on dress codes and what I am really afraid of

This week I was on my second Parent Panel for a local television news hour show. It's a short 5 minute spot during the show, but it is fun, I get to hang out with some very cool people, and you know me and a microphone - we GO together! 

The topic of the day was inspired by the recent event that happened in Guelph, Ontario, when an 8-year old girl was told she couldn't swim without a top on a a local wading pool. The show broadened the topic to include school dress codes and asked the panel - are girls and young women unfairly targeted on dress codes issues?

I have written about my thoughts on dress codes and the way society shames girls for having bodies HERE and HERE, and I reiterated a few of these points in the segment, which you can watch below.

Something our host Jason said during the panel has been stuck in my head since then and I wanted to expand on it a bit more. He mentioned that when it comes to his daughter he feels a stronger need to protect her from predators taking pictures of her and therefore thinks that he needs to be more conservative in the way he dresses her versus the way he dresses her brothers. 

I agree with Jason. We all want to protect our children from the very bad, no good, awful people that do exist in our world. What parent wouldn't do everything within their power to protect their kids? 


What has been stuck in my head is this: How is telling girls and boys what they can and can not wear going to protect them from the perpetuation of the sexist "norms" that exist in our society and the consequences of these?

We're really starting them off early on the road of blaming and shaming and sexualization/objectivication when we start telling girls as young as five that wearing anything with spaghetti straps is inappropriate attire. That they have to cover up their bodies - for their own protection and/or for the comfort of everyone else around them.

Boys and girls learn from an incredibly young age that even though their bodies are 98% identical, for some reason (read prudish North American sensibilities) , girl nipples are different than boy nipples and must be covered up. Grown-ass adults complain about mothers breastfeeding because there are kids around who will - GASP!! - see a baby nursing from a human and possibly glimpse a bit of areola/nipple, and yet, giant-sized billboards of women in barely-there lacy bras and thong panties line the walls of our shopping malls and we have no issues walking our kids past or into those stores without blindfolds over their innocent little eyes! Men routinely strip their shirts off after a sweet game winning goal, but Brandi Chastain is FAMOUS not because of the goal she scored to win the 1999 Women's World Cup, but because she took her shirt off, while still wearing a sports bra, to celebrate that fact! 

And here's a thought, if we don't want girls clothing to be overtly sexy, maybe as consumers we should do something about that and stop buying from stores that make skinny jeans for babies and t-shirts that tell girls that their biggest ambition in life should be to marry a super hero. Maybe we can stand up to the giant corporations who continue to exploit children as labourers in third world countries and make the short shorts and padded bikini tops for four-year-olds and tell them ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

So, no, I am not so much worried about protecting my 6-year-old child from the very low (statistically speaking) probability that a bad man is taking pictures of her at the splash park, as I am from the CONSTANT barrage of mixed messages she gets on a daily basis about how her skin and her body are to be covered up because {sexist} REASONS, and yet, "Oh, look at these cute pink cut off short shorts and this "Future Mrs. Batman" t-shirt. Size 3T." 

Because in the end, do you know what's more likely to happen (and does happen far too often with today's youth)? If we continue to do nothing about these double standards and the perpetuation of this sexist culture and blaming/shaming of girls for having bodies, they won't need protection from the big bad predators out there, they are going to need it from "that really sweet guy from class" who has also been the recipient of the same mixed messages that she has about whose fault it is that HE can't control himself and he read the situation wrong because she was wearing something with GODDAMN SPAGHETTI STRAPS!

We need to do better people. For our girls and our boys. And this type of protection and education is well within our power as parents. 


P.S. Catch me on Tuesday's on Dinner TV at 6:15 MST for more Parenting Panel topics and discussions. (At least until they take the mic away from me!)

P.P.S. To hear more about "That really sweet guy from class" and a powerful spoken word performance about consent, check out this video!