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Nov26TueTeaching teens to value others and themselves despite their wardrobe. November 26, 2013 by Major Kathie Chiu
“Things I learned watching the #VMAs2013: If the goal is to not look creepy onstage w/ an underage twerker, a striped suit is not your friend.”—James Van Der Beek
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
“I will always have this version of Miley. Let's live in the past and heal.”—Judd Apatow
“Poor Billy Ray …”—Andy Roddick
“Officially diagnosed with PTSD after watching Miley's tongue wiggle waggle. #ThanksALot”—Adira Amram
These are just some of the tweets that went out over the twittersphere when Miley Cyrus performed with Robin Thicke at MTV's Video Music Awards this past summer. I think we are all a little shocked at what Hannah Montana has grown into, but then again, our kids have been exposed to the MTV culture for so long now. Why are we surprised?
Then there was the blog post on GivenBreath.com by Kim Hall of Austin, Texas, that went viral and was shared more than 10,000 times. Her piece asked girls to watch what they were wearing when they posted on Facebook or she'd make her sons unfriend them. She writes, “If you think you've made an online mistake … RUN to your accounts and take down the closed-door bedroom selfies that make it too easy for friends to see you in only one dimension.” Hall seemed to put the onus squarely on the girls for what they were wearing and how it affected her sons and their ability to keep their thoughts pure.
In response, RedLetterChristians.org author Kristen Howerton wrote that, while she sympathized with Hall, she clearly felt her perspective came from a place of fear and anxiety. She also suggested Hall's boys were themselves responsible for any stray thoughts they might have had after seeing a scantily clad girl. Read the post here.
Sometimes I wonder how I'm going to sort through the messages that are out there and help guide my boys to grow into men. There's a lot of pressure in the Christian community for girls to be modest. As the mother of two daughters, I understand how it feels when too much skin is showing and the urge to tell them to cover it up is so strong. Trust me, it doesn't change even when they're grown and married.
I want to make sure that my boys don't grow up to objectify women. How do I do that?
First, keeping the lines of communication open and having honest conversations with them is important. When we hear statements about girls that place blame on them, we can challenge that and remind our sons that what they think when they see a girl is their responsibility.
Second, we need to make sure we challenge what our teens are watching on television and in movies. When we see women being objectified, we need to caution our children and change the channel. At the very least, we need to have a conversation about what we saw, what was wrong about it and question whether we should have watched it.
What we say to girls about this issue also has great importance. While I don't want my girls wearing skimpy clothes, that's because I'm a protective parent. I know not every parent of every boy is teaching their son not to ogle my daughters.
However, making rules about what girls can wear in certain situations shames the girls. It forces them to subordinate their preferences to the unhealthy thoughts of men and boys.
For example, girls who attend a Christian camp may see a sign that says “No Bikinis.” But at a public beach, you'll see girls in bikinis all the time. Why is it out of context to wear a bikini to a swimming pool in a Christian camp? Though you wouldn't wear a bikini to a mall to go shopping, wearing one to the beach or a swimming pool is in context—it's for swimming and sunbathing.
How do we follow God's teachings and live holy lives in a world saturated with unholiness? The most important thing is to bring Jesus into the conversation in a natural way. If we're keeping God at the centre of our lives and bringing our uncertainties before him in prayer together with our children, he'll help guide them through the tumultuous teen years.
Major Kathie Chiu is the executive director of Victoria's Addictions and Rehabilitation Centre.
(Photo: © Shutterstock.com/solominviktor)