Friends, this post has unexpectedly gotten a lot of attention lately. In fact, a little too much attention for my taste. Earlier this week several people (OK, maybe a few more than several) read this post and left comments that were a little hard to stomach. That's not what I'm about here, so I took the post down for a while.
After much deliberation, prayer, and consultation with people I love and respect, I decided to put the post back up and I have written a further clarification here. Please read this post too. It shares a bit more of my heart, five years later.
Yes, this is perhaps a little controversial and yes, you might have thoughts. But here's what I'm going to say about those thoughts--I will be very picky about the comments I choose to share here, if any. I will not share comments that are disparaging to me or anyone else in any way. I will not share comments that are inflammatory or unkind.
We need a kinder world, a kinder place to be with one another. Let's be that here. Thanks!
Moms of daughters, listen up. There’s something you need to hear, and you may not like it. You may think it weird or prudish or snobby. Whatever. You need to hear this.
How your daughter dresses matters.
I’ve been passionate about this topic for a long time, since I have three daughters and we’ve had to cross this bridge a time or twenty over the years. At times it’s been a painful crossing, but in the end it’s been worth it to actually address the topic of appropriate dress and modesty.
Why does it matter?
Because how a girl dresses reflects an image of herself to the world, especially to boys.
Remember elementary school? It was easy to tell the tomboys from the girly-girls by the way they dressed. Tomboys wore t-shirts and sweats every day; girly-girls wore dresses and frilly tops.
Somewhere around junior high, though, another image gets added in there, and it’s not necessarily the image you might want of your junior high daughter. You know what I mean. Back in my day they were the “fast” girls. We might have called them worse.
Earlier this week, WSJ online asked a really important question: why would a mother encourage her daughter to dress like that? The article is graphic and disturbing in places and just plain sad, overall. But I think it’s important and worth a look, especially if you have daughters.
The author says she posed the question of why moms would let their daughters dress like that to a friend. Here’s the response she got:
"It isn't that different from when we were kids," she said. "The girls in the sexy clothes are the fast girls. They'll have Facebook pictures of themselves opening a bottle of Champagne, like Paris Hilton. And sometimes the moms and dads are out there contributing to it, shopping with them, throwing them parties at clubs. It's almost like they're saying, 'Look how hot my daughter is.'"And then the author asks the most important question: “But why?”
Why indeed? Who really wants their daughter to act like Paris Hilton anyway? And who really wants their daughter to look “hot”?
Here’s what another mom said:
“We somehow survived our own teen and college years (except for those who didn't), and now, with the exception of some Mormons, evangelicals and Orthodox Jews, scads of us don't know how to teach our own sons and daughters not to give away their bodies so readily.”Can you hear the regret in her voice? They don’t know how to teach their sons and daughters to not give away their bodies? I guess they feel it’s a double-standard if they’ve done these things, but is it a double-standard to tell your kids you made a huge mistake and you don’t want them to replicate your mistakes?
Or is it helping and teaching your kids? Loving them so much that you don’t want them to feel the shame and despair you did? Having the hard conversation because you want something better for your daughter?
I loved this quote from the end of the article:
"We wouldn't dream of dropping our daughters off at college and saying: 'Study hard and floss every night, honey—and for heaven's sake, get laid!' But that's essentially what we're saying by allowing them to dress the way they do while they're still living under our own roofs."Think about that. If, as mothers (or fathers!), we’re encouraging our daughters to dress inappropriately, that’s basically what we’re saying. At the very least we’re saying, “Here’s my daughter. She’s on display. Take a good, long, hard look at her.”
Ugh. The thought of anyone looking at any of my daughters inappropriately just makes my skin crawl.
I work with junior high girls at church, and here’s what I tell them: "Dressing a certain way attracts a certain kind of guy. I doubt very seriously that the kind of guy you want to attract is the kind of guy you’re dressing for when you dress like that. Besides, you are above that. You are better than that. You deserve better than that. So dress for the guy you deserve."
It’s tough as moms out there today. To encourage your daughter to dress modestly takes courage for both you and your daughter. Because she will be different—at school, with her friends, even (sadly) at church. She might get ridiculed. She might even get ostracized.
But isn’t she worth it?
Believe me, it’s tough to even find cute clothes to wear that are appropriate. Probably 80% of what you see in stores today is NOT appropriate, so you have to be creative and diligent to find clothes that honor your girl and won’t bring her down. But you can do it and it’s worth the effort.
And here’s why. Read this quote from a college guy who read the WSJ article and decided to leave a comment:
"As a male college student, I can say point blank, that most girls start to [sic] early and do too much. I go to a southern california school, so it might be a more extreme case, but still, the behavior referred to in this article is bad no matter how you spin it. We guys laugh at it and pat ourselves on the back for how many of these young girls we use and degrade, and how they don't seem to mind, but there's not a single one of us who doesn't know something is blatantly wrong with the picture."This just makes me want to cry for our daughters who dress to attract that kind of guy. Even the guys know it’s wrong!
Moms, I just want to encourage you today to see your daughter as the precious gift she is and to help her see herself that way too. It is my prayer that we can encourage our daughters to reflect the image that God has of her—one that loves her completely and loves her enough to give up His life for her.
She’s that important. She’s that special. Let’s help her to reflect that image to the world.
Again, I would love it if you would read my follow-up post here.