You would expect moms from a more traditional or conservative background to worry about the way their daughters dress. The challenges that come from raising girls in an oversexualized culture prompt frequent discussions in prayer groups, Bible studies, Catholic blogs and many radio programs, including my own. The concerns over Hollywood and Madison Avenue targeting young girls are also not exactly foreign to many other American families, given the prevalence of the media in our society and the pressure on parents to buy more and more bling.
But I never would have expected prominent voices from the Cosmo generation to be adding to the call for modesty. But that’s what happening in some circles after an interesting and quite refreshing op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal.
“Why Do We Let Them Dress Like That?” — an editorial written by author and feminist Jennifer Moses — created an ongoing buzz concerning the fallout from the so-called sexual revolution. Moses starts out by noticing just how many young girls in her community are allowed to or, in many cases, are even encouraged to dress as if they were starring in a sleazy Lady Gaga music video.
“Dressed in minidresses, perilously high heels, and glittery dangling earrings, their eyes heavily shadowed in black-pearl and jade, they look like a flock of tropical birds. A few minutes later they return to the dance floor to shake everything they’ve got. But for the most part, there isn’t all that much to shake. This particular group of partygoers consists of 12- and 13-year-old girls.”
Moses addresses moms and other women from the “post-pill” generation, asking not only what type of havoc have they wreaked on their daughters, but what have they passed on to the female species by accepting the free-love mantra from the Gloria Steinem days of the late 1960s and early ’70s. Her choice of words can be crass, but she makes some strong points.
“We are the first moms in history to grow up with widely available birth control, the first who didn’t have to worry about getting knocked up. We were the first not to only be free of old-fashioned fears about our reputations but actually pressured by our peers and the wider culture to find our true womanhood in the bedroom.”
What many women discovered by buying into the big lie, Moses explains, was not their true womanhood or freedom, but plenty of pain and regret.
“In my circle of girlfriends the desire to push back is strong. I don’t know one of them who doesn’t have feelings of lingering discomfort regarding her own sexual past. And not one woman I’ve ever asked about the subject has said that she wishes she’d ‘experimented’ more.”
So, why aren’t more moms with regrets speaking up and stopping their daughters from dressing like the next Victoria’s Secret model? Moses says some are embarrassed and don’t want to be seen as hypocrites. How can they tell their children not to act or dress a certain way when they did the same thing? Moses tells parents to get over themselves. Stop the denial and start saying no to their daughter’s requests for the super miniskirts, tight jeans and stiletto heels and yes to more modest and age-appropriate fashion.
Moses and her readers don’t realize it, but her words affirm what the Church has been saying all along. Whether it’s Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body or Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae, true freedom comes from knowing the proper place for everything, including our sexuality. Truth is truth, and, as St. Paul says, it is written on our hearts, even the hearts of those we might least expect.
Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 160.