(NOTE: this is from an Abercrombie & Fitch ad)
There isn’t a female on the planet who doesn’t want to be pretty. . . or beautiful. . . or sexy. Nothing new about that! But believe me when I say, girls are having a really hard time right now knowing where they want to draw the line, how much is too much and what is it they WANT anyway. She wants to be attractive, but attracting WHAT?
A multitude of factors have landed us here: questionable role models; the constancy of social media; the “invisibility” of online perpetrators; potentially fake images others present on Facebook or Snapchat; confusion about assertiveness and aggressiveness among girls/women; and the ubiquity of porn. . . . All told, it creates a subtle demand that girls meet certain expectations or be labeled in some way.
I was invited to work with a group of girl pals who constituted the “fast group” at their school. After a warm-up session, I invited them to make a list of things girls their age might want or need to know; then I asked them to place sticky stars by the items each girl most wanted our group to cover. “Knowing what to say” was a topic they selected.
When I asked for an example of what that meant to them, one told the story of a boy who’d texted her asking what size bra her best friend wore. “What am I supposed to answer?” she demanded. The other girls added their indignation and confusion. “Are we supposed to throw our friend’s privacy under the bus? Why are they even asking such stuff anyway! And if we reply in a way which puts them off, they call us prudes or lesbos. There’s no way to win!”
Another common conversation had to do with what to wear, how sexy to be. “We LIKE to look pretty, to be hot. But then guys are just all over us putting pressure on for sexual stuff.” It reminded me of the adage: If you don’t like what you’re catching, check your bait!
I believe that the first step in helping our girls is for parents to go inward, to think about what we hope they’ll convey. If we could write a script for how we hope things will unfold for them, how would that look? And WHY do we hope that? Once our thoughts are clearer, it’s time (during a none heated moment…summer afternoon on the beach?) to sit quietly and share with our girl what we hope for her and why. Very likely, being sexy, being pretty is only part of what we hope for her life. Share the context for “sexy”, how does it fit into a whole relationship? And when does it?
Our girls are doing their best to muddle their way through a very confusing sexual, social milieu. They need the thoughtful, loving adults around them to think deeply and then to help them make sense of all the cultural “noise.” Summer conversations just might be a time to do that.