Over last weekend, the news of the women empowerment rallies across the United States filled our screens, and almost created a silent bond between any individuals that have ever been ostracized due to gender inequality.
Having four daughters, this goes way beyond empathizing with those who are directly affected by recent events that have transpired. Whether it is the Americans with newly inaugurated president Trump or we Filipinos with President Duterte, I think their foul comments towards women have more than offended us, and not what we want to hear come out of the mouth of a leader.
With this in mind, I was brought back to a Facebook post, which my husband shared with me a few months ago entitled ‘How Your Daughter Dresses Matters:’
Though I had read it, I just let it sit there without a reaction. As the weeks went by, I found myself going back to words and phrases that resonated with me:
“It was always easy to tell the tomboys from the girly girls by the way they dressed.”
“Back in the day they were the ‘fast’ girls. We may have called them worse.”
“The girls in the sexy clothes are the fast girls.”
"Dressing a certain way attracts a certain kind of guy.”
Written by a mother of 3 daughters, in one end I can completely understand the concern and need to protect and guide our girls in the right direction. But on the other end, I cannot help but feel like views such as this is part of the reason why there is so much inequality in the world today. And yes, I am saying it -- this belief sadly contributes to ‘rape culture.’
Why do girls have to step back and hinder their individuality because of how boys might perceive them to be? Why can’t girls be celebrated rather than condemned? And why, why, why must girls be labeled based on something as shallow as their choice in clothes?
Perhaps, instead of teaching our daughters how to dress we should constantly make them feel so loved, appreciated and respected, that they have no choice but to treat themselves in that same light? Instead of telling them that their skirts are too short, we should tell them that they are God’s greatest gifts to us, and that they are responsible for their bodies. Maybe, instead of putting such a focus on how our daughters express themselves, we should think about how we can instill modesty and self-respect through actions, above all else? And perhaps, instead of telling them these things, we should lead by example.
I myself do not agree with many of the styles you see on women of influence today. And social media has a way of romanticizing this lifestyle. But this came to me with age, and maturity. In my younger years, I was left to make my own decisions, mistakes, choices -- whatever you want to call them. But I am grateful for that because it allowed me to forge my own personal preference when it came to style. And to add to that, I am going to own it right now -- I dressed provocatively, a lot. I still do at times when I wake up with a burst of confidence -- but I was never a ‘fast’ girl. I never popped champagne bottles in a club or made passes at random boys. I never did illegal drugs or even smoked a cigarette in a social setting. I had all of 2 boyfriends my whole life and married the second one. In fact, I’ve only kissed 2 boys my whole life!
So, how can you really generalize a half the world’s population based on how they dress because of how that might affect the other half?
And please, don’t get me wrong… I will NEVER encourage my daughters to dress provocatively. But I WILL encourage them to know who they are and practice self-expression. I will tell them to only dress for themselves and no one else. Not to get the attention of a boy or to impress another girl. Now that they are young, I try to point them in the right direction, but never hindering their style, only making sure they learn how to dress age-appropriately, as well as for the occasion -- no sneakers or rubber shoes to a formal gathering… a sweater when you go to the movies because you know you will feel cold… cycling shorts under a skirt so that there are no “accidents.”
Perhaps, instead of always focusing our attention on our daughters dressing modestly, we can also focus our attention on teaching all of our children not to pass judgment so quickly, especially based on something so shallow. One of the earliest things we were taught was not to judge a book by its cover, but here we are, a generation of people who cannot help to do just that.
And yes, I’m sure there are those who will think I am naïve, citing that boys are naturally wired differently and think with their pieces rather than their brains. But lets give them a little more credit. I give the parents that are teaching them more credit. Mothers and fathers (more importantly) of boys, as crucial as teaching your sons to talk, walk, swim, read, and write, ingrain in them how to respect and value girls as much as they would anybody else. Teach them that respect is a two-way street. Teach them that the differences between boys and girls should be celebrated rather than questioned.
You can bet I will teach my daughters how special your sons are.
Let us work together to build a better generation, one that sees equal rights, opportunities and respect for all. And yes, one that doesn’t judge a book by its cover.