Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Lacking Discretion

"Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion." Proverbs 11:22NIV

We live in an oversexualized society. It seems every time I turn on the TV, open a magazine, or read an email, I'm assaulted with sexual innuendo. I'm an adult, I can tune this out, but what about our daughters?

The magazines proudly display scantily-clad young girls like Miley Cyrus or Lindsey Lohan as images of aspiration. CNN's "Showbiz Tonight" and all the other shows like "Entertainment Tonight" all seem to glamorize the risque behavior and near-nakedness of the Paris Hilton and Beyonce of the world. The message that it sends, like the pouty-mouthed Bratz dolls by Mattel, is that only your body matters. Sex, sex, sex.

Well the message caught up with one young Houston girl. Senior prom is a time of magic, wonder,and celebration. Girls spend hundreds of dollars on dresses, hair, nails, makeup, shoes, everything for their night in the spotlight. Marche Taylor undoubtedly had such aspirations for the night. Her colors were beautiful - gold, her date was handsomely attired in white full-legged pants (not sagging!), white shirt and gold vest. She, on the other hand, seems to want to morph into Halle Berry, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, and Jennifer Lopez with her barely-there dress.

According to the Dallas Morning News and this link on Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/5/12/see-the-dress-that-got-a_n_101311.html, the Madison High School senior got more than her 15 minutes of fame. She emerged from her vehicle in a "custom made" dress that bordered on amateur-designer-turned-hooker fame. Yes, she is a beautiful girl, yes the body fit her precisely, and no, it wasn't appropriate for the prom.

This young girl caused a ruckus enough for the school officials to call the police, even after her friends tried to wrap the train around her underwear-less body. My thought when I saw the pictures and listened to what she said in her interview was "where is that girl's mother?" Didn't any of the adults in her life tell her the truth that she looked like she was a sexpot?

I'm not the morality police and certainly not holler-than-thou, but something drastically wrong has happened to our young people and if we don't change it soon, it's going to get worse. This to me, is the worse I've ever seen. I would never let my sons accompany a girl dressed like this to the prom. It sends the wrong message. She is a beautiful girl, no doubt, but beautiful girls can sometimes act without discretion. She looked like she was advertising and letting everyone know her plans for "after-prom" included losing her virginity if she hasn't already.

What about our daughters? It also bothered me that this was a young black girl. The media has already over-hyped our supposed insatiable sexual desires. The mainstream-owned black media (BET) and the channels like Vh1 actively promote the image of rump-shaking, poll dancing, breast-baring young black girls for the titillating of white teens. More white male teens purchase rap, more of them hear the reference to black girls and women as "h***" and "b****" and more of them believe it. This oversexualization of the black woman has happened since time immemorial in the U.S., but for this young girl to proudly and actively pursue this look, made this black mother very sad.

I spend my Saturday mornings with a group of middle school girls. They are each beautiful and promising. They are black girls I want to show another way. When I first started working with them, one of the things I said at the start of every meeting was, "zip up the girlfriends." After the third meeting, the girls automatically knew not to come in dressed like they were advertising. I asked them why did I tell them that. One of the girls responded that I didn't want them having men look at them that way. She was correct. I also want them to know they are more than their cup size.

The body is beautiful, God designed it that way. Black women and Latino women are some of the most gorgeous, generously blessed by God with shapes that advertisers are trying to sell to white women. This is not a "we are better than them" muse, it is just an observation. The media and plastic surgeons play up the full lips, round hips, and full busts that come naturally to black women but they do it in a way that demeans us and hypes up white women who pay big money for the same attributes. The end result is objectification for an audience of predominately white men who control the advertising dollars, the magazines, and the television stations.

What does this all mean? How can we change this? I am teaching my young daughters, ages 4 and 6, to respect themselves and their bodies. They know what is appropriate and inappropriate dress. We don't wear all black or Texas-ranch style dresses, but they know the difference between a belly-exposing midriff halter and a nice t-shirt. We walk in the girls' section of department stores and see marketing attempts to sexualize them, but they can now point out the things I disapprove of. It starts there, with parents setting standards. It doesn't matter what everyone else is doing. I'm teaching them to have pride in their abilities, one likes to write, the other likes baby dolls and animals.

The young girl, Marche Taylor, will one day look back at the images of herself and be ashamed. Her future husband may see these images and think, there isn't a mystery anymore, everyone has seen her body. She may get a modeling contract from it, may end up on Tyra Bank's, "America's Next Top Model," but at what cost?

"Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion." Proverbs 11:22NIV.

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