so the message is being sent that we/he/etc should care more about what other people think?
so the message is being sent that we/he/etc should care more about what other people think?
So my daughter asked me this and the conversation didn't really go anywhere because we were in the middle of something and she was distracted, etc. but it's going to come back, I know it!
This article: http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/1215607--breast-cancer-survivor-wins-right-to-swim-topless-in-seattle ...reminded me of the conversation this morning and made me want to think more about how I explain something which I do not really understand, myself!
Now, for the sake of context, I will say that my personal preference is to dress modestly...but that is something that has just grown to be comfortable over the years as my style has evolved. I like nice long tunics, comfortable fitting pants...I love skirts at knee-length, etc. Around the house we are very casual about nudity, the kids see me naked very very frequently and their father less so, but still, very casual. We're cool with bodies!
So, my questions:
1. Is it fair that men are allowed to go topless and women are not? Why are men's breasts more acceptable for public viewing than women's?
I don't feel that it IS fair! Given that sentiment....
2. How do I explain this to a very smart four year old? She is particularly socially gifted and is fascinated by things like this...inequality, sexism, etc...she doesn't know these terms, but she's bumped into the concepts and she wants to understand.
3. How do you make a little girl understand that this world we live in sometimes asks women to behave/feel differently or follow different rules than boys/men? How might she internalize that at this age?
Thanks in advance. This is such an interesting topic to me.
Well, at our house it isn't acceptable. We all strip down in front of each other inside if it's hot, but when we're out in public we all cover up, including dh. When our daughter has asked why others don't do whatever we do, my response is always that people sometimes have different ideas but this is what we think is best. Sometimes we've also talked about cultural rules and norms, like why most boys don't wear pink or dresses. I try not to attach a value judgment to it but just state it as it is: Every place has a culture that people develop and within that culture there are things that people have determined are acceptable and not acceptable and sometimes those ideas are divided by gender. I think kids naturally organize ideas and people into categories, so these ideas are not difficult for them to grasp. I think it is important for kids to understand cultural expectations so they know what reactions they will get from other people, as some children are more emotionally-affected by negative reactions (and to be honest, most kids are very blunt and less-than-tactful). This doesn't mean your child has to always "follow the rules" but rather they can have better understanding of what the consequences of not following them will be before making that decision. I agree with the Waldorf perspective that children under the age of 7 need to think the world is good and pure and just gradually awaken to the less-than-stellar parts of humanity, but not everyone will appreciate this perspective. This is why I would never discuss gender inequality or political issues with a young child.
This is a really interesting point. In my own case, I don't care nearly as much about what people "think" as I do about the possibility of certain choices we might make resulting in "thoughts" that busybodies might feel compelled to try to enforce in some way.
For example, I imagine that if let my 12yo go to the pool in well-fitting boys' swimming trunks and no top, the repercussions would go way beyond a few disapproving stares -- not that she's ever expressed the slightest bit of interest in doing this, but if she did, I'll be the first to admit that I'd tell her that, while there's absolutely nothing wrong with doing this, we would likely end up with the police and child protective services in our lives and I might even get arrested or something.
Sadly, I have a feeling that we could even suffer similar repercussions if my 7yo, whose chest is completely the same as a 7yo boy's, were to do this.
Now, as far as boys wearing clothing that's considered by many to be "just for girls," I'm not so sure whether there's any real danger in this. Has anyone heard of a case where CPS got involved with a family because the children were wearing clothes or carrying lunchboxes that many in our society would say are for the opposite sex? My guess is that they wouldn't care so long is it was the child's choice, and wasn't being forced on him or her. Does anyone else have any thoughts about this?
I would tell her: sure a woman can go with no shirt (I don't know where you live, but here it's legal). You can do whatever you want. How would you feel, going out with no shirt on? How would you feel if your mama would go out with no shirt on?
This will avoid the idea of inequality, or that breasts are taboo etc while transmitting her your family's values: other people can do whatever they want, but we would not be comfortable exposing our chest.
Perhaps not "should care" but "do care more about what other people think". And I don't have the answers as to why. Apart from the politics of breasts in those cultures that cover up, I think women in general tend to base more of their decisions upon what others think. That can be good. That can be bad. But I think the self-conciousness is a part of what leads us to choose whether or not we cover up and which also leads us to choose our clothes, the way we wear our hair, the way we act. We do care about what other people think.
The issues swirling around a woman's breasts intersect those other issues and is one major reason that most of us would stay covered up even if laws allowed otherwise. The laws might well change, but public sentiment has a long way to go before it is acceptable. And I don't think it is just the connection so many people make between the female breast and sexuality, it is also one more place where the size and shape and firmness and beauty of our bodies is OUT THERE to be judged by both men and women (unfortunately for some reason women are often worse than men in overt judgmentalism). I can take the innocent comments my girls make about my breasts, but like hell will I put myself out there to receive those same comments from strangers. I wear modest one-pice swim suits for the same reason. Yet when I am at a place where acceptance, or the appearance of it, is the norm, like at a Rainbow Gathering or similar event or place (hot springs, for example) I have no trouble baring my entire body and feel quite comfortable.
But, still, I prefer covering up, not necessarily because I feel my body is being judged against ideals of sexuality but simply that it is being judged against some standard of perfection. I can still feel self-concious about my clothes, but my clothes are not exactly me. I can change my clothes and have a makeover, but my body is my body and is difficult to change in an instant.
We glorify youth in our culture, but perhaps those bare-breasted Masai mamas feel some self-conciousness and envy that their well-nursed and saggy breasts look nothing like their nubile daughters'. Perhaps their culture is still fraught with sexist and sexual comments comparing the two. I like to think that there would be instead some honor in the withered but still bountiful breasts of experienced mothers, but that could just be Western romanticism. Who knows? I sure as hell don't.
But inequality exists; breasts ARE taboo in many societies. I don't think it is helpful to try to raise kids pretending that societies' norms do not exist. One can choose to raise kids to question norms, or work to change them - but if we just pretend that they don't exist, children will be in for a rude awakening.
Analogy - exposing the soles of your feet to other people is considered rude/taboo in Thailand.
Now, a visitor to Thailand may think, "In my culture, it's no problem to let people see the soles of my feet. It's a hot day, I'm tired, I'll just take off my shoes and put them on this chair to stretch out and cool down." It's not illegal, but it's against a social norm. People will think that person exposing his or her soles is rude and thoughtless (even though in truth, that person may be very kind and generous and honest etc.)
I think it would t be wrong not to teach someone before they go to Thailand, "Be careful not to expose the soles of your feet, or use you feet to point to people" and that it is possible to let them know this without giving them the idea that the soles of their feet are shameful.
One big difference between Thai culture and U.S. culture is that I don't think we really have one distict, cohesive culture here.
Also, if no one in Thaland exposes the soles of his or her feet in public, it's not like the girls are having to suffer with closed-in feet while the boys run around barefoot.
I really like what the poster further up-thread said about letting girls go topless until such time as they feel like covering their breasts. By a certain point, children start absorbing societal dress norms kind of like osmosis.
Also, from what I have observed with my own girls, they reach a point in their development where it's really important to them that people see them in the way that they perceive themselves to be -- meaning, if they self-identify as female, they want to look like a girl, and vice-versa.
Serenbat, it's not a matter of caring MORE about what other people think than about what we personally want to do, but
(a) caring SOME about what other people think: whether we're embarrassing, confusing, or upsetting them
(b) considering how people might react to us and whether that would hurt our feelings or make our experience difficult.
Other people's opinions are only one factor in the decision, but they are a factor. Doing whatever you want without caring one bit how other people feel about it is rude. Allowing a child to do something that is likely to draw judgment from others, without preparing him for the possibility of this judgment, can result in a traumatic experience for him.
I had a good clear example of how to handle this from a friend whose son is several years older than mine. When he was 6 and going to his first sleepover party, they went to buy a sleeping bag. He really liked a pink and purple plaid one. He asked, "Is it for girls?" His mom said, "Anybody can sleep in a sleeping bag of any color. But a lot of people think pink is for girls, so the other boys at the party might say, 'Why do you have a girl's sleeping bag?' What would you say?" He decided that that would make him feel bad and he would not want to use the sleeping bag again if that happened. His mom said, "I want to buy a sleeping bag that you'll enjoy using for years and years at lots of parties and camps." He chose a plain red one.
I've now been through that same process with my son a number of times, with various results. Pajamas, for example, are normally worn at home and seen only by the family, and he has several sets at a time, so in front of gender-norm-enforcing people he wouldn't have to wear the pink butterfly PJs he had for a while. When he had the purple sparkly shoes at age 4, he did wear them as his main everyday shoes, and he learned to say, "Mostly girls wear this kind of shoes, but these are boys' shoes because they're mine." (I don't know if he came up with this himself or his preschool teacher did. It wasn't my idea. I really like it, though!) At other times he's chosen a more masculine or neutral option.
Similarly, if I had a daughter who wanted to go topless, I'd ask her to consider how other people would react. Would she feel able to defend herself against criticism or harassment? If there would be people present whom we know have strong feelings about girls wearing tops, is her bare-chested comfort more important than courtesy to them? There isn't a "right answer" unless a law or official rule (school swimming class rule, for example) forbids it, in which case I'd require compliance unless my child had a really strong and well-informed desire to challenge the law/rule.
LOL - i have no advice for you - but i wanted to say i am soon going to be 43 years old and i still very vividly recall my grandmother telling me i couldnt take my shirt off when i was about 4 (i was playing with all boys and it was hot outside!) i wanted to take my shirt off like they did and saw NO reason why i shouldnt - my grandmother told me it 'wasnt nice'
that really wasnt very helpfull!
Its a tough one, when i have bumped up against sexism/ classism/ racism with my kids i do tend to brush it off - 'oh, most women dont like to take their shirts off" or something along those lines...i dont think thats the BEST way to handle it....just what i managed to come up with when put on the spot!
hope you'll have better luck - let us know how turns out!
I remember having the exact same conversation with my daughter.
"Mom can I take my shirt off"
"But T gets to, why can't I"
pause why I think.....
"You know what your right. You may take your shirt off"
I decided that she would figure out the social mores on her own long before it became an issue (to me it's not an issue until there's something on top that makes people even realize she's a girl.) And she has. We both agree it's not right or fair, and at age 6 she'll still take her shirt off in our own home, backyard, car, grandma's house, but not in public.
Is a woman/girl responsible if she is raped based on how she is dressed?
to each their own- the story you retold about the boy and the sleeping bag is so very similar to those countless stories told by those who grew up forced into gender stereotypes only to come out as adults saying what heartache and anguish they had as a child- I feel very sorry for that young boy
I find this thread so similar to the current age/bikini thread - I like how one mother put it there- it doesn't so much matter what the girl will wear-boys will look anyways at her and I view this so much here too.
Even in US culture we have many individuals that view hair as something that should be covered and those who feel most of the body should as well. To please (or what ever word you want to say) others when there are no laws forbidding it does send a direct message to a small child. Many in the US grow up with extreme body images as well- how much comes from being ashamed of their body over what they are told as children? We have so many mothers who are fearful of even showing the are breast-feeding due to how covered up society (often times) makes them feel about their breasts. Know it's going on but can see it over the layers of covering.
Personally I feel if you as a parent are so concerned as to your child being made fun-off (or what ever term you want to use), over an object (such as a sleeping bag) or something real and beautiful such as their bodies, you are compounding the issue by making it one instead of giving the child the coping skills to deal with those who would be uncomfortable. If the child is ridiculed in the case of an object, frankly those same people will do it over anything towards that child-IMO.
I find it good to see many do allow their girls to be topless and hopefully the next generation won't be so uncomfortable with their beautiful bodies and those around them will see it for what it is-natural and not in need of covering or shame.