A recent article on The Huffington Post about Target's response to growing complaints about the types of clothes they are selling in the young girl's department has received an overwhelming and passionate response from mothers of young girls nationwide. As a mom of four sons, I have never really looked at the girl's clothes in depth, but I do catch a glimpse of the itty bitty shorts and teensy weensy tops now and then. (I am also lucky to never having had to deal with clothing battles. Raising low-maintenance boys has its privileges) Ironically enough, the same day I read the Target response, I found myself in a back-and-forth commenting battle with mothers complaining that they are tired of school dress codes. Evidently, they are tired of their daughters being humiliated and shamed by being singled out and called out of class to the office and having to await a change of clothes. I reminded them if they do not agree with the school's dress code, they should seek other schooling options. But no, that was not enough. They demanded that girl's bodies stop being shamed, that in no way is dressing in revealing clothes disrespectful and why do we need a code governing what we can wear? At that point, I had realized common sense had left the building. When a discussion about how there is a certain level of decorum and expectations in what you wear in schools and the workplace had now turned into how someone's "feelings" are hurt because they cannot wear whatever they want, and girl's bodies are not shameful (never said they were) well, I knew is was time to power off. Then, seeing and reading the overwhelming response and agreement with the Target dissent, I knew clothing common sense was indeed on my side. The over-sexualization of young girls has finally hit middle America's clothing racks and clearly, moms have had enough. Even boy moms.
Recently, something happened in my house and it got me thinking about how our children's clothing tastes, and maybe their perceptions of bodies and modesty, are really formed. I dress very modestly/conservatively (no plunging necklines, no short shorts, nothing flashy, I don't even like prints -- think librarian). I personally just feel comfortable that way, and I also dislike clothes shopping. When I find a nicely-fitting top, I just buy the same one in every color. My closet is basically a rainbow of polo-style collared shirts, a few pairs of khaki pants and jeans. A few months ago after working out, I came in the house profusely sweating and yanked off my t-shirt. Underneath, I had a dark-colored and modest sports bra on (like a half tank top) and running shorts. As I walked through the house, both of my teen boys said, "Geez Mom, go put some clothes on. That doesn't look right."
Now, I am not a behavioral or adolescent psychologist, but I am thinking young men and boys who constantly see female peers in ill-fitting, tight and too much skin-revealing clothes will begin to think that's normal. Subsequently, that "look" will develop into what they find attractive. From that standard, the clothes then slide down the slippery slope, and to be more appealing and attractive, pieces get smaller, shorter and tighter. On the other hand, when they see modest dress, that becomes normal and attractive to them. Now of course my boys have seen girls in what we now call regular (small) clothes, and they have seen plenty of sexy and too revealing clothes worn by tween and teen girls in pop culture media outlets, but I think (I hope?) that they see that as neither normal, nor attractive. And maybe it actually makes them uncomfortable. Now, is it the girl's fault that they feel uncomfortable? No, it's nobody's fault. It is simply their preference. And if parents continue to accept the new, or rather, less-than standards of clothing and continue to buy it, that is their preference. But I have a message to mothers of girls who are fed up with clothing choices: Your dollar is what clothing manufactures follow. If it stays in your wallet until you see a change, then trust me, change will come.
As far as my sons are concerned, soon enough, they will end up at *college, where for the first time in their lives, they will not be surrounded by girls in modest, generic, plaid, religious school skorts and jumpers. Rather, they will have a whole lot of T & A up in their faces. Sigh. I dread that.
So, Target (and the many others), hurry up and get your clothing act together. It's not just girl moms that are counting on you.
*Currently Googling all male-only colleges
Melissa Fenton is mom to 4 boys, a wannabe bakery and yarn shop owner, a cookbook hoarder/reviewer, a badass mother runner, and sometimes a humor writer at http://4boysmother.com
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