The following was recently passed around Facebook. (Emphasis at the end is my own.) The author is unknown:
A girl bought an iPad, when her father saw it, He asked her “What was the 1st thing you did when you bought it?
“I put an anti-scratch sticker on the screen and bought a cover for the iPad” she replied.
“Did someone force you to do so?” “No” “Don’t you think it’s an insult to the manufacturer?” “No dad! In fact they even recommend using
a cover for the iPad” “Did you cover it because it was cheap & ugly?”
“Actually, I covered it because I didn’t want it to get damage and decrease in value.”
“When you put the cover on, didn’t it reduce the iPad’s beauty?”
“I think it looks better and it is worth it for the protection it gives my iPad.”
The father looked lovingly at his daughter and said, “Yet if I had asked you to cover your body which is much more precious than the iPad, would you have readily agreed???” She was
Indecent dressing and exposure of your body reduces your value and respect.
May God guide us all.
My first reaction was one of disgust. As my eyes scanned the comments looking for other people who felt the same way I did, I was just met with “Amen”s and “How true!”s. More disgust. Had we read the same thing? The tome that reduced a girl’s body to a physical object? One that lost its value if it wasn’t clothed in a certain fashion? One that wasn’t worthy of respect if it wasn’t properly covered up? I think the thing that bothered me most of all (“bothered” isn’t even the right word… it creeped me right out) was that the father “looked lovingly at his daughter,” before he gave his edict to cover up, like she’d covered up the iPad. Misogyny and control aren’t love.
Ultimately, reading things like this makes me so overwhelmingly sad. Sad because they illustrate how far we still need to go.
Sad because they remind me of the prevalent thinking of girls being somehow “less than.”
Sad because they only cheer on the patriarchal society that sees to it that the men get to dictate what women should or should not wear… or do… or think.
Sad because it speaks to the larger issue of a world that somehow simultaneously heralds women as nothing more than sex objects, and disparages them for said sexuality at the same time… calling them whores. Or loose. Or easy.
Sad because this is exactly the kind of teaching that leaves girls feeling devalued and worthless, like they don’t deserve love. They’re nothing more than their bodies, right? So if they showed too much skin, or looked too attractive, or God forbid engaged in premarital sexual activity… who would want them? (Many abstinence-only trainings go so far as to compare girls who’ve lost their virginity to used chewing gum.)
Sad because it contributes to a culture of victim blaming that leaves the 1 in 4 women who will experience a sexual assault in their lifetime feeling ashamed, as though it were somehow their fault.
At the time of this writing, my daughter is only eight. But I fear for her future if this is the kind of thing that people aspire to teach their daughters, and pass on to their sons. Is this really the message we want to send to today’s young girls? That they’re nothing more than a body? A body that must be properly covered lest it “lose its value”?
My message for my daughter is very different. At the end of the day – away from the white noise of society, and the church, and advertising, and television, and social media, and politics – this is what I want my daughter to know:
You, my dear daughter, are amazing.
You are strong, and kind, and creative, and intelligent, and funny. You have a big, beautiful, giving heart. You make people laugh. You take care of those around you. I don’t doubt for a second that you can achieve absolutely anything that you put your mind to.
I hope you know how incredible you are. I hope you know how much you have to offer. I hope you know that your value, your worth as a daughter, a sister, a friend, a human soul… it’s infinite. The world is a better place just because you are in it.
At some point in time, society is going to try to reduce you to just your body, but you don’t have to listen! I need you to know that you are so much more than your body. Your body is just a physical place to house your beautiful soul.
I don’t mean to diminish it though, because your body is pretty freaking amazing too! It lets you run, and jump on the trampoline, and pump yourself high on the swings. It lets you swim like a mermaid, and give fierce hugs, and bake cookies with your brother. My hope is that you are kind to your body: That you will treat it well, and feed it good foods, and give it plenty of exercise. Not for me!, and not to reach some aesthetic ideal, and certainly not for society, but for YOU, so you can keep it healthy and strong so you can do all the things you want it to do. I hope you take your body on grand adventures. I hope you build and create things with your hands, I hope you aren’t afraid to get dirty, I hope you use your skills and your time to help others. Maybe one day you’ll climb to the top of a mountain, or ski down one instead. Maybe your body will one day give birth to a baby, or carry you onto a plane to go adopt one.
Yes, your body will take you to amazing places. It is is going to grow, and hurt, and heal, and love, and fight.
One day you’ll feel the thrill of a first romantic kiss, and the physical ache in your heart at a romance gone wrong.
It seems grossly superficial and irrelevant to even think about how you are clothed (really, in the grand scheme of things, what on earth does it matter?) but sooner or later someone’s going to make you think that it’s important, and I want you to know this: I hope you dress in a way that makes you feel beautiful and comfortable and confident. I hope you dress in a way that reflects you. I hope you dress in whatever makes you feel best able to grab life by the horns and leave your own unique, indelible mark. The one that says, “I was here. And I mattered.”
You will change lives just by existing. I know, because you’ve already changed mine, and you’re not even nine years old.
And the thing is, no matter what you’re wearing, no matter how much you weigh, no matter what your hair or your face or your body looks like, you STILL HAVE JUST AS MUCH VALUE.
Because your value? Your worth? That’s inside of you, and no one can take it away.