Thursday, January 12, 2012

Who's Looking Out for Sydney?

Two days ago, my daughter came into the living room holding her laptop open in her arms, yelling, “Mom, look at this!”

I thought she was going to show me yet another obnoxiously inappropriate ad on Teen Vogue’s website.  This would not have shocked me.  Have you looked at a fashion magazine lately?  However, it’s relieving when she points out images of females that are over-sexulaized in the name of fashion.  This provides me with proof that she gets it.  She’s thinking critically.  

Teen Vogue was not the problem two days ago.  The photo that had my daughter alarmed was of Sydney Spies, an 18 year-old, wearing a short skirt and even shorter top.  According to CNN, she had the photo professionally taken in her hometown specifically for submission to her yearbook.  This was to be her senior portrait.  However, the committee that determines whether or not a photo is approved for publishing rejected the photo for being too inappropriate.  Sydney Spies submitted a second photo of herself in a very short dress with the same result.

Last I read, Sydney’s mother is in support of her daughter’s photos and has contacted the ACLU to fight for her daughter’s freedom of expression.  What does Sydney want to express?  If you simply Photoshop some plaid onto her yellow skirt, you’ve got the girl in the schoolgirl skirt from the adult costume shop.

But have you looked around the mall?  Teen girls are scantily dressed in micro shorts and cropped sweaters.  Just last week, my daughter tried to leave the house in short shorts paired with sheer tights.  But, this is what is being sold in every clothing store and in every mall—high end or low end:  short shorts, shorter skirts, cropped shirts, burn-out shirts that fall from the shoulders a la Flashdance, and leggings worn with full frontal outline in full view.  Ladies, there is no need to run to the adult store, check out the junior department in any clothing store or stop in Forever XXI

So why wouldn’t Sydney Spies want to wear her cute little yellow skirt to cover her bottom and tiny black scarf-like shirt to cover her top?  I get it.  

What I do not get is her mom’s support of her wearing this outfit for a senior portrait to be submitted to the yearbook.  Even if our daughters are bombarded with these types of over-sexualized images and clothing choices, it does not mean we go along with it and say, “OK.”  It’s our responsibility as mothers to explain to our daughters that the clothes we wear send a message to the world.

It is an injustice to Sydney for her mother to be supportive of this photo appearing in a high school publication.  She is exploiting her daughter's sexuality, which gives Sydney the sense that her worth, her self-esteem, should be based on her ability to be, not just "look", sexual.  Our world, and especially the world of young people, is full of examples of the over-sexualization of women.  Just like it's difficult to get our kids to eat well because of the marketing bombardment of bad food, it's difficult to get our kids to understand, especially in the teen years, that a human being's worth goes miles beyond our ability to be sexual.

Last summer my daughter wanted a bikini.  She was 12 at the time and all of her friends were wearing them.  I said, “No.”  She was upset.  And of course the next question was, “Why?”
I said, “Even if being sexy is not your goal, people will see you as sexy.  And you’re too young.”

Even though she is 18, Sydney Spies is too young.  The yearbook is not the place for a provocative photo.  And Sydney’s mom should know better.

Found the Marbles


  1. A to the Men ... we live down in Boca FL .. you just wan to see what goes on around here somedays.
    Ugh, crazy mam's picking out skanky outfits for little ones ....

  2. The hyper-sexualization of our young girls is frightening. I hear many adult women who sport this type of clothing saying they are "owning their sexuality". I don't understand how looking like a Playboy model is "owning" own's sexuality. It seems to me that you are just catering to male perception of what is sexy and now we are telling young women they should do the same. UGH!

  3. @Jacki I don't understand why girls need to "own" their sexuality by wearing inappropriate clothing. It's confusing to them. It makes them feel as if they are valued primarily for being female and a vehicle for sex. They may not be able to articulate it, and until they can, they shouldn't be dressed for sex.

  4. Hubby and I have discussed the possibility of having another child (we have 3 boys) but I'm terrified of girls... for this reason.
    I have always wanted that Princess, soft pink, french braided daughter to put in ruffle-bum tights as a baby and proudly send off to University to take over the world.
    I see the 12-year-old prosti-tots walking down the street and say to Hubby "See? This is the reason that girls scare me." to which he replied "Honey, you would NEVER let our daughter out of the house looking like that".
    The sad part?
    They don't wear it out of the house... they put it in their backpack and change... {sigh}
    I completely agree with you that parents should not be condoning this sort of wardrobe (or wardrobe malfunction...) I am betting that if Sydney were 5, she'd be on Toddlers and Tiaras...

  5. That outfit is just absurd for a yearbook photo. If that were my daughter or my classmate I would be embarrassed for her. As one of my blogging friends pointed out, if it is not appropriate attire for school then it is not appropriate attire for the yearbook.

  6. First, I really don't understand how any mother could possibly support her daughter looking like that. Secondly, it's a school yearbook for goodness sake! Could they be more inappropriate and ignorant than that???

    It is sad, really, whenever I heard of mothers condoning (and even supporting) such behavior out of their young daughters. What mothers like Sydney's have done is perpetuating and 'justifying' the over-sexualization of young girls by the media and businesses. On another level, it also sends the wrong message to men and definitely doing more harm than good to women's struggle for equality.

  7. @Sweaty Very well said and I strongly agree. Your last sentence reminded me of something I read somewhere in the blogoshpere: the best thing we can do for feminism is raise feminist boys.

    @Jessica That's a reasonable guideline, and one that should be easily followed. The yearbook is award-winning and the staff (students) didn't want to compromise the integrity of the publication. Staff gave her the option to submit photos as a paid advertisement. Sounded like a fair deal to me.

    @Lindsay I have always wanted a little boy! Maybe we could switch roles someday? No wait, that's already been done as a reality show. ;) I imagine there are challenges raising boys who understand that women are more than mere sex objects. Boys are bombarded with the images as much as females and then feel required to act accordingly. "Acting accordingly" is our job. And unfortunately "Corporate America" and its marketing campaigns has us outnumbered. Thanks for your comments; I appreciate you coming by Sperk*.

  8. Bravo on the bikini. I had a friend whose 9 year old wouldn't go to the beach without her bikini. I was disgusted until I remembered her mother brings many many men around her, often with alcohol involved, often to spend the night. I worry about her future. :(


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