I remember standing in front of the mirror, thirteen year old me wearing a low-cut top and thinking to myself, “my dad will never let me leave the house like this.” Though I had stood in front of this said mirror for hours, trying to find something that made me feel beautiful, the top that made me feel confident would never make it past the disapproving glare of my father. So I changed, put on something that wouldn’t give me “negative attention,” or make boys think I was a “whore,” and walked out the door unscathed by the insults and lectures I might have gotten in that tank top.
For as long as I can remember, the fathers of the world have been given a rather strange responsibility to police their daughter’s sexuality. Because of this, comments such as “you look like a hoe,” and “my daughter isn’t going out looking like that,” have gone unpunished for the better part of our history. No one would ever bat an eye, or second guess, a father who told their impressionable daughter that “men are pigs, and will look at you differently if you dress a certain way.” And somehow our excuse is always that the fathers of the world have such a right because “daddy knows best.” However, as an adult woman, I can’t help but think that this discourse of fathers telling their daughters how to dress is more destructive than we could ever imagine.
Fast forward seven years from thirteen year old me, I still have to fight the voices inside my head that tell me that men get to have an opinion on how women dress. When I put on a short skirt as an adult woman, I still ask myself, “Will men look at me and think I’m slutty?” And unfortunately, these very thoughts came from the man who had nothing but good intentions: my dad.
When we let the fathers of our society tell young girls what clothes to wear, we lead these young women to believe that men get to tell them what is and is not appropriate, what is and is not slutty, and what makes them feel beautiful and what makes them feel like a prostitute. And while some of you may be scoffing at my parenting advice, and thinking to yourself, “dads do get to tell their daughters how to dress, because they are their parent.” I am here to firmly disagree.
In my eyes, parenting has always been much less about condemning, and critiquing, and more about advising and uplifting our children. And isn’t there the slightest possibility that it might be more effective if we taught our daughters to not value physical appearance so highly, before we scolded them for “looking like tramps?” Should we not take the time out of our busy schedules to remind our daughters that they are not sexual play toys, instead of feeding into the societal standards that tell girls and women that they owe their sexuality to men?
Though I am just a twenty-year-old girl, one without any children of their own, I once was that daughter, the one who was told their tank tops were too low, and their skirts too short; and I can assure you that it has never once motivated me to dress modestly as an adult. If anything, I have spent the majority of my short adult life being defiant, and wearing “skanky” outfits to prove that my clothing is no reflection of my worth. To put it simply—we are only destroying the young women of this world, and their self-confidence, when we evaluate their appearance so harshly. So with that, fathers and mothers alike, stop telling your daughter how to dress—and instead, teach them how to view themselves as powerful, capable women, who don’t need to show off their tits to be valuable.
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