Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Dressing Provocatively: The Impression Teen Girls Make on Boys

Not an outfit for a middle schooler?
The other night I was out at dinner with family when my 12-year-old son suddenly stopped staring at his iPhone and started staring out the window of the restaurant. Whatever could have broken his technology induced haze? Surely it was a fire engine or brilliantly flashing police car. No, he wasn’t still in preschool so those options were out. When I peeked out the window I saw what had caught his attention. Two teenage girls were standing nearby. Not just teen girls, but teen girls dressed in mega-micro miniskirts and high-heeled leather boots. My uncle (who has an 11-year-old daughter) said, “I’m sure those girls are much older than you. Probably in college” to my son. “Nope,” my tween replied, “They go to my school.” Yes, that’s right – middle school. “But they, they…” my mother stammered, “They look like hookers.” Yes, that’s right too.

Dressing provocatively is hardly a new trend for teen girls. My mother remembers the girls having to kneel down at school to make sure that their skirts were long enough to touch the floor. Plenty of girls got sent home to change. That said, it’s disturbing to see the little girl who my son walked home with in elementary school get out of her mom’s minivan, wearing daisy duke’s and thigh highs (and it’s pretty much a fashion don’t).

Not only does it make me cringe that these girls are dressing so – well for lack of better word, slutty – at such a young age, but I wonder what our young sons are thinking. In 2013 a junior high school in California banned girls from wearing tight-fitting pants, citing that it distracted the boys. When I see a provocatively dressed tween or teen, I think, “Why didn’t her mother say something or teach her how to dress in a stylish, yet not hooker-like, outfit.” But, as the mother of a boy, I realize that it’s my job to teach him how to respect women – no matter how much skin they show. While it’s completely normal for a boy (especially a just-going-through puberty teen) to drool over a scantily clad member of the opposite sex, it doesn’t mean that he has to treat her like she’s not a person too. Instead, us mommies of boys can talk to our sons about how to treat a girl – even if she’s showing more skin than a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.

So, I sat my son down. Well, actually I thought that might embarrass him, so I casually brought up the subject during the car drive to school. When I asked if he ever noticed that some of the girls in his grade dress “older”, he immediately responded, “Yeah, like Jane (that’s not her real name.” He was talking about the thigh high-wearing girl who I saw getting out of her mom’s minivan.  I asked him if he thought that dressing like Jane made a girl look prettier. I got the eye roll and, “I dunno.” I moved on to asking him if he thought that the way a girl dress made him think that she might act a certain way – like she might want to have lots of boyfriends. He said, “Nooooo mom. I think people just dress differently. I don’t really care how a girl dresses. It’s just clothes.”

If you’re looking for some sort of answer or 10 definitive tips on how to keep your teen son from oogling the girls in his grade or 5 ways to help your neighbor tell her daughter that it’s not appropriate to wear a thing sticking out of the top of her short shorts, I don’t have it. While my son thinks clothes are just clothes, yours might think that Jane is rather slutty.  How would you talk to your tween or teen about this subject (you can discuss it in the comment section below)?

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  2. Hi Erica, I'm a mom of 3 teen girls. I do not have any boys but I have had numerous conversations with my girls about how their dress effects young men. As a mom of girls it is very difficult to find clothes that are appropriate for their age. The clothing industry does not cater to modesty in any way. Dresses and skirts are often short and do nothing to help a young teen to be modest. It is a constant struggle for us to find stylish modest dresses and skirts. So I say this that in some ways our youth are victims of the culture and consumerism. I know I do my best to keep this at "bay" but it is a challenge. Thanks for posting on this topic. :)
    Best Wishes,
    Cindy @Smalltowngirl

    1. That's a very good point. I remember how important it was to fit in or dress in the fashionable style as a tween or teen - and if that's short and skimpy (or that's all that is available), it is tough for a young woman to dress any other way. When it comes to clothes, I think it is easier to have a boy (he's fine wearing basketball shorts and t-shirts).