You may want to skip this post if you think it's OK for 6-, 7- and 8-year-old girls to spend a lot of time thinking about their attractiveness, boys, and fashion, or to perform suggestive moves while dancing or "cheerleading." You will not agree with my perspective.
Today, I took my daughter for a homeschoolers' play session at the local park.
I learned that while the kids were playing, one of the moms was teaching the teenaged girls from the homeschool group how to model on a catwalk. They were supposed to do it over by the library, which is some distance from the playground.
Not enough teenagers showed up, so Modeling Mom ended up bringing a few teenagers back over to the playground. She then decided to show them how to model on the playground bridge, which is long like a catwalk.
This created a problem for me. I don't know if you're familiar with a runway model's "walk," but it's very distinctively slinky and not something I want my 6-year-old daughter to imitate. I'm against the twenty-first century's sexualization of young girls, and allowing a kindergartener to become interested in that kind of activity is a contributing factor, in my opinion. My strategy has been to try to teach her from a very early age that vanity and an excessive desire for attention are not admirable--that they are, in fact, laughable. (My daughter already likes to joke with me on the topic, usually by flipping her non-existent long hair and saying in a high-pitched voice: "Look at me! Look at me! I'm so beautiful! Give me all the attention!")
There were no other girls my daughter's age at the park, though there was one four-year-old and a three-year-old.
Modeling Mom got up on the bridge, thrust her pelvis forward, cocked her head in a sultry fashion, and started walking. It was clear that the point was not just to pretend to be a model, but to walk correctly, i.e. seductively. All the little girls got up on the bridge with the big girls so they could "play," not really aware of what they were doing. When my daughter got in line, I walked over and told her that she could not play that game and she needed to go play elsewhere on the playground. She asked me why. Under pressure, and within earshot of the mom doing the teaching, I said in a calm, neutral voice: "Because it's not an appropriate game for little girls."
Yeah, I probably could've been more tactful, given more time and without a resistant daughter in front of me.
My daughter tried to argue with me that the other little girls were up there (which was true), so at that point I just made her come down and walk away with me without further explanation. It was unfortunate: there were no other groups for her to go play with, so my daughter kept avidly watching the girls do their slinky thing. After a minute, I realized that if I did not want her admiring and imitating this activity of "the big girls," I just had to remove her from the playground. I tried to do so quietly and tactfully.
As I walked away from the playground holding her hand, I heard Modeling Mom stage-whisper to one of the other moms in clear reference to me:
"She said, 'That's totally inappropriate!'"
Modeling Mom not only changed my words, but she said them in a snippy, sharp tone, which was completely different from the tone I had used. She implied to her listener that I had been rude--that I had spoken directly to her and condemned the entire group of teenagers for doing the activity, when, in fact, I had simply told my daughter in a quiet voice that it was not approriate for girls my daughter's age.
I'm not concerned about the effect of her misrepresentation. I don't know any of those women, and anyone who blindly swallows another woman's gossip and uses it as a blanket judgment is not someone I would choose as a friend, anyway.
What bugs me is the more universal question:
How do women grow up thinking that it's morally acceptable to twist other people's words even slightly in order to get people on your side?
I would have no respect for myself if I behaved like that. I consider twisting the words of others to be just the same as lying.
I have to leaven my rant by saying that when women are good and honorable, they are the best creatures God ever made, and I love them. But sometimes, I just have to say Gimme a break!