My heart is breaking for our daughters. I’m aware that it is likely that I will receive negative reactions from my readers, however I feel the need to speak out. Please do not confuse my thoughts as snooty legalism or me thinking I have all the answers~ it is that I care deeply about our young girls.
My purpose is not to judge anyone, but to hopefully awaken parents of young children to the damage that is being caused by knowingly or unknowing immersing our young girls in a culture that is sexualizing them earlier than ever before and with terrible consequences. Please extend me grace as I try to share difficult thoughts, but it is so important to raising our young girls to be whole, modest of heart, and content with who God created them to be. They will some day grow up to have little girls and boys of their own, and they will need to be well-grounded in much, much more than the latest makeup and how to be eye-candy for the boys.
Why Have We Stopped Protecting Our Daughters?
One year we held a large event in a convention center right next door to a state cheer-leading competition. It was quite embarrassing to many families as we walked down the shared halls, and what a distraction to our sons and daughters! From the littlest tots to the teen girls, all were decked out with heavy make-up, sparkles, fake eyelashes, and racy outfits that mirrored NFL cheerleaders. More than a few at one point lay in the aisles with their legs up in the air doing splits (stretching), exposing themselves without a second thought. Mothers were fussing with their hairdos and giving last minute touch-ups as they got ready for the next routine, loudly urging them to ‘show ’em your stuff’.
(With just a little searching I found some very troubling articles. This was published in ESPN The Magazine in 2010 and has been going on for some time. A sad wake up call for me.)
Many mothers dream about seeing their child break into something big, to be the next Mary Lou Retton (my era) or achieve notoriety and financial success like a Hollywood figure they admire. If they have to learn to dance like Vegas showgirls, well, that’s OK.
Some mothers want their daughters to be beautiful and admired and enter them into beauty pageants. We women are so often lured into this type of thinking—we are sucked in by our desire for attention and affirmation through an appeal to our flesh and vanity.
There is a temptation for a mother to use her daughter’s attractiveness as a way of validating HER own self-worth. Patsy Ramsey was a former beauty queen, but I doubt that she foresaw the tragic end to their story.
“Today, hundreds of thousands of children participate in pageants. Many of these children enter their first pageants as toddlers, even infants. Before they can even walk, they are dressed up in sequins and wear heavy make-up to compete for cash and crowns. The modern child pageant industry includes over 25,000 pageants and brings in over a billion dollars per year. The pageant world is obsessed with physical perfection and the parents of these children will go to great lengths to secure the crown for their daughters.” (source)
Major retailers are certainly not doing anything to help. Here is a CBS headline that caught my attention: Abercrombie bikini tops: Threat to girls’ mental health? In an actual Barbie-world store, the main aim is marketing to 2-8 year-olds.
I am trying to address something that has been on my mind and heart for years since that weekend at the convention. What I have to say may turn someone off, or it may help someone wrestling with this topic of parental involvement and the strong guidance of Mothers, in particular, with daughters.
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.“ ~Galatians 6: 7-9
Why are we not protecting our daughter’s hearts and minds, helping them to ease into adolescence and womanhood without a heavy burden of thoughts and exposures they are not emotionally ready or equipped to handle?
The feelings of comparison and competition to look perfect, be the best, and get noticed take their focus off of the simplest foundational things that should be of greatest importance: being part of and fitting into a family, discovering through healthy play and study indoors and out, learning to work and help run a home, cook, and care for others in an unselfish manner with a cheery heart, build a healthy mind and body by getting good sleep and eating nutritious meals, not to mention a relationship with the Lord! Building these foundations take years of consistent input and prayer for guidance by a conscientious Mother (and Father).
This article is not speaking about normal dress-up play that many young girls enjoy. That is part of emulating who they want be someday, but beware lest dress-up loses it’s innocence.
Consider what your children watch and how it will affect their body image and tastes. Even a small exposure to something that awakens them to thinking about appearances or sexuality before it is necessary draws them into un-wholesome comparisons. TV is filled with actresses that spend hours with make-up artists and seldom look like that on a day to day basis, but a child’s mind doesn’t have the discernment to understand that.
We have become such a narcissistic society that we have stopped being intentional somewhere along the way!
Much of our striving has to do with how cute we can be and the attention we can gain. It seems today our value is measured by how outwardly beautiful other people think we are. And we wonder why we have girls dealing with depression and potentially life-threatening eating disorders; they feel they can’t measure up to the world’s elusive definition of beauty!
Do you believe that parents can/should have a strong influence over what their daughters and sons believe about sexual purity? Should we just give up and abdicate our position as mentoring parents because it is too hard or embarrassing to discuss sex, relationships, and other difficult topics?
Dr. Joe McIlhaney, a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist has come to some very disturbing conclusions over his long career caring for girls and women. His observations?
“By in large, the family in Western culture has stopped protecting its girls. Today’s young women are growing up way too quickly. We have abandoned our protective role for young women, especially in regards to guiding them in male-female relations and marriage. Hollywood programs geared to teens and young adults often glamorize the idea of young women who are sexually aggressive and loose.” Have we lost our minds?
It is heartbreaking to read what Dr. McIlhaney says about the impact, both physically and emotionally, that America’s sexual culture is having on young women. The back cover of Dr. McIlhaney’s book Girls Uncovered states, “Our daughters live in a culture that sees sex as both a sacred right to be exercised with anyone, at any time, and also as ‘no big deal.’ This culture of ‘hooking up’ among teens and young adults is no longer a secret.” And, it is having disastrous and long-term effects on our young women, not to mention undermining our young men in purity and character.
So the question for us parents is: How can we help our young women live holy lives in our upside down world?
The end of James 1:27 exhorts us to keep ourselves “unstained by the world”. How can we encourage this in our daughters and young women, knowing full well that they are bombarded daily with messages that do anything but encourage holiness?
I believe it must start when our girls are little, it comes from how we model our lives in front of them, and has a LOT to do with what we expose them to all along the way! And if they are not little anymore? We then cry out to the Lord and build that relationship with our daughters as best we can.
1. Teach the whole Word of God in all it’s fullness and truth, trusting the Holy Spirit will water the seeds we plant in our daughter’s lives. Do it with joy and gladness, remembering it can’t be done in a day or a week. Over many years give them a thoroughly biblical worldview through which to see the world and make future decisions.
2. Bind your daughters hearts to you and your husband by interacting with them in everyday life. Protect them by spending time with them in wholesome pursuits. These years will never come again so we must ask for grace and wisdom to use them wisely.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” ~James 1: 5
I asked our 20 year-old daughter to recommend books that influenced her, and these are some of her favorites:
Beautiful Girlhood and The Companion Guide to Beautiful Girlhood are ideally to be read with Mom. Set-Apart Femininity and Authentic Beauty are for a bit older (10 and up?-you be the judge), and both have companion guides. These books are very helpful for us mothers coming out of the culture, too!
I wish I had a formula for a balanced approach to protecting your daughter’s heart and mind from the culture without totally sheltering her. For me it was mainly an awareness that I needed a wisdom much greater than mine. This brings new meaning to ‘pray without ceasing’!
“Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.” ~Proverbs 31:30
If you haven’t heard of Randy Alcorn, oh, I want you to! Here are the wonderful Guidelines For Sexual Purity he has shared with sons and daughters and their parents for years. These can be integrated into daily teaching our little ones (in small, age-appropriate doses, of course).
Thanks for reading!