keep our babies off the pole

by marjorieingall on February 15, 2010

New Tablet column is here.

This was a hard column for me to write. In general, I hate laying down rules for anyone who doesn’t live in my house. And I’m uncomfortable dissing other people’s choices unless they are people exactly like me (urban Jewy bobo), in which case WHOO! OPEN SEASON! So I tread delicately when I repeat that most rules (or guidelines treated as rules) concerning modest dress, in Orthodox Judaism and Islam, tend to be aimed at girls. In theory, “modesty” may be the standard for everyone, but in practice, the litany of “don’t” is for the ladies. Anyway, read the piece and let me know what you think.

Oh, also? An aside about classism got cut. Princess-mania and dressing-your-baby-girl-like-a-ho mania tend to be the province of people who do not share my cultural background. As a commenter on daddytypes, one of my fave brainy self-conscious modernist-art-obsessed agonizingly self-aware emphatically-non-working-class dadblogs, once said, “We hipster parents dress our kids like arts and crafts projects. Unless yarn is the new Lycra, I think the over-sexualization is going on somewhere else.” Exactly. Our people’s sins tend to involve viewing children as narcissistic reflections of our own exquisite taste. We dress ’em in Keith-Haring-print sneakers and ironic vintage cowboy shirts from eBay (and rend our garments when the kid says they’re itchy and refuses to wear them) and dwell on which sleek bouncy seat best reflects our aesthetic values. Tell me why that’s nobler than taping a big polyester bow on your newborn’s head? Maybe being less judgmental about other people’s choices – sartorial, sexual and parenting-related – should be key to Tzniyut 2.0.

Finally: I’m guessing Tablet couldn’t get the rights to some of the more eye-opening pix of Noah Cyrus. It would have been funny to use a sound file of her singing Smack That in an endless loop with a little animation of her smacking herself. Oh wait, no it wouldn’t.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Theresa February 19, 2010 at 8:52 am

That was a great article. I too wish we could get off the pendulum between “pole dancer” and “burka” (not to mention the assumption that covering or uncovering *women’s* bodies is always the problem and the solution).

I think the connection between baby-beauty-queen style and class is worth noting, if only because it can help reveal the parallel sins of other classes — such as, as you noted, the Haring sneakers and ironic vintage wear. Even if the latter style doesn’t involve premature sexualization, it still makes children a means to an end. The pageant parents are just doing the same thing. I mean, *they* don’t think their daughters look like hos; they actually idealize that style as female beauty in its highest form.

It’s not just that we shouldn’t judge those with tackier taste than our own, it’s that we need to respect our kids as people when we dress them, not obsess about how their appearance makes *us* look among our peers. When they, and we, have self-respect, the kids have a better chance of developing a healthy sexuality and everything else.

marjorieingall February 25, 2010 at 11:57 am

very, very well said. (and perhaps if i had been able to articulate the class issue as well as you just did, i would have convinced my editor not to cut that part!)

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