Look At Me!

I never really considered myself a prude.

Until I had kids.

Now, I often feel sad by how much they are exposed to despite their young ages. Just a few examples:

1. A suburban sex shop constantly has a racy billboard on 290, a major expressway here in the Chicago area. The ads always feature a woman (why not a man?!) with lots of lipstick and a “come hither” look on her face. What does 8-year-old Evie think when she sees that?

2. On a dive-bar drag on Division Street, a local nightclub advertises “Sexy School Girl Night!” once a month. The first time Evie read it, she asked, “What’s a sexy school girl?” She knows that she is a school girl – does she also now wonder if she is supposed to be sexy? Does she think that being a sexy school girl is a good thing??

3. And at our local grocery store where the Sports Illustrated Swim Suit edition is planted in the check-out aisle at a 3-year-old’s eye level:

When Evie saw this she asked, “Why doesn’t that lady have any clothes on?” Momentarily at a loss for the proper explanation, I ultimately gave her an honest answer: because she wants attention. Some women use their bodies to get attention.

I quickly turned the conversation around, and I asked Evie what she can do to get attention. Here are some of the ideas we came up with (in no particular order) while waiting to pay for our groceries:

1. She can work for NASA like the women in the fantastic movie “Hidden Figures.”

2. She can sign up for swim team and win a few races thanks to lots of practice and pool time.

3. She can help her brother Mack collect blankets for Chicago’s homeless next winter.

4. She can work really hard in high school and be the valedictorian.

5. She can become a scientist or a doctor and find a cure for a terrible disease.

I get that some women think things like the swimsuit issue empower women, but I sure don’t feel empowered when I see it and I’m a very open-minded woman. Rather, I ponder about my post-partum belly and the lines forming around my eyes. And, I don’t think Evie felt any sense of empowerment about her growing body – if anything, a magazine cover like that confuses her.

I’m definitely not advocating for a society where women cover their bodies (I wear bikinis at the beach all summer long thankyouverymuch), and I’m not suggesting that Sports Illustrated drop the swimsuit issue or that sex shops should shut down. But, wouldn’t it be nice if everyone was mindful and considerate of the little eyes and ears that observe everything?  I’d like for Evie to grow into a world where girls and women aren’t always the bearers of sexiness. A world where “school girls” and “sexy” aren’t mentioned in the same sentence (because, like, pedophilia is awful). A world where women get magazine covers for the amazing things they are doing instead of how they look.

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