The bodies of our young women – a Temple or a discount store?

I noticed something disturbing the other day – Halloween costumes, which I used to equate with cute, clever, and fun, are more and more becoming dirty, sexy, and desperate.  I guess I missed when the actual metamorphosis took place – but, looking at some pictures of college students at Halloween parties, I realized that it was just another excuse for a girl to show off her body and get the attention from their male counterparts that they so crave.  But, what I don’t get is why these young women (and young girls) have such a low image of their bodies?  Now, there is one camp in the current culture who thinks that girls are now wearing sexier outfits as a result of their abundance of self esteem.  Author Jean M. Twenge, who wrote “Generation Me”, was quoted in an article by Karen Monget, in the 6/21/2010 issue of WWD magazine, saying: ” One would assume that a girl who wants to dress provocatively has low self-esteem.  It’s the opposite. Girls now have traits of self-centeredness and wanting to get attention. With eight-year-olds now, it’s brazen self-confidence, and often the culture is putting a big influence on them. They’re seeing it on TV and they’re influenced by a celebrity culture.”  However, when I see young girls and women flaunting their bodies, it screams more of a desperation for attention rather than a raised level of self esteem.  They may think more highly of the look of their bodies, and not mind showing them off, but why do they not feel more highly of the worth of their bodies?  Why have their bodies become devalued to the point that they are available for anyone to see?  And, furthermore, why are the 8 and 9-year-olds motivated to show off their bodies before they can actually fully realize their sexual allure.  One reason is that they are shown that society views what is fashionable as being beautiful.  And, since fashion is becoming more provocative, the natural tendency would be to follow along blindly in pursuit of fitting that image.  Another, though, is simply a misconception of what beauty is.

                In the case of my daughter, who is a 9-year-old girl who wants to be fashion conscious, but who also wears a Scoliosis brace, this would seem to present a lot of challenges for us.  But, frankly it has not.  “C” likes to get glamorous and dress very feminine, through wearing pretty dresses every day, accessorizing with jewelry and, occasionally getting to wear a slight lipstain to special events.  But, she doesn’t feel appropriate about baring her body – even when out of the brace.  She doesn’t even want to wear bikinis at the beach.  As her Mother, I don’t mind this one bit (her Father thinks it is fabulous).  But, if I look further into the deeper reasons she may choose modesty, I see two things.  First, she has always worn the brace, so she always dressed to cover it – and, covering a brace requires modesty.  Secondly, though, she has not been exposed very much to popular culture.  We don’t have cable television, she doesn’t go to the mall more than a couple times a year, we don’t let her explore the internet on her own, and she is in bed by  8 (before network TV begins).  However, she does read – a lot!  But, books like Twilight, Harry Potter, Guardians of Ga’Hoole, and  Nancy Drew – again, all based on a person’s value by their skills and intelligence, not by their provocative dressing style.  Even Bella, from Twilight, who has many psychological issues, is at least a conservative dresser.

                So, I am curious as to whether bracing will effect the young adolescent for better or worse over the long run.  One Spine Journal article from back in 1987 reported on a study performed on 50 girls, post-treatment for scoliosis.  The authors compare the body image of these girls with a group of girls without scoliosis, and the surprising results were that both the post-bracing and post-surgical Scoliosis patients reported a higher body image than the control group (non-Scoliosis) counterparts.  Another article, from a 1989 issue of Spine, reported that psychological distress between Scoliosis patients and the control group (non-Scoliosis) participants were the same.  But, the article went on to mention how the parents’ view of the disease had much more impact on the psychological impact on their daughters than the disease itself.

                These findings make me wonder just how much more adolescent girls, both with Scoliosis and without, would benefit from a better example from their parents?  I know I am pretty critical of my own body and I know this is not good for my daughter’s outlook, but could dressing in a provocative way have the opposite effect?  Could it help our daughters accept a lack of modesty as the way society expects women to dress and glorify it to the point where they think the amount of confidence (in this case: flesh) they show is their inherent value?    I think we, as parents, need to worry less about if our daughters will be psychologically scarred from wearing a Scoliosis brace (or having other Scoliosis disfigurements) and worry more about developing their inherent perception of the value of their bodies.  I always try to go back to my ultimate authority – the Bible.  It is there we can see the value we were created to have.  1Peter 3, vs 3-4 states: ” Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.  Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”  Proverbs 31, v 25, states, when describing the ideal woman, that “She is clothed with strength and dignity.”  It, oddly enough, does not mention the size of her thighs.  Is it ok to put some time and effort into how we look and try to be healthy and in good shape?  Yes, because we are treating our bodies like a temple and taking care of it.  And, I think it is ok to take pride in a beautiful garment and feel good about your appearance.  But, it’s not the most important thing.  And, the more we learn this, the more we can teach it to our daughters.  Their bodies are too valuable to give away to any set of eyes that pass them by.  THEY ARE BETTER THAN THAT!  1 Corinthians 3, v 16-17 says: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?  …  For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”  Our bodies and the bodies of our daughters are not just valuable – they are as sacred, important, and holy as a temple.  That is pretty awesome and not something to be given away cheaply, whether you are in a brace or not, or whether it’s cool or not on Halloween.

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