I was going about my morning routine, sipping coffee, checking headlines and status updates and watching the second hour of one of the network morning news programs–you know, the hour that doesn’t require as much intelligence and attention as the first, world news-filled hour. I looked up from my laptop and I saw a picture of your daughter. Your seven year-old daughter dressed in underwear and pearls, showing off her lipstick with a pout and posed provocatively on a bed. More and more pictures flooded the screen–more and more little girls dressed in “loungerie” (the catchy name for what is basically children’s lacy or fancy underwear), more provocative poses, more make-up and jewelry.
“Where are the mothers?” I wondered out loud.
I don’t know your story. I don’t know what led to your daughter being posed like this. I don’t know where you were or why you made this decision.
I felt kind of repulsed by the pictures. Your daughter is beautiful, but she’s a seven year-old posing like an adult. The words “child pornography” hung, unspoken by the commentator or by me, in the air–but I heard it anyway. I also felt sorry for the fact that there are mothers and fathers and guardians who will purchase lingerie for children.
I remember a story I saw, probably on the same network, about parents buying skimpy bikinis for their elementary aged children. The commentator pointed out: They wouldn’t be selling them if parents weren’t buying them! It’s true. There’s a market for sexy clothes for children and that seems sad and wrong to me. I hear parents of girls lament from time to time that it’s hard to find modest clothing to buy pre-teens and teens anymore, all of it cuts high or rides low or bares skin that the parents would rather keep covered. I give thanks to God for our son, whom we can still dress in the classic boy styles that have endured for years. Obviously the parents who bend my ear on this issue must be in the minority because someone’s keeping the more grown-up styles on the racks in the clothing stores.
I wonder, friend, if it’s not that you’re living somewhat vicariously through your daughter? I wonder if you wish you could be wearing the short skirts and bikinis you purchase for her or if you get a thrill from the fun, flirty styles that hang in her closet? I wonder if you’re the parent who will someday take pictures of her teenage daughter and friends in those clothes and their bikinis and post them online all in good fun–but surely you consider that there might be people in your list of friends (or on a friend of a friend’s list) who will look at the pictures and may enjoy them for the wrong reasons?
I worry, too, that through your daughter, you’re teaching other daughters to see their bodies as objects. Girls as young as six and seven tell me that they are fat or that they need to lose weight or that they want to be sexy. Pre-teens wear make-up and toss their hair like models. Teenage girls wear skimpy bikinis and pose for innumerable pictures and post them all to their Facebook profiles and wait for comments. Adult women dress as “slutty” nurses or “slutty” vampires or “slutty” schoolgirls for Halloween.
Girls are learning to use their bodies for visual or sexual pleasures. Boys are learning to use girls’ bodies in the same way, by the way. We live in a society where child pornography is wrong and subject to punishment…but the lines all around child pornography are blurred just enough to make it all right for us to encourage and allow our children be sexy.
I just worry about our kids. Childhood gets shorter and shorter. Innocence is lost sooner than it should be. Eating disorders, promiscuity, the multi-billion dollar pornography industry, sexual abuse in its many forms–all are a part of considering bodies as something to use for pleasure.
Our bodies–all of our bodies–are created by God in a wonderful way (Psalm 139:14). Each curve and line, each ability, each features was planned and molded specifically by the Creator. All of the things we love and all of the things we hate and all of the things we celebrate or misuse–all belong to God.
I want to remind you and tell your daughter and all of our daughters that they are valuable to God, not because they wear make-up or heels or promiscuous clothes. I want all of us to remember that our bodies are more than what is seen and that our bodies house talents and gifts and abilities that make us valuable and whole. These ads don’t remind us of this. These ads sexualize innocence and childhood.
So, I’m sorry I judged you without knowing your personal story. But I’m scared of what we’re becoming and I see you as a catalyst in that process.
Note: even as I was looking for a picture for this post, I googled “girls,” and a myriad of images of girls in bikinis and various types of skimpy clothing flooded my results page. And that’s with my “safesearch” filter turned on. Also, there are lots of pictures available of the “Loungerie” shoot, but I couldn’t bring myself to post even the more modest photos.