A misguided mother’s actions don’t serve to educate or guide her growing daughter, but to control her and to protect her ignorance.
A UK mom is in despair over stopping her daughter from wearing a skirt she deems as too short. She thinks the term slut-shaming is “a hideous term spouted out endlessly nowadays by girls far too young to understand its meaning.”
She’s, “…torn between wanting to support this new wave of feminism, teaching girls to stand up for themselves and fight for their right to wear what they like without fear or shame, and the protective instincts of a mother who just cannot stomach the sight of her daughter walking out the house with a pelmet where her skirt should be.” (I had to look up the word pelmet. It means “a narrow border of cloth or wood, fitted across the top of a door or window to conceal the curtain fittings.”) She thinks her daughter is “too young to be charging on to the feminist battleground, with her underwear on full display, in the name of self-expression.”
On the subject of a school sending girls home for dress code violations, she has sympathy for the headmistress who said tight clothing emphasized the “heftiness” of larger girls and was “unflattering” and thinks “It was only a matter of time before a surly teenage girl played the ‘fat shame’ or ‘size shame’ card.”
“And while I can understand – indeed fully expect – teenage girls reacting with indignation when their choices are challenged by authority, what I cannot comprehend is the parents backing them up,” she says.
She says that, to her 13-year-old, “a short skirt has nothing to do with boys or sexual politics and everything to do with innocently wanting to belong to her Year 8 tribe. As a parent or a headteacher, we have a responsibility to protect that innocence.”
Given the amount of respect she gives her 13-year-old daughter, and girls in general, it’s not hard to see why this mom feels like she is fighting a battle. Her actions don’t serve to educate or guide her growing daughter, but to control her, protect her ignorance, and prevent boys from looking at her daughter’s underpants.
There’s a hashtag going on Twitter right now, #WhenIWas, that women are using to share experiences of sexual harassment at early ages. When I was 11, I went to a baseball game with my dad. I was catcalled for the first time by a group of Boy Scouts. I was wearing shorts and a T shirt. Starting at the age of 12, when I began charging onto the feminist battleground, I’ve faced quite a bit of attempted shaming, and it’s become quite the joke between my friends and I as to how long it will take for someone to make a comment about my appearance whenever I put something out with my picture on it.
This woman’s 13-year-old might not have yet been exposed to sexual harassment or shaming, but many other girls her age have, and sooner or later she will be. She will eventually be catcalled. She’ll eventually get her first unrequested picture of someone’s private parts and be asked to send unclothed pictures of herself. She’ll eventually have people talk about what she may or may not do in the bedroom. She’ll eventually experience being dismissed for who she is, what she thinks, or how she feels based on the judgmental preconceived notions of others. This will happen even if she spends the rest of her life covered from her wrists to her ankles.
What this girl deserves isn’t fights with her mother. She doesn’t deserve to have certain body parts discussed like curtain fittings, but to learn to appreciate and value herself as a whole person, mind and body. She deserves to know that wearing long skirts doesn’t make you a “boring girl” just like wearing short skirts doesn’t give boys the right to look at your underwear without your consent. She deserves to see women of all shapes and sizes as beautiful and equal. She deserves to have the respect and knowledge that will allow her to discover what kind of woman she is and start thinking about what kind of woman she might want to be in the future, instead of the controlling, authoritarian attitudes that have caused her to see herself up to this point as nothing more than part of her Year 8 tribe. She deserves feminism.
I recently took driver’s ed independently at a local high school. I probably broke every dress code the school has. Toward the end of the session, my teacher said to me, “There are a lot of girls and women in the world but not a lot of ladies, and you always carry yourself like a lady.”
I know what kind of woman I am, and I know that the possibilities as to the kind of woman I might become in the future are limitless. I have no problem challenging authority with logic and reason, whether it be representatives in my government or anyone else who tries to tell me what I can or can’t do with my body. Thank you, feminism, and thank you to all the special people in my life for backing me up.