News Sinead Moriarty

Thursday 18 September 2014

Letting your teen win short skirt battle may help you win the war

Published 23/05/2014 | 02:30

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Girls generally dress for their girlfriends. Photo: Getty Images.
Girls generally dress for their girlfriends. Photo: Getty Images.

My friend's 13-year old daughter went to her first disco last week. "How did she look?" I asked. My friend paused, sighed and said, "Like a hooker." I was a bit surprised, both by her admission that her child had gone out looking like a tramp and by her resignation to it.

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But her daughter's attire – or lack thereof – is nothing unusual. We have all seen teenage girls queuing outside nightclubs in skirts and shorts that frankly contain less material than a pair of knickers. A lot of them do, in fact, look like hookers. Teenage girls dressing provocatively is nothing new, Twiggy was showing a lot of thigh back in the 60s. But a recent incident in the US where a group of fathers reacted harshly to a girl in a mini-dress has caused quite a stir.

Last week, 17-year-old Claire Ettinger of Richmond, Virginia, was kicked out of her prom because some of the dads chaperoning the event thought her dress and dancing would give their boys "impure thoughts." Of the incident Ettinger says, "I was told that the way I dressed and moved my body was causing men to think inappropriately about me, implying that it is my responsibility to control other people's thoughts and drives. The whole situation made me feel violated." From the moment she arrived she was criticised by the event organiser for turning up in a dress that was too short. Ettinger said that her sparkly dress met her school's "fingertip length" dress code requirement (ie that the dress goes below your fingertips when you have your arms by your side)

Ettinger was then removed from the dance floor because "some of the dads who were chaperoning had complained that my dancing was too provocative," she said. They didn't want her corrupting their innocent sons. It seems outrageous that a 17-year-old girl should be chased out of a building because of what she was wearing. What did the fathers expect at the prom? Maxi dresses? High neck collars? Are they planning to remove every girl in a short dress from their precious sons' eyelines?

These militant dads seemed overly concerned with watching Ettinger's every move. Perhaps they should have averted their eyes and concentrated more on their sons' behaviour and a little less on Ettinger's legs.

Minis and shorts are not new fashion discoveries. Besides, most teenage girls dress like their friends. You see them going about in packs, done up like clones of each other. Girls generally dress for their girlfriends, not to provoke boys. The peer pressure among girls is fierce, so a teenager will dress anyway they need to in order to be accepted.

After all isn't that what every teenager wants – to fit in?

The problem is that 13-year-old girls are not supposed to look overtly sexy. No parent wants a grown man lusting after their daughter because she is dressed provocatively and looks like a stripper. We can all appreciate that teenagers like to be creative when they get dressed. Girls want to cut jeans into shorts. They want to cut holes in their jeans to show a little skin and wear cropped tops to show off their waists. Clothes are a very powerful way for teenagers to communicate and express themselves. They have so little control of their lives, it's the one area where they can have a say. That's all fine up to a point.

It's difficult for young teenage girls not to see sexy clothes as the 'norm' because there are so many ads in magazines and on TV displaying provocative clothing.

The sexualisation of young girls' clothing is everywhere. Popular store Abercrombie & Fitch have promoted push-up bikini tops for girls as young as seven!

Why on earth would any parent want to dress their little girl in a padded, push up bikini top? It's extremely disturbing.

A study by the American Psychological Association found that: "Sexualisation has negative effects in a variety of domains, including physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development."

But parents need to tread carefully with young teens. All the parenting books and experts tell you to 'choose your battles'. So perhaps if her trashy outfit isn't too short or flesh-revealing, you should let it go.

Losing a battle on mildly slutty dressing might help you to win the war on other more important issues – like the teeny tiny hotpants and push up bra she wants to wear next week!

Irish Independent

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