Sunday, March 25, 2007

So, like, where do you shop?

There is a trend I really really dislike among some teen girls, and it is probably one that many parents dislike. I keep reinforcing my distaste for it with my daughters. (And so far... so good... They hear me and agree!)

It is this idea that it is more important to be "cool" or "phat" which is judged by the way you dress, the amount of make-up you wear, how many
boyfriends you have had, what you do with your hair, what kind of jewelry you wear, etc...

Have we really made so little of a change in a generation? It frustrates me to hear that my wonderful daughters are going through the same pysche junk that I did. I have too many memories of Patti and Cheryl and good-old-what's-her-name who tormented me with their rude and truly nasty remarks when I was in high school. (The good news? They probably have cellulite now too! Time IS a great equalizer!)

I hurt for the adolescent girlie "nasties" that every female seems to have to experience... and yes, the Mama Bear in me wanted to get on the phone and give their parents a piece of my mind... but since I have so little to spare, I prayed instead. And hugged my girls. And told them I loved them.

However, this afternoon, as I read the paper in my after-service wind-down, I had to do a WHOOP and a happy dance over this op-ed piece!!!! It makes a Mama Bear really happy!

Hey Jessica? You rock!

SO, like, where do you shop?
Um... yeah. WhatEVER!

Young, Female and Taking a Stand Against Provocative Fashion

Washington Post, Sunday, March 25, 2007; Page B08

"Why am I not accepted by you?" I recall asking the beautiful, blonde future cheerleader as we walked toward our rural-suburban sixth-grade classroom in 1997.

"You don't wear the right clothes, hang out with the right people, wear makeup or have a boyfriend," I remember her responding thoughtfully.

At that moment, I faced a dilemma that would affect the rest of my life: Would I choose to abandon my friends and clothing and acquire a boyfriend and makeup skills to become popular, or would I stay on the course I was on?

My feminine heart longed to be accepted, to be considered pretty and fashionable. But what was I willing to sacrifice to obtain it? Even at 12, I sensed that if I took the advice implied by my classmate's answer I would be allowing my identity to be dictated by others from then on. Everything within me rebelled at saying goodbye to who I was. So I made my choice: I wouldn't pursue the criteria that would open the doors of popularity.

For the next seven years, until I graduated from high school, I watched as friends and classmates grew more obsessed with becoming what in the 1990s was called the "It" girl. We all knew -- from magazines, TV and societal mores -- that to be accepted one had to be hot. This meant wearing the latest fashions, designed for model-thin people and showcasing as many curves as possible. It meant going to parties where one rebelled, along with everyone else, against adult restrictions and where one hoped to be recognized by the girls as having "it" together and by the guys as being sexy. To attain this status, girls did the usual: starved themselves, dressed "fashionably" and gossiped incessantly to establish themselves and, with calculated innocence, to rip other girls to shreds.

I was reminded of all of this by an article in The Post's Health section last month, "Goodbye to Girlhood; As Pop Culture Targets Ever Younger Girls, Psychologists Worry About a Premature Focus on Sex and Appearance."

It is incredibly difficult for any girl or young woman to withstand the continual onslaught. I know it was for me. In the end, I was able not only to survive but to thrive in this environment because of my parents, my faith and my life experiences.

My parents' love and support were unfailing. They were there when I came home in tears because the pressures of being a teenage girl were too much; they were there when I needed to share news of something wonderful.

My faith enabled me to ground my self-worth in who I was as a person, not in what I could do or become.

And I was fortunate to learn from several guys' own lips that they valued modesty in women and admired those who had interior as well as exterior beauty. It took years, but eventually I internalized the reality that women's clothes send a message to the world and that if we want to be treated as people and not as objects, our clothes and body language must project true beauty -- dignity and quiet confidence accented, of course, by the latest clothing and accessories.

Now, as a twentysomething grad student at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at Catholic University, I still grapple with the issues raised by that childhood conversation, albeit with a more academic approach. Such studies have allowed me to realize how similar my experiences have been to those of many other women.

As a result, I have gotten involved with Pure Fashion DC, a nonprofit model-training program that seeks to inspire high-school-age girls to be role models as well as fashion models. We regularly meet with our 46 models, who hail from all over the Washington area, to discuss inner beauty (on, say, getaway weekend) and outer beauty (on salon day). Our time together will culminate in a three-hour fashion show April 29 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown Washington, where our models will showcase this year's fashions with grace and modesty.

Whether it's over coffee, at a Pure Fashion DC event, in a conference room or at a pajama party, I share my experiences with young women and girls to encourage them to send a message of true beauty with their bodies and their clothing.

-- Jessica A. Dolezal

Silver Spring

The writer volunteers with Pure Fashion DC, a model-training program that stresses modesty.


hipchickmamma said...

very intriguing--girls need feminism!

i watched a music video by Ciara called "Like a Boy" (i think) and i thought--this girl needs to hear some real feminist stuff so she can see beyond, see another reality.

a great magazine for pre-teen adn early teen girls is Blue Moon.

unfortunately it doesn't end. today at church a congregant actually said to me "why don't you take that ring out of your nose and do something with your hair and actually act like a lady." he said it with some jest, but we're not "friends" and i simply said, "being a lady is overrated."

anyway...i'm rambling on YOUR space--not cool, thanks for sharing the article.

as a fellow mother of girls--I totally concur!

mompriest said...

Yes. My daughter is 18. We have faced this issue on so many levels as she both worked hard to be her own person and struggled with the popular thing. See, my daughter is beautiful, truly, (I don't know where she gets it). She could easily be that popular girl - but she made other choices - and has been a feminist her whole challenging to be a kid in our world today. The feminist stuff needs to be taught from day one, 'cuz too much culture seeps in. This sounds like a great organization....

Tricia said...

Thanks for bringing that to our attention, Deb! Our newspaper recently had a short feature about a workshop for pre-teen girls and their moms (conflict resolution for girls, dealing with cliques and meanness and so on):

also here:

LutherLiz said...

A very interesting article. I've noticed another trend too...the expectations for beauty and thinness and the trends are going further into life now too. As a twenty something I am still aware of the culture's message to wear the right things, go to the right clubs, be the right kind of young professional, etc.

Luckily for me, I'm grounded enough not to buy into it still but unfortunately I don't think the trouble leaves when you leave high school or college.

Thanks for sharing.

Leah said...

Thanks for this blog, Deb--I do think it's even worse than when we were then and there. Blessings for the rest of Lent!

LutheranChik said...

It's very discouraging to me to see girls coming up these days for whom the feminist values of being one's own person, of not deriving one's value as a person from a male, of honoring one's brains and talents and capacity for doing good rather than one's looks, seem to mean nothing. Sigh.

On the other hand...speaking as a former geek who spent my share of nights hugging a tearstained pillow, wondering why I was so "different" and why I couldn't fit rough and lonely a terrain as that is for a teenager to travel, it will stand them in very good stead as an adult.

hipastorzwife2B said...

Great post Deb. I will never "get" fashion. But I think its important that girls look around and see what the real women in their lives wear...their moms, teachers and pastors wear clothing too!

Anonymous said...

Great post - as the mother of two boys, I am constantly pointing out to them that girls who dress provacatively are likely very unsure of themselves deep down - I try very hard to point out the girls that are beautiful in & out. I have actually gone as far as to point out people in magazines that have had plastic surgery - hopefully I can train their eyes for natural beauty. I am glad they all wear uniforms to school though!!
And I have heard of someone who questioned a fellow seminarian's call based on her waistline - if she were spiritually grounded would she be overweight? Great stuff in the last Centers for Biblical Equality publication also concerning how churches can undermine a young woman's body image...

Anonymous said...

Sorry - Christians for Biblical Equality - at

Anonymous said...

One more - here's a post inspired by you!! Thanks!!