Didn’t think so. Most parents probably don’t dream of their daughter — or any girl they know — turning out like Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton. But we can’t just relax and hope things turn out for the best. We’ve got to fight back against a culture determined to turn elementary school girls into the next generation of sexy starlets.
There are things you can do even if you don’t have a daughter — in his article “Bimbo-Proof the Nursery,” Steve Almond comes at it from the right perspective, even if he’s a little crude. But it makes his point. I’ve never heard of him and I doubt he’s a Christian, but here’s what he says:
I’m also well aware of Madison Avenue’s efforts to market the slut image to an ever younger demographic, and the mass media’s decision to cover young, troubled party girls as if they were heads of state, and perhaps most terrifying of all, I’m aware of my own weakness for precisely this sort of depraved coverage.
The mall is a terrifying place for a new dad, because it offers a concentrated dose of all the cultural messages aimed at your daughter. It was at the mall that I first encountered a pair of moppets playing with a Bratz doll. How cute, I thought. Until I saw the doll’s ensemble: a miniskirt and a tight T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase So Many Boys, So Little Time. Next, I passed by Club Libby Lu, where prepubescent clients get makeovers and learn a sexy dance while a soundtrack offers helpful tips such as “Wet your lips and smile to the camera.”
See, this is what happens when you have a daughter. You start looking at the world around her and you start realizing how much of that world seems determined to turn her into a world-famous media slut. Then you start looking at the world-famous media sluts themselves and for the first time in your life, it occurs to you: Hey, that’s someone’s daughter! I wonder how her dad feels about that picture in which her boobs are hanging out for the world to see? And I wonder if her dad’s behavior in some way contributed to this boob hanging?
He talks about men’s inclination to check these women out — and it’s true. Guys like to look at half-dressed women. But since he’s become a dad, he has realized there’s no way he wants guys to look at his daughter like that. What he says is a great argument against both viewing and displaying provocative sexual behavior (immodesty, pornography, etc.):
The Dad Self has to worry about the survival of his wife and offspring. He regards women differently, especially if he has a daughter. Now he must think about the kind of world in which he’d like her to grow up, and especially how he’d like other males to treat her, which is to say not as a sexual chew toy, but with kindness and respect.
It’s here that my old Dude Self and my brand-new Dad Self come to blows. Because as much as I want to check out Paris and Lindsay, I know I’m harming my daughter by doing so. For one thing, I’m sending her a very clear message: Daddy loves sluts. Be a slut and Daddy will love you. And if you don’t believe that a 1-year-old picks up on messages, you’ve never seen my daughter in action. She is intensely focused on everything in her environment, especially whatever I happen to be looking at.
Now here’s where we all come in:
But even if I ogled Paris in private, I would still be contributing to the Culture of Paris, helping to shape a world in which young women win adulation for making porn videos and getting arrested, rather than for, say, curing cancer or brokering peace in the Middle East or being a mom. If we all stopped consuming celebrity scandals, they would cease to exist. If a media slut goes to jail and no one’s there to film the perp walk, does it really matter?
And his conclusion:
We newbie dads would be fools not to worry about the way this is trending. What is the cultural landscape going to look like in a dozen years, when my little girl is heading into adolescence? Can you see why a concerned father—even a socially liberal fellow like myself—might be tempted to declare martial law on his 1-year-old?
I want Josephine to grow up in a world where her ambitions will be about what she wants, not what the panting men of the world want from her. My daughter is not a commodity. Her heart can be broken. Her spirit can be wounded. And there is no accessory that can rescue her from these dangers.
Which brings me to rule number five, the only one I plan to enforce: Josephine can do anything she likes with her life, so long as she asks herself first: Is this behavior worthy of the love I deserve? If she flouts this rule, the failure will have been her parents’, not hers.
His conclusion is a little off — we don’t really deserve any love, and certainly not based on our behavior. But the general idea is right — girls are not commodities. They’re living, breathing human beings with never-dying souls. We won’t help them by waiting breathlessly for the next revelation about what they’ve done or worn (or not worn).
We’ll help them by living in light of the eternal grace of God. We probably won’t ever get a chance to tell Paris or Britney or Lindsay about that, but we sure can tell our kids and our friends. And then we can turn off the latest celebrity updates and focus on the antics of our own children. That should keep us plenty busy.