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"Keep your legs closed"

post #1 of 186
Thread Starter 

Is this something you teach your girls? I have a three year old DD and I realized, after reading another thread that touched on the subject, that this has never come up for us.


To me, when I say it in my head, it sounds like "hide your vagina, it is nasty and/or offensive to others!" - but at the same time, were I to wear a dress or skirt that was short enough that you could see my underwear, I would definitely make sure to close my legs at the ankles (though, most of my skirts/dresses fall below the knee....I think I still do cross my ankles when I sit, though).


Anyway, I am a very "pro-gina" lady and I love my vagina(I'm not, like, obsessed with it or anything, I just think it rocks!). My DD loves her vagina, too, and is not ashamed of it at all - she doesn't know that vagina shame exists for anyone. I consider it my gift to her as a mother, that I have shielded her from our cultures vagina shaming ways until she is old enough to internalize the existence of this shaming in a healthy way...but *would* I feel compelled to tell her to be more modest if we were in public and she was wearing one of her pretty dresses and had her legs hanging open and people could see her underoos? I don't know!?


Do you instruct your DD to keep her legs closed/crossed? If so, why? If not, why?

post #2 of 186

It is less of an issue now, but when she was younger we would tell dd (now 6) to wear shorts/leggings under skirts because she was usually sitting with her legs up in the air or tumbling, so her skirt was always up around her head.  As long as she is covered, she can do what she likes, unless there is a safety/politeness issue (i.e. church, dinner table, etc) Even then it is just a request to sit in the chair properly, no mention of crossed/closed legs, just bottom and legs down.


We consider the private areas just that, private. It is not a girl vs boy thing, because we don't let ds walk around with his underwear hanging out either. 

Edited by chelko - 9/17/11 at 10:12am
post #3 of 186

Okay, disclosure: I don't have children, so take my opinion with that in mind. 


I am very "pro-gina" (I gotta use that phrase more) also and think that if I had a daughter I would do my best to raise her without vulva/vagine shame (I mean I have a beautiful painting of a vulva hanging in the living room). Once she was old enough, however, to have a conversation about what society considers appropriate behavior and why it is considered appropriate I would want to explain to her why some people think she should sit with her legs closed when she wears a dress. I wouldn't force her to sit like that but I would want her to understand what other people might expect knowing that she has my full support to sit in whatever way is most comfortable to her.


I don't think I could ever tell her that she must sit with her legs closed, however, because to me that also feels like promoting a hide vaginas because they are filthy attitude. There are also numerous studies that show that at young ages girls are often instructed to police their bodies more than boys and therefore they learn to take up less space, be less free with movement, and in general just have more restrictions on behavior. That is not something I would want my daughter to learn (and also not something I would want to teach a son to expect of women).  

post #4 of 186
I don't have a daughter but I guess I feel it just makes more sense to dress girls appropriately so that they don't have to worry about how to sit. So just put shorts/covers or pants on under the dress just like dancers, cheerleaders, etc. do. It seems like keeping legs closed & sitting 'properly' would be tough for most 3yo's anyway. And I don't think covering up your underwear means you are ashamed of your privates. I do think when/if she decides she doesn't want to wear anything under her dresses that it would be good to suggest that she sit carefully. But I guess this all depends on your family's views regarding modesty and all.

I have a hard time picturing myself dressing a future DD in dresses though... for some reason I feel like I'd just use the same clothes DS wears. shrug.gif Dresses just seem so hard to play in and girls' bathing suits look so skimpy I'd be afraid she'd get burned... so I guess I will have a DD that looks like a boy (which only makes sense since everyone thinks my DS is a girl eyesroll.gif)
post #5 of 186

My DD loves dresses, and they are rather short, since she can move much better. She wears just shortie-like underwear beneath it. More because she just prefers shorty like underwear, anyway :) I don´t consider seeing underwear (of a child) as being offensive, it´s not  much difference to a bathing suit, anyway. 


I always thought my girl will not like dresses, I am not a very girlie person. But DD is. She has everything in pink, loves dresses and Hell*Kitty :)

post #6 of 186

yeah... i love vaginas, people.  however, i don't dress my kid in anything she can't run/trip/fall/climb things in.  until/unless she reaches a point where she demands otherwise, i just don't get that. 


my parents sent me to a religious elementary school at which dresses/skirts of knee length or greater were required, and though i personally prefer dresses/skirts now as an adult, as a kid, i felt this was the most restrictive thing ever. 


i often wonder why skirts for kids even exist, and i think sometimes it IS to restrict mobility/activity to confine girls to a particular set of expectations.  girls are often expected/pushed to be calm and quiet, while activity, roughhousing, and getting dirty are what's expected of boys-- at least from what i see, this seems to be what lots of people think. i think that clothing reinforces that in many cases.


eta:  i don't think pro-gina has anything to do with kids or having them sit a particular way-- it's not their little vaggies they're showing people, it's their underpants. 

post #7 of 186

My 3yo DD wears skirts as a rule, because they're more comfortable for her.  She dislikes any pants except for leggings or very loose drawstring pants because they are constricting.  She's not a girly girl at all, she just likes the feeling of dresses.


At her preschool, they ask that the girls wear shorts under their dresses to avoid anyone being uncomfortable and to avoid any girls not being able to run/jump/crawl/tumble. It also prevents that whole discussion, "close your legs".  

post #8 of 186

Interesting - it never occurred to me it was teaching shame of the vagina or protecting others from being offended. Like a pp said privates should be private on girls AND boys & I would be just as likely to correct ds if he was sitting/tumbling/dressing in such a way that others were seeing his parts. The ways boys are dressed generally doesn't create this situation as often though.

post #9 of 186
Thread Starter 

Hahaha, let me clarify a few things:


DD is allowed to dress herself...she wears a lot of "boys clothes" because I like to be able to recycle her things with her DS, who is 16 months younger. So, he ends up wearing a lot of things that some people might "double take" and she wears a lot of things that look like, by "societies" standards, may have been made for a boy. They both wear pretty colors and good quality stuff that is comfortable and easy to wash, etc, so I don't really care what someone else thinks.


Lately, DD has been dressing herself more and more..she loves picking outfits and wears a lot of "boyish" gear because we live in the middle of the woods and the two of them are outside all. day. long and dresses aren't exactly practical for a lot of what she does...but she's also a NUT about dancing and LOVES her little twirly, brightly colored skirts.


Some of the skirts have built in shorts...but some don't, because I'm not going to say "no, you can't wear that" because it has no shorts underneath it and while I may SUGGEST leggings or something like that, well, if she doesn't want to, I'm not going to tell her she has to just so her underwear don't show if she twirls.



Hildare: I would respectfully disagree with you. People all around me tell their little girls "cross your legs, cross em" - all the time. It's not because they don't want people to see their little girls underwear...it's because under the underwear, there is a vagina lurking. I see people telling their little girls to close their legs even when they are wearing pants....in our society, it is considered rude and inappropriate for a woman to sit with her legs splayed. Sitting up straight, with your knees closed and her hands placed in her lap...this is how a young lady or woman is "supposed" to sit. I've never once in my life heard anyone tell a little boy to close his legs. Our society sees something inherently "yucky" or "indecent" in female sex/sex organ/etc and it's been that way for a long time.


My whole reason for asking, is because I don't know where my own deeply engrained "vagina issues" end and my desire to see my DD behave in a way that makes her "acceptable" begins...and how much right I have to impose that on her to begin with.


I love my female body...I love the parts of me that are naturally hairy and the parts which are naturally smooth and hairless...I am a sexual being and that doesn't make me a sl*t. I don't feel that the way I sit should be a clue to someone about my sexual identity or whether or not I'm a "fast ticket" - but in society, it does.


I don't know. There is a part of me that melts inside with pride and love when I see my girl sitting nicely somewhere, looking like a "proper" young lady...and all of that....and there is a part of me that feels something odd and "weird" when I see her carefree, legs splayed, wild and free. But when I get that weird feeling and question it...it goes away and is replaced by joy and thankfulness at the thought that my DD can sit, stand play, whatever...in a way that feel natural and comfortable to her.

post #10 of 186
I am the oldest of five sisters, and have only a daughter. My mother always taught us to "sit with our legs closed" and "act like a lady" and various other sexist things that I find very insulting as a woman who is proud of her vulva. My daughter sometimes goes naked, and her vulva is exposed on a regular basis, but she is only 18 months old. As she gets older, I will likely insist that she wears panties under her skirts. Honestly, I see no difference in panties and a swimsuit, so I wont likely require her to wear shorts under her skirts. I feel that as a parent it is important to teach our children that you behave differently in different places. For example, you may run naked at home, need to wear panties under your skirt while you do summersaults at our friend's house, but when we go to the public playground you need to wear shorts or shorts under your skirt because we dont know those people and they may look with ill intentions. To me that is no different than trying not to cuss when you are at your grandma's house, not wearing your string bikini to the family bbq, and not making out with your boyfriend while your dad is in the room. There is a time and place for almost everything, so I see no sense in trying to teach my daughter how to "be" but more teaching her how and when her actions are appropriate.

That being said, I wear skirts almost everyday. I garden in them, bend over and pick stuff up in them, and typically sit with my legs closed because its more comfortable.
post #11 of 186

When my DD was little I did not really worry about if her undies were visible or not. As she got older she decided SHE did not want people to see her underwear. I think she was 3ish. So all I had to do was whisper to her, "Tuck your skirt down, I can she your underpants." if she was sitting legs up and she would arrange herself. I never made a big deal about it. At home I would never worry about it. I certainly never said anything about keeping her legs together.


I am not a mom that worries about what thoughts others are having if they should get a peek at her undies while she's playing. I think this has a lot to do with my relaxed attitude. It seems like most other moms I've been social with are worried about it so they keep their little girls undies covered up with shorts under the skirt.



post #12 of 186

I've got a girl, and have been 'called out' by busybodies who were upset that they could see dd's underwear. I'm baffled, because isn't the whole point of underwear to cover up your private parts?! So you want my child to put on something else over the clothing that covers up her vagina-vulva-labia-anus? OK. Since when did UNDERWEAR become something to worry about?


I didn't enforce that with dd. But at some point in time (age 5-6), other kids started to comment that they could see her underwear, and she chose to put on shorts underneath her dresses when she wore them.

post #13 of 186

I have an 11 year old dd who likes to wear dresses and skirts sometimes.

I don't tell her to sit still and cross her legs with her hands in her lap ever.

I don't think I've ever told her a behavior is lady-like or isn't lady-like.

I don't tell her to wear shorts under skirts in case her skirt twirls up in a breeze or something.

I do tell her when she is squatting on the floor with her skirt hiked up so her underwear is on full view that if that is the way she wants to sit/move then she should change to pants or shorts. If it is important to her to wear the skirt or dress then she changes her position. It isn't about being proud or ashamed of her body parts. The earth won't crumble if her underwear shows but I just don't feel it is good mannered/appropriate/nice/classy to show undergarments in public for either gender and that is what I am trying to convey to her. 

I don't care how dd sits in pants- except keeping her feet down on the floor while at the table.



post #14 of 186

My DD loves dresses because they stay on her body.  (She has no hips, butt, stomach.  She has to spend all her time hitching up pants - or holding them up while she plays.  Too much trouble for her.)  She climbs trees, geocaches, rolls in the mud, and tumbles in them.  We have discussed making sure people can't see your underwear.  (Mostly because it makes other people uncomfortable and because I want a sense of personal space for her.)  But that mostly includes her tucking her skirt in between her sprawled legs.  It never occurred to me to discuss "keeping your legs closed".   It seems keeping your legs closed is more about "proper lady-ness" than it is about what other people can see.....



post #15 of 186

I have 2 daughters who are now 13 and 14. When they were little, I let them pick their own clothes, and they both like to wear dresses sometimes. I had them wear leggings or shorts under, because being able to run, play, climb slide, etc were important activities.


It was only with puberty and wanting to dress more like an adult, wear make up, etc. that we talked about how to sit in a dress, get in and out of a car in a dress etc. It was a one time conversation when they were old enough to care about looking and acting appropriately when they dress up. More about pose and manners than "what it means to be female."


I HATE the "cross your legs, keep your knees together" thing. To me, it bring unnecessary attention to a little girls genitalia, and seems to assume that their are wild penis about  that might go flying into a vagina if ever we females let our guard down.  I was constantly put in dresses against my will as a child, and then shamed for "showing my crotch." 


I've also made to through nearly 15 years of parenting a daughter without ever once bringing up "acting like a lady."  I'm doing my best to raise strong women, not polite ladies.

post #16 of 186
We're still wearing shorts under dresses over here. And that's because at any given time you can find one of them hanging upside down from a tree dress in face. When it comes to dressing in a nice dress that isn't for play I only remind them that some people might not be comfortable seeing your chonies. So try not let it all hang out. I don't do the cross your legs or keep your legs together and they don't normally wear anything short enough that it's an issue. As they get older I'll just remind them that not everyone wants to see what color of chonies you're wearing. I keep it based on respecting others.
post #17 of 186
Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post

I'm doing my best to raise strong women, not polite ladies.

post #18 of 186

LOL  I used to hang around with a lot of kilt-wearing men, so when I picture how to sit properly in a skirt without showing underwear (or a lack of), I actually picture large bearded men with hairy knees.   I think I would be pretty annoyed if anybody started hassling me or DD to keep our knees shut though, since that's not necessary in lots of styles of skirts, and if it is necessary I dont' wear it.

post #19 of 186

"Since when did UNDERWEAR become something to worry about?"


I've always thought that you didn't go around letting people see your underwear.

post #20 of 186

I tell my dd to hide her underwear if she is doing something in a way that shows it.  I explained it to her as an expectation in our society once she was in grade school and started noticing that people don't go around flashing their underpants.  Boys are also expected not to go around showing their underwear off so I don't see it as a big deal.  I don't teach her to sit a certain way because that isn't something that is expected of kids or most adults, plus I think it is funny when kids sit with their legs crossed because they wiggle so much it looks like they are about to wet themselves.  If she needs to cross her legs when she is an adult I am sure she will pick up the skill. 



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