vocal about how sick that comment makes me feel. Given it was aimed at the dress of at 11 year old child I don't think I could have bitten my tongue enough not to blurt out 'Does your husband/partner/son/uncle have trouble containing himself around 11 year olds then?'

bikeandrun Fri 17-Jul-15 13:58:32

Good question, I was rebelling against catholic school I suppose, my body was great, I loved going to clubbing, enjoyed sexual exploration and i suppose male attention. I was still learning about being a feminist then, still am now!!

laurierf Fri 17-Jul-15 14:18:18

I think it's important that young women know that they don't have to wear make up/dress in a particular way/have male attention to be valuable and worthwhile… or indeed to be able to attract the attention of a valuable and worthwhile male when they are at an appropriate age.

And I guess it's also important for young women to think about the fact that we live in a judgemental society and reactions to you and the judgements placed on you as a result of the choices you make will differ from person to person, and that those judgements should not have power over you because they say something about the person making the judgement, not you. If you are confident in who you are, the choices you make, and why you make those choices, then do not be 'shamed' by others.

bikeandrun Fri 17-Jul-15 14:28:54

Yeah the effect on men comment made feel sick too

cailindana Fri 17-Jul-15 15:22:55

If you tell a child to cover her body, what are you protecting her from?

HedgehogAtHome Fri 17-Jul-15 15:34:17

'If you tell a child to cover her body, what are you protecting her from?'

Comments like the OP had. I don't want to have to explain to my daughter that X's Mum thinks grown men will think about her sexually. I want to teach my daughter to respect her body in an appropriate way i.e. the pants campaign and other child appropriate methods.

My DS, unless swimming is in at least long shorts and a vest to prevent sunburn when out. Long shorts (knee length) have also been good in that they keep him cool and offer some protection from rougher play (climbing etc). Due a daughter in August, so started having a peep at the clothes available 'for girls'. Short shorts in flimsy ass material. I'll be sticking to 'boys' knee length denims for her too. I don't feel I'll be covering my daughter as such, just dressing her in good clothes for play.

When she's old enough to emotionally deal with comments like the ones OP had she can wear what she wants when she wants.

cailindana Fri 17-Jul-15 15:41:21

So you conduct your parenting in response to comments from other parents Hedgehog?

HedgehogAtHome Fri 17-Jul-15 15:44:26

No, I raise my children in a feminist social vacuum.

cailindana Fri 17-Jul-15 15:45:48

I asked you why you would ask your child to cover up and you said to protect her from comments from other parents, which implies that it is comments from other parents that drive your decisions. Is that not the case?

HedgehogAtHome Fri 17-Jul-15 15:49:49

I also explained the benefits I feel my DS gets from his long shorts and being covered in warmer weather, allowing for more robust play outdoor too. My son would get no benefit from hot pants and heeled sandals, why would I be denying my daughter anything to expect it would be the same for her?

cailindana Fri 17-Jul-15 15:52:42

The OP was talking about a year 6 girl who was going to a party, not a younger child who was playing in the sun. Do you think your son will still allow you to choose his clothes for him when he's 11?

HedgehogAtHome Fri 17-Jul-15 16:02:53

He is 11. Off to high school this year. He's yet to ask for short shorts or heels. I do choose his clothes in that I buy them. He wore a shirt and tie with plain trousers to his leavers party. Like OP's daughter he wore converse, he played and danced like a maniac. He couldn't give a flip about clothes, long as he's not naked he's happy. Long as he's dressed for the weather/activity I'm happy.

Luckily him being male, no one compared his choice of dress/hair or makeup to anyone else at the party, or implied he was dressed too old or too 'sexual'. I totally get where OP is coming from here, I reckon there's a lot of situations I'll be facing over the coming years that would never have crossed my mind if we'd be raising only boys.

cailindana Fri 17-Jul-15 16:14:45

I'm getting the impression you don't actually want to discuss this Hedgehog.

bikeandrun Fri 17-Jul-15 16:35:52

There is a big difference between covering up for modesty ( I really dislike this) if it hot dd will wear short shorts and a vest and sexualised clothes( high heels, pvc look leggings, push up bras) which all seem available for girls of dds age. I don't like them and want to explain to my daughter why without notions of shame, effects on men etc. I think they look tacky but I suppose I am trying to articulate a feminist response.

cailindana Fri 17-Jul-15 16:45:00

Can you articulate why you think they look tacky bike?

NoTechnologicalBreakdown Fri 17-Jul-15 16:47:10

You could ask them, and yourself, exactly why it is that we need to have these discussions about clothes all the time, why it is always girls clothes, why at 11 yrs old.

Children should be wearing clothes that are appropriate for playing with, maybe in their favourite colours or with a nice picture on the front. There shoukd be no need even to discuss sexualisation of clothes for an 11 yr old, however advanced her growth is.

Personally I'd prefer similar rules for adults too. Sex shouldn't come into it, (until it comes into it!)

bikeandrun Fri 17-Jul-15 16:59:43

I suppose because they are all designed to accentuate sexual features ( push up bras make breasts appear bigger, high heeled shoes make you walk differently,red lipstick is meant to mirror sexual arousal?) whilst skimpy or short is just clothing for warm weather. High heels, sexy underwear, red lipstick all fine on adult women and also non of my business, personally can't be bothered anymore!

TeiTetua Fri 17-Jul-15 17:01:31

The question "why it is that we need to have these discussions about clothes all the time, why it is always girls clothes?" was pretty much answered by Hedgehog talking about her son. He wears long shorts without protest, and it's what society expects and it's the kind of clothes the shops sell. On the other hand, skimpy clothes for girls are available, in fact some people say that's all that's available. Hence, it's girls' clothes that are an issue.

So do we accept that little girls are going to wear less clothing than little boys, and do we think it's a meaningless custom with no message attached? Or is there something sexual being conveyed? If more skin exposed means something sexual, it might make us uncomfortable if it's a child doing it. And there's more to consider: whether the child has full responsibility for choosing clothes, and if anyone sees it as sexual, whether it's entirely that person's fault, or the child's, or that child's parents'. This is an everyday thing that gets incredibly complicated, and it may put some feminist issues in conflict with each other.

TeiTetua Fri 17-Jul-15 17:06:59

I should have said--the title of this thread gets into the conflict thing right away: "sexualisation of children vs slut shaming". That is the main concern, but then "sexualisation" is very subtle. We'd have to ask ourselves what's genuinely erotic and what's just a game, and whether we can say that a child can't be seen as erotic regardless of clothing.

cailindana Fri 17-Jul-15 17:07:52

The way I see it, a body is a body, there's nothing inherently sexual about it, particularly when it's a child's body. Men walk down the street all the time with no top on and no one tells them to cover up. They are allowed to just have a body that they entirely own and can do whatever they like with without judgement.

Women on the other hand, are sexual objects, so them wearing very little clothing is seen as a sexual act. Women are not allowed to do what they like with their bodies because men are more important and dictate the agenda. So girls who want to emulate women and wear skimpy or tight clothing have to cover up because men might ogle them. Women who want to wear loose clothing have 'let themselves go' (ie have not made themselves attractive enough to men). Women who wear clothes that are very short and tight are 'tarts' (ie they have made themselves too attractive to men). Women like Zara Phillips who have had babies and now have a 'mum tum' are photographed and analysed - why does she have a mum tum, what caused it? Women like Kate Middleton who have a baby and look essentially the same as before are photographed and analysed because they're the same as before - how do they do it? Why is she so slim?

A man who sees a young girl in a short skirt and heels may have sexual thoughts about that girl. Does that mean that girl must then not wear those things? That's a genuine question btw.

HedgehogAtHome Fri 17-Jul-15 17:09:54

You said it far more eloquently than I could, Tei.

Even baby clothes were an eye opener. Trying to find white socks in the 'girls section' was impossible as I don't want wee ribbons and beads that she could pull (Tesco and asda had only adorned socks). My daughter doesn't need trinkets, she needs clothes I can easily take off and wash when her nappy explodes, she'll be lovely as she is and I want her to know that from day dot. Maybe you've been navel gazing too much when you feel socks are a feminist issue. Got some plain white ones from the boys section.

bikeandrun Fri 17-Jul-15 17:21:16

Men walk down the streets with no shirts( not sexual) but they also don't wear push up pants to make their cocks look bigger(strangely did in 16 th century?)

QueenCardigan Fri 17-Jul-15 17:21:16

Intetesting question and something that i'll be facing myself in a year or 2. Part of me thinks let them wear what they like especially in the safe confines of a school party. Clothes are an expression of who we are and they should be allowed to experiment without being branded as sluts. And it's nice if they have developed physically that they are proud/happy enough to show it rather than hiding themselves away.

The other part of me thinks that there's no way that I want dd dressing like that and looking like a mini adult as she's still a child. I am horrified by some of the clothing that I see available for her age. I have nothing against short shorts and crop tops as such as long as they are child like and not adult like iyswim.

The comment about the effect on men makes me uncomfortable. I'm sure most men are uncomfortable to see their daughters developing into women rather than thinking of them in a sexual way.

So all in all I don't have an answer!

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