In the last few days, we have been dealing with a storm in my house. The issue of dress, sex, and how people are treated came to a painful head in my house. My daughter was photographed without her knowledge as she was tucking her shirt into her pants. The photo was completely innocent, but the comments that her peers put on it were not.
Needless to say, it caused a lot of hurt, but also opened up a conversation about how we present ourselves in public. Luckily, students and teachers rallied around her and defended her against the malicious treatment some of the (mostly) boys wanted to heap upon her.
My young, pubescent daughter wears hijab and has always felt good about that decision. For the first time, she began to understand how her public image can influence the way she is treated. When a similar incident happened to another child in her school, that young lady was not treated as kindly.
Was that other girl any less deserving of kind treatment than my child?
But I have always made her aware that how she carried herself in public, from her dress to how she speaks, is reflective of who she is and how she feels about herself. I remember putting vaseline on her face and explaining to her that she had to look shiny and clean when she went to school. I remember standing over her and impressing upon her the need to iron her uniform before she walked out of the door every day. I remember explaining to her that she should never allow anybody to give her a nickname; she should only answer to her given name. From her first day of school, I told her that she had the power to decide how she would be treated.
How we dress is part of that power. I think we need to stop being hypocritical as parents about what we tell our children (boys and girls) about how they dress and what it means.
If we, as adults, dress up for work, church, interviews, etc. and put our best foot forward we should demand that our kids do the same. If we as adults can look at a selection of clothes and say “this outfit doesn’t get me the kind of attention I want” we need to start teaching our kids how to dress for the type of attention they want as well. This is the first part of the conversations that I have been having with my little ones about what they wear and why.