Décolletage. Cleavage. Bare belly. Unbuttoned jeans.
These are the images that welcomed our band of second graders as we traipsed through the mall to escape the rain on a field trip. There were sights to see. We were headed to the upper level and the wall of windows overlooking the river and city skyline. The foul weather turned what should have been an outdoor river walk into an educational excursion of another kind.
Beyoncé flaunting her barely there bikini on a banner was the first thing my daughter and her friend noticed. Somehow, the larger than life photos in the Victoria’s Secret storefront seemed to escape everyone’s notice except one of the male chaperones. The mannequins in various states of undress in another window didn’t, however.
Women have breasts. We all have abdomens, some even with six-packs. There is a certain allure and attraction to the human body. It is beautiful. But should a shopping center be an inappropriate place to take our children? Should we be bombarded with images that remove the natural beauty of the human form and replace it with sexually loaded suggestions?
I realize my eight year-old is not the target audience for these shops. I realize there is a demographic who wants to look sexy and physically inviting. But if my child is receiving the same subliminal messages as these others are, how can she differentiate the expected outcome?
How will she learn that there is a time and place and stage of life when these things are appropriate? That her body is to be respected and guarded, shared with a select few who will care for her someday. That modesty is to be valued. That the beauty of the human form should not be determined by the amount bared or shape of one’s skin.
I know. That’s my job. But it becomes a whole heck of a lot harder when walking through the mall becomes a minefield. And their marketing budget is a lot bigger than my measly mom one. They’re everywhere. Posters, posing, pitching. Their message will come on the bodies of friends as she ages, in movies, television shows, magazines, in the affection of suitors. How can my quiet, safe message compete?
I can only try by building up her inner reserves. By giving her the self-esteem that beauty is not skin-deep. By teaching her the attitude that her mind, her soul, her sense of humor are something else, something stronger and sexier than the dip of her décolletage.
It’s a tall order.
It seems like a small drip in the swell of the siren’s song, but I will sing. I will sing for my daughter and all others like her.