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(Not) Dressed for the Prom

(Not) Dressed for the Prom

What message are we giving our daughters when we pay for revealing dresses that objectify their body?


Proud parents have been posting on Facebook pictures of their daughters dressed for prom, photos that – to paraphrase a song from My Fair Lady – “would make a sailor blush.”

Yes, the girls are beautiful. They’re stunning and gorgeous and fit all the superlatives being applied to their physical appearance. And they are also wearing very revealing dresses that suggest that we have not in fact come a long way baby.

Perhaps we’ve even regressed. After trying for years to teach our daughters that the external should be a reflection of the internal, that it’s inner beauty and character that really count, there is apparently a backlash. Or they’re just not listening. Or our delivery needs work. Or perhaps we’re even confused ourselves. But judging from the pictures, they seem to have embraced the philosophy of the song in The Producers, “If You’ve Got It, Flaunt It,” only there it was meant tongue-in-cheek.

Well, it’s become real, and it’s a real shame. Because these young women are selling themselves short. Of course we all want to look beautiful but when our external presentation gets all the emphasis, it becomes the focus – to the detriment of the internal.

If you don’t want to be treated like an object, don’t dress like one.

Our daughters are getting mixed messages. On the one hand, we want more women in the sciences, in the STEM subjects, to take their studies more seriously and develop their academic talents. And on the other, to put their whole (and I barely exaggerate) physical self on display and show the world how attractive you are. (One of my children told me of a model who recently quit her job. Apparently she was upset that people were only focused on her physical self! Does this disconnect require any comment?)

If you don’t want to be treated like an object, don’t dress like one.

What’s a young girl to do? How can she confidently wade her way through this morass?

Many of them simply don’t really know better. They don’t understand the ramifications and consequences of the choices they are making. But unfortunately they may still be harming themselves. Because when people (especially men) look, they don’t see the thoughtful, kind intelligent, caring person underneath – the one who listens to her friends’ problems and volunteers at a homeless shelter, the one who gets A’s in math and tutors her challenged fellow students, the one who’s accepted to MIT and who visits her Bubby every Sunday. That side is hidden when the physical is overemphasized and highlighted.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not excusing the men for their shallow, animalistic behavior. They should control themselves and work on seeing beyond the physical to the more important stuff within.

But the men are not the only ones responsible for their actions; women are too. We need to ask ourselves if we are dressing in a dignified manner that reveals our real inner selves or in a way that lowers our self-respect and emphasizes our body.

And the parents are the most responsible – because we know better. But for complicated reasons of our own – lack of moral compass, societal pressure, unwillingness to take a stand, fear of fighting with our teenagers – we allow it, and most of the time we even pay for it!

It’s time to put the credit cards away and teach our daughters to be proud of who they are – internally. It’s time to help them understand that a lifetime of self-respect is more important than a night of accolades for our beauty. It’s time to give them honor for the human being they’ve become and not their ability to accessorize. Everyone wants to look pretty. It’s human nature. But we have to evaluate the cost. It shouldn’t be so high that we lose our essential selves in the bargain. There is a difference between being attractive and being attracting.

It’s hard not to be confused in today’s world. We ask to be valued for our character and then show off our figures. It’s up to us, the supposed adults here, to reverse the trend and to teach our daughters to live a dignified, principled life, to dress like a soul and not like a body.

June 17, 2017

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Visitor Comments: 7

(7) Anonymous, July 18, 2017 5:09 AM

Dignified is a broad term

Women ought to wear what they want.if people don't like it, they don't have to look.

(6) a.m. mary, June 22, 2017 2:47 PM

Dress like a soul

Parents are afraid to be parents. Rather than guide a child, parents allow a child to "guide" them. Children are regarded, by many parents to be extensions of themselves...the view of 'wealth', 'freedom', 'enlightenment' of parents is to be seen about the child. Allowing a child to dress as if she were a member of the Folies Bergere is indicative of a lack of parental guidance. Nobody said parenting was easy; parents need to step up to the plate and call the shots.

(5) Connie J, June 21, 2017 2:48 PM

prom dresses

Times get more and more relaxed as each year passes. I was brought up in a Pentecostal Church of God. Very strict! We couldn't go to dances, proms, wear sleeveless blouses or sun dresses, go to movies, girls couldn't even wear slacks or jeans, wear any make-up and some of the ladies wouldn't even cut their hair, always wore skirts or dresses, no shorts, skirts or dresses had to be well beneath the knees, and heaven forbid any one piercing their ears!! Yes, our mode of dress and principals have changed or "come a long way" in the last 60 or 70 years!

(4) Nancy, June 21, 2017 11:22 AM

I don't think there is any victim blaming going on here

No woman or girl deserves to be harassed no matter what she is wearing. Period. However, I have always felt that people take me more seriously when I am dressed conservatively. Re: The comment about Wonder Woman. Go see the movie. It is awesome and I love Gal Gadot!!

(3) Anonymous, June 21, 2017 2:42 AM

there is tznius in the military!

Miriam Rosenberg's husband, a coast guard pilot, purposely crashed his failed engine plane in order not to injure children playing on a ballfield about 2 years ago. He sustained heavy injuries and was ackowledged for his heroism.
It was his wife who went to pick up the ceremonial award and she was given specific instructions on how to dress:
black or navy skirt 2" below the knee - not too tight; long sleve shirt or jacket buttoned to the collarbone; no dangling earrings; necklace no longer than top of the sternum; opaque stockings and simple black pumps without ornament. And oh yes, if hair is longer than the shoulders, it should be tied in a ponytail without an ornament to be no longer than top of the shoulders.
Why all these regulations? - querried Mrs. Rosenberg and the female officer giving the instructions replied: In the military the men have to be disciplined without experiencing distraction due to the fact that we are women.
How is that for a lesson in modesty?!

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