FIRST-PERSON: The sexualization of little girls
Today, you can see 7-year-olds in dance competitions wearing lace bustieres and hot pants, grinding on a stage in such a sexually aggressive manner it looks like something you'd see from an exotic dancer.
Today, you can read about 7-year-olds wanting to be sexier, thinking they need to diet because they're too fat or in the December issue of French Vogue posing like sex vixens, in what some are calling pedocouture.
Today, little girls think they need cell-phones at 8, should start dating boys at 7, and they look up to stars like Miley Cyrus who make lap-dancing, sexting pictures and drug usage seem cool.
Some say the times are more evil and that's why the world is this way, but when I see these sexualized little girls I can't help but wonder: Where's the mother that's supposed to be teaching her daughter that physical beauty isn't what's important and her sassy attitude isn't acceptable behavior? When little girls' outfits show everything and they wear makeup, making them look like teenagers, where are the fathers saying no and protecting their little girls from the lustful eyes of men and boys? What can parents do to prevent the sexualization of their daughters?
1. Help Preserve Inward Beauty.
So much of the influences on young girls emphasize physical beauty. Everything they watch on TV, see on magazine covers, and experience among their peers is judgment based on outward appearance. They're constantly being told by the world that their worth and potential popularity is based on how pretty they are.
By letting them be involved in beauty pageants at young ages, letting them dress like their favorite Disney Channel pop star, and even by stressing over their own weight in front of their daughter, parents are teaching daughters to place their worth in being pretty or skinny. We must instill in them and show by example that God desires an inner beauty which is what actually makes a girl beautiful (1 Peter 3:3-4).
Teaching them to perform or act for the approval of others teaches them to place value in the glorification of sinful man, not the glorification of a holy God. It teaches them to seek the compliments of guys and to do whatever they have to do to secure the world's affections. Parents are the God-given guides to show them their true worth lies in Christ and in having a beautiful heart -- not in boys, clothes or beauty, which fade with time (Prov. 31:30-31).
2. Help Preserve Sexual Purity.
Why do we even need to teach our 6-year-olds about sexual purity? Aren't they too young to even know about those kinds of things? I used to think girls and boys didn't experience sexual peer pressure until middle or high school. But now you read news stories about second graders engaging in sexual acts and, shockingly enough, 5-year-olds being asked to have sex by their classmate.
God places a huge emphasis on maintaining sexual purity and fleeing from situations that have even a hint of sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6; Ephesians 5:3). As their earthly guardians, parents are the ones in charge of protecting our daughters from sexually themed situations and protecting their hearts and minds from things they can't comprehend fully or handle emotionally. Young girls today are bombarded with sexual images and messages that can do major psychological damage if parents aren't there to censor and protect them.
Author and speaker Vicki Courtney, citing an American Psychological Association study, shows exactly why parents need to fight against the sexualization of their daughters:
-- "Cognitive and Emotional Consequences: Sexualization and objectification undermine a person's confidence in and comfort with her own body, leading to emotional and self-image problems such as shame and anxiety.
-- "Mental and Physical Health: Research links sexualization with three of the most common mental health problems diagnosed in girls and women -- eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression or depressed moods.
-- "Sexual Development: Research suggests that the sexualization of girls has negative consequences on girls' ability to develop a healthy sexual self-image."
When little girls are sexualized at any stage, it gives them a false sense of maturity and independence. It makes them think they're older than they are, know better than their parents, and that they're ready for things far beyond their years. It makes little girls grow up too fast.
3. Disciple and Teach Them in the Lord.
God has called parents to do two main things: 1) discipline in the Lord and 2) teach the Lord's instructions (Deuteronomy 4:9-10; 6:6-10; 11:18-19). God has made parents an authority, to act on His behalf (Proverbs 13:24; 19:18; 22:15; 23:13-14; 29:15, 17). It's for her protection and to help preserve her innocence, for her to know that God has a standard for her behavior. As God shows His children grace, mercy and discipline, so are parents to follow His example with their children.
As Tedd Tripp ("Shepherding a Child's Heart") states, "Discipline is not you working on your agenda, venting your wrath toward your children; it is you coming as God's representative, bringing the reproofs of life to your son or daughter."
Parents -- not the church, teachers or a friend's parents -- control what their daughters watch, what they wear and how they act. They're the ones given the charge of teaching their children the Lord's instructions because they have the most influence from the very beginning. A child's mind is like a sponge soaking up everything it's taught at a young age. Your daughter will soak up all the ways the Lord's instructed for her to be God-glorifying, obedient and full of wisdom (Proverbs 22:6).
If parents don't help preserve their daughter's innocence, who will? If parents don't help protect their daughters from the consequences of sexualization, who will? Of course, we want to make them happy, give them what we didn't have, and we never want to harm them -- but God knows children need guidance, instruction and boundaries. Parents love their daughters by saying no to miniskirts, by not allowing their 8-year-old daughter to call a boy in her class, by teaching her that a "I don't care what you say, Mom" attitude is not pleasing to the Lord.
Girls, like those on Toddlers & Tiaras, that are throwing tantrums, calling themselves divas, and saying to their mothers "I can do whatever I want" will grow up to be women who are brash, conceited, self-worshiping, and who find value in their sexuality. They will be the queens and princesses on the throne of their heart, unless they let God become ruler of their hearts.
When girls are taught the ways of the Lord from an early age, they're more likely to become respectful, gentle, kind and God-fearing women. They won't be filled with vanity or rivalry but with concern for others (Philippians 2:3). When girls are taught to be modest, virtuous and remain sexually pure as a way of glorifying the Lord, they're more likely to be godly women. Ultimately a girl will make the choice to put God on the throne or not, but until that time comes, it's a parent's job to give her the wisdom of God's teachings, show her who God is, and help protect her.
Diane Montgomery is a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. This column first appeared at GirlsGoneWise.com, a website for Christian women. Montgomery blogs at www.unlockingfemininity.com.