Crop tops. Baggy sweats. Cute camis. Giant mum jeans. Vintage dresses. Tight bike shorts. Oversized hoodies. Torn-up denim. Girls these days can—and do—wear whatever they want. As they move from their tween to their teen years, they’re balancing a search for their own personal style while under the influence of celebs and trends that are so fun to mimic and a constantly-changing body. New periods, new curves, new hair, new height, new identities and other surprises that pop up can make finding the right fashion fit a tricky road to navigate.
What absolutely does not help make this journey any easier are the relentless stream of judgy looks and snide comments from mums of boys as these girls pass them by. Especially when those adult women make no attempt to hide their contempt from their kids.
I remember being a new high schooler in the early 90s (note: everything I wore then is back in style now — who knew??) and hearing cruel commentary from mums who decided my skirt was too short or bodysuit too tight or the size of my boobs too big as if I should be ashamed of it all because their calculations determined I was slutty trash. No mention was made of how I was about half a foot taller than most female classmates, so everything was shorter on me. No factoring in that bodysuits were super on trend, and I had no control over how big my breasts would grow (hello, genetics). No considering that slut-shaming was a horrible habit. Just straight-up callous judgement these adult women wanted me, still technically a child, to hear.
It was terrible and unhealthy then, and these days it is 100% unacceptable. We know better, so should do better. Yet, I’m still hearing it. As the mother of both a teenage daughter and son, I refuse to be silent about this on both of their behalf, and for their peers of all genders and identities. While the girl mums have absolutely no excuse for this boorish behaviour (they were likely on the other end of it many moons ago), today I’m going to talk to the boy mums. The ones who are so deep in the “dude stuff” that they might have forgotten about how it felt to be targeted simply for being female, and how raising sons who see you behaving like this isn’t only wrong, it’s dangerous.
Why boy mums (in particular) need to stop commenting on how girls dress these days:
1. It is none of your business.
I repeat: It. Is. None. Of. Your. Business.
2. You hated the mean girls when you were growing up.
Why would you be a mean girl mum now? That’s exactly who is immature and shallow enough to criticise the clothing another human puts on their body. There’s no positive, helpful goal here. It’s just being mean for meanness’ sake. Which is dumb. Cut that out.
3. Girls and women have been bearing the pain of unfair hits since forever.
Maybe it’s time to stop that cycle? And you could be a part of the helpful change? Because it’s really not that hard to not take that swing at innocent girls?
4. You are your sons’ first frame of reference for how to treat women.
It is your job to be a healthy role model for your son on how women should be seen, discussed and treated. If you cannot muster the ability to view and speak about others of your own gender in a respectful way, why would your sons? If you only comment on girls to call them sluts, whores, trashy or inappropriate because of what they put on that morning, why wouldn’t your sons see them all as lesser sexual objects instead of full human beings, too? Why should they feel accountable for their actions against them, if you don’t? Why should your sons care about the girls’ wants or ask for consent when they have sexual urges they prefer a partner for?
According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), one out of every six women will have had to face either an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Think teenage years are tough on boys? Teen girls ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault, and 93% of victims ages 18 and under know their assailant. Walk into any high school classroom right now: five girls in there will be a statistic unless we as parents do better, change things starting now. Why would you want to foster an environment in which your child doesn’t see women as equals who deserve respect, to have boundaries, to live as trauma-free lives as possible?
5. You shared a “Be Kind” meme on Instagram, own a t-shirt version and have a sign saying the same thing perched in your powder room.
So why aren’t you actually being kind?
6. You’re getting in the way of positive goals those girls’ parents are working on with them.
Most of us want to raise confident kids who grow into strong adults, right? So why on earth would you do something to undermine another parent’s efforts to do that for their kid? Because that’s exactly what your hurtful commentary does each time your target hears it.
7. P.S. Calling the outfit “slimming” or saying they look “so thin” that you’re jealous is also not a good thing.
This tells the listener (whether the girl it is aimed at or your own child) that thinness is the ideal, the goal, the main reason for deciding one looks acceptable enough to leave their home in the morning. Why do we need to stop this kind of messaging at home, at school, in the community, in magazines, in books, on social media and onscreen? I’ll let these statistics from National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders speak for themselves:
- 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.
- 81% of 10 year old children are afraid of being fat.
- 46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets.
- 35-57% of adolescent girls engage in crash dieting, fasting, self-induced vomiting, diet pills, or laxatives.
- In a college campus survey, 91% of the women admitted to controlling their weight through dieting.
Body positivity doesn’t mean celebrating their bodies only when they look slim. It means raising these kids to love and accept themselves and others in whatever skin they are in, no matter its shape or size. Your kids are listening: do better.
So instead of letting your eyes roam the threads of young women around you and spewing with sarcasm, criticism or other commentary within earshot of your victim and your children, remember that there are lovable, sensitive, growing human beings beneath those clothes that deserve to be treated with respect. Doing so can help your own kids learn to not judge a book by its cover, see all human beings as equal, and never pick up the habit of talking sh*t about others just because they happen to pass by.
Also? It’s a very, very easy way to “be kind.”