Don’t judge the girls by the lengths of their dresses

Recently, I came across a discussion taking place over a picture of young, teenage girls (13–15) at a party, wearing very short dresses that barely covered their tiny behinds. Some paired the dressed with (uncomfortable looking) high heels and others wore sneakers. The adults (mostly in their late 30’s/early 40’s) discussing these girls were appalled by the short dresses. And, the conversation struck a chord. Words like “slut” and “ho” were thrown around mercilessly by seemingly “mature” adults. As I watched the comments pour in, I couldn’t help but get angry. I was angry for the way these adults spoke about the young girls. I was angry because of the judgments passed upon these girls and the assumptions made. I was angry because of the ridiculous double standard. I was angry for the girls and the teenagers I strive to protect.

I can’t even begin to express my utter disgust. Or, maybe I can. But, let me digress for a minute.

teenagers at a party

We were all once teenagers, right? Sure, we were. We all played the various parts. Many of us yearned to fit in, some of us wanted to be something we weren’t, some were in cliques, some were in the “in-crowd,” some stayed somewhere along the sidelines either desperately wanting to be part of something, or pretending they did not. The point is, all of us were there together and we had one thing in common: we were all (at times) confused, insecure, misguided, anxious, and terrified. I am willing to bet we all felt that way at one time or another during our teen years. And, if you truly believe you did not, you are a rarity. Or, in denial. Or, a liar. So, we were all there (hopefully for not very long). We all knew who everyone was. We all played whatever part was “assigned” to us, or we “assigned” to ourselves.

Back to my disgust.

The explanation for my anger.

1. Do not call a girl a “slut.” Just don’t do it. It’s atrocious.

Do you guys know what “ slut” actually means? A “slut” is a woman who has many sexual partners. A prostitute. When you call a 14-year-old girl a “slut” (for the way she is dressed or for whatever other reason you think warrants that label) you are insinuating way more than “she isn’t dressed appropriately for her age”; you are using an incredibly derogatory term for a young girl with hardly any life experience and implying she is sleeping around. (If she is, in fact, sleeping around, that is still not a judgement one can make based solely on how she is dressed.) When you call a teenager a slut, you are shaming her and her body. When you call a teenager girl a slut, you are suggesting that her dress automatically makes her promiscuous; you are assigning a label based on nothing and you are judging a book by its cover. Finally, by calling those girls any of the aforementioned words, you are perpetuating terrible stereotypes and modeling that behavior and language to your own children. So, when your children grow up, they will also call girls “sluts” and “hos,” because, according to you, that is a perfectly fine way to describe someone you don’t know.

2. “Their parents failed as parents”: The “The Fault of the Parent” “logic”

Of course! The parents f**cked-up! “If the parents of these girls were strict, then the 14-y/os wouldn’t be such sluts.” (I’m paraphrasing.) Don’t get me wrong: I believe (at least, I hope) parents play a significant role in what kind of person their child will become. Parents should teach their children how to be good people and how to respect themselves and those around. But, if parents let’s their daughter dress how she wants to dress, they are not automatically bad parents. That’s just not how it works.

There’s a strappy mini-dress under that jacket

When I was a teenager I belonged to the Russian subculture of “glamorous” restaurant parties. While my American counterparts spent their teenage years throwing house parties, we threw lavish restaurant parties. Russian restaurants were (and still are) always ostentatious and never modest. In preparation, all the girls dressed in mini-skirts, slipped into their highest heels, and adorned themselves with their mother’s jewelry. Basically, it was the teenage version of my 6-y/o playing princess dress-up, except a lot more “adult.” With the exception of very few, most of us participated in this “ritual.” And, we had a blast, never really got in trouble, and were pretty good kids.

Now I realize if Facebook existed back then, there would be a picture of us on it, with a caption: “Where did the parents go wrong? Look at these sluts.”

Those dresses were pretty short. Pretty, pretty short.

So, where did my parents go wrong? Why did they allow me to dress the way I dressed to these parties (I was a t-shirt & jeans kind-a girl for everyday)? What was (is) wrong with them? Didn’t anybody teach them how to be parents? I don’t know, Mama and Papa, can you maybe explain?

But, while I wait for their explanation, I think I’ll take a stab at it myself. I bet they chose to pick they battles, huh? They probably chose to focus on my behaviors, such as compassion and empathy, and my morals and ethics, rather than the lengths of my skirts. They raised me to be someone who loves herself, someone who values herself. Someone who makes solid choices. They raised me to be someone who knows how and when to say “no.” Someone who is dedicated, and motivated, and strong. They raised me to be someone they can be proud of. But unfortunately, they weren’t good enough. Sorry, I apparently dressed to parties “like a slut” (what does a slut dress like anyway?because I have a very different visual than how those girls in that picture were dressed). I guess they failed as parents. Their bad. Don’t worry, I still love them. Them and all of their failures.

The point is: my parents raised a pretty decent person (for the most part). One who wasn’t promiscuous and one who was very comfortable in her own skin.

3. “Boys don’t respect girls like that”: The “women are made to be ogled by men” “logic.”

A) According to these folks, when a female wears a mini-dress she is doing it to get the male’s attention. Newsflash, most girls don’t dress for the boys. If anything, they dress for the girls. That’s right, men… women dress for women. Because…psychology.

B) Let’s chat about respect for a minute. This is the true definition of a double standard. When I was in high school there were always the boys who were polite and respectful, and then there were the boys who would snap a girl’s bra as she was walking to class. This disparity has nothing to do with the way the girl was dressed and everything to do with that boy. Maybe, and stay with me because this is a wild idea, maybe we should teach the boys some respect. Maybe we should teach our boys how to respect a woman no matter what. Maybe we should tell them that women aren’t objects to conquer, that women don’t purely exist to be eye candy for men. Maybe we should teach boys that words like “slut” are ugly and mean. And, maybe we should teach our boys to be nice and kind. So, boys who are taught respect will respect “girls like that.” Because “girls like that” are just girls. Let’s make the rules the same for all genders shall we? If girls should be taught to respect themselves and respect others, then the same challenge should lie with the boys, right?

C) Finally, no matter what we do, we can’t help the outliers, those who, no matter what, will be disrespectful towards girls who wear mini-skirts. So, instead of telling our daughters to hide and cover up because we are afraid that “boys wont respect” them or because they will attract the “wrong” kind of attention, we should teach our girls how to handle themselves around all types of people. Teach the girls how to handle life and judgment with grace and poise. Teach the girls how to be strong. Just like we teach a toddler to walk on concrete instead of only on padded playgrounds, let’s teach our girls how to handle the unkind and how to steer the rocky road.

4. Adult judgmentally discussing children. Does anyone else have a problem with this?

Hey, if you are a bit/way more conservative than I am, that’s cool. To each her own. We all have our views on what’s appropriate and what isn’t. We all have aspirations and goals for how we raise our children. We all want our kids to be happy and successful and healthy. I get all of that. If you wouldn’t let your kid wear a mini-skirt, that’s totally your prerogative and I don’t judge you for it. But, if I let my daughter wear a mini-skirt, although I don’t expect you to offer me the same courtesy of open-mindedness, know this: if you ever call my daughter a slut, I will find a way to physically and emotionally hurt you. Grownups, it’s not okay to maliciously discuss children. It’s wrong. And, it’s unkind.

So, right now, remember yourself in high school? Remember all of those times you felt confused, insecure, misguided, anxious, and terrified. Understand this: the reason you felt all of those feelings for much longer than you had to was because some of the adults around you called you names and categorized you as “whatever” instead of trying to understand you and support you. And, they refused to be there for you because the adults before them denied them kindness. And then, their kid will go to school and will call your daughter a “slut’ because your daughter is wearing short shorts, or because she likes a boy some other girl likes, or because she got the lead in the play, or because she was picked as team captain in soccer. So, the norm will continue: shaming girls into becoming insecure adults.

5. Mini-dress on a teenager does not a grown woman make.

Since there haven’t been actual sociological studies about this yet, I will use anecdotal evidence to prove my point. All of my friends dressed about the same when we went out to a party (despite who was and was not allowed). All were (are) good people, most were excelled academically, and all are currently professionals with respectable jobs and beautiful families. Now, obviously this isn’t actually “evidence,” but I’m willing to bet there is very little correlation between how one dresses as a teenager and what kind of person she will become and what kind of life she will have. (Because, let’s be honest: if there was a legitimate correlation, most of my male friends would be currently in a gang.) So, teenage girls, if you are good at the core, and if you make good choices and are kind to those around you, and if you are happy with who you are, and you know your worth is deeper than whatever you choose to wear, go ahead and enjoy that mini-dress because in a few years, society will make you so ashamed of your own body, you’ll wish you wore more mini-skirts when you were younger. However, if you do decide to wear that mini-skirt just know you will be judged, quite harshly, mostly by the grown-ups in your life.

Dear reader: You are more than welcome to disagree with me; that’s totally fine. But, I hope you don’t disagree with me on this: No one (especially not adults) should call a teenage girl a slut. Because the words of a grownup hold a lot of weight, and when an adult calls a young girl a slut, that adult is now responsible for irreparable emotional damage to that young woman. Calling a girl a “slut” is never acceptable. It’s never fine. And, if you still disagree with that last part, and subscribe to the notion of “if she ‘looks’ like a ‘slut’ she must be one,” then I feel sorry for you because someone didn’t teach you better.

“How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living?” — Henry David Thoreau

‘Till next time,

~ Dina

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Originally published at aglimpseofthepast.wordpress.com on June 17, 2015.

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