Friday, July 17, 2015

An Open Letter to Young Women and Teen Girls Regarding Body Image

I'm going to be up front with you here.  This is a series of letters of honest observation of the world around me, whether that be social media, mainstream media, big-stream stores, or the high school across the street from me.  It is not meant to condemn or offend, but perhaps open an honest conversation about the lack of modesty and what influences our view of what a woman should look like.

The other letters in this series:

An Open Letter to Mothers Regarding Body Image
An Open Letter to Men Regarding Women's Body Image

To Teenage Girls or Young Women:

I see a lot of you most days of the year.  We live directly across the street from a high school.  Not only that, it's only been about 12  years since I've been a teenager.  Now, bear with me.  I know that kind of makes me sound old, but I'm still too young to be your mother.  What do I see when I look at most teenage girls?  I see girls who are struggling with body image and modesty as a result of the pressures of the society that surrounds them.

When I was 14, I bought a skirt with my birthday money.  It was an awesome, mid-thigh length black skirt with a slit.  It made me look great, and even I thought so, despite being overly self conscious.  I brought it home to my parents and tried it on for them.  My mom shook her head in disapproval.  My dad agreed.  I [probably] stormed back to my room, upset.  But, they were on to something.  I wasn't an underdeveloped little girl anymore.  I had developed into a woman a couple years before and was still getting used to dressing myself modestly to not overly expose...things.  My grandma let the skirt down an inch, and sewed the slit up a bit, and I was allowed to wear it.

Was it worth the fight?  Was it worth my parents putting their foot down and not letting me wear the skirt without alteration?  Absolutely.  And I learned that very soon.  Everyday I would walk home from school and had to pass by a bunch of bee keepers to get to my neighborhood.  It was at that point, while wearing that altered skirt, that these 25-40-something-year-old men would whistle and yell out sexual comments to me for the first time and then every time I passed thereafter.  I would get nervous and walk fast, but nothing really helped.

It was in the skirt that a boy in my 9th grade health science class told me I looked "so sophisticated and sexy." He was the same boy that attempted to feel-me up in front of my teacher in 12th grade.  He did so successfully, and when I shoved him off me, I got scolded by the teacher who favored him. Oh!  The joys of public school!

Yes.  My parents were onto something.  It may have not been that skirt that sent that teenage boy into a 4-year fantasy about me, but it certainly helped him get there.  I remember my dad telling me that he was once a teenage boy and he knew how they think.  He was protecting me---as best he could.  

So, to those girls wearing those short skirts, cut off shorts, crop tops, low cut shirts, and other clothing items that show your "assets," please know that not only teenage boys but 25-40-something men may be looking at you.  Perhaps undressing you with their eyes.  Please know that you don't have to show your assets for men, or let's be more honest, boys, to be attracted to you.  You don't have to look like that Victoria Secret model or even Ariana Grande to attract anyone.  YOU DON'T HAVE TO!  Anyone who truly is attracted to ALL OF YOU would not require you to dress with your bum hanging out your shorts.

"You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body."
1 Corinthians 6:19-20

You are worth so much more than just your bodies.  There is worth in your entire being.  God created you to have a body and soul.  You only have one body and one soul.  He made you unique.  You are the only one just like you.  Preserve that. You can preserve both your body and soul by not giving into immodesty and sexual lusts.

It may be hard, and somewhat impossible to do that perfectly.   We are broken and in need of a Savior to cover our brokenness and shame. When we see our sin, when we see how vulnerable we are to sin, and our need for a Savior from that sin, we see pricelessness in the Grace of God.  That heart of thankfulness then desires to please God and follow Christ.   This is something that we strive to do everyday.  We will fail, but we strive anyway, knowing that Christ is where our strength lies.  This is why it is important to be modest.  Your body is meant for more than just the sexual attraction of men!  It is so much more than that!

Showing off your chest, your stomach, your legs, or your butt is like advertisement to the wrong kind of men.  If you believe that your body is for a bigger purpose than sexually attracting boys or men, do you really want the first thing a boy to see is your butt hanging out of that bikini?  If you are ok with that, do you really think he can pay attention to any meaningful conversation you are having with him while wearing that bikini?  Let's be honest.  Probably not.


Let's also consider where a lot of boys and men unfortunately get their influence of what women should look like.  Porn.  And if not porn, soft porn.  Or perhaps those Victoria Secret catalogs that come in the mail for their moms.  Or the way J. Lo looks on stage.  Or all those photos of women with the breast enhancements on Instagram.  They are hard to miss!  It is so easy to access.  It could get into boys' hands at a very young age.

I know boys who became men, tried to hold down a marriage, and couldn't because of their early exposure to Pornography.  Yes, girls, it's THAT BAD.  It shapes the illegal Sex Trafficking industry in not only foreign countries but our own country.  Girls are held captive, bought, sold, and abused because these men view woman as objects, not people with souls.

Now, I'm not saying all men are like this, but I will go to say most men have struggled with a few too many clicks of the mouse in the direction of porn.  Believe me, you would much rather have a man who perhaps has struggled with porn, hates it for what it is, and fights against it, than one who is shaped by it and has completely given into it (Source: Wiley Online Library).  You are more likely to attract the later if you are dressed in a way that exposes too much.

With all that said.  Please, check yourself.  Why are you wearing the shirt with the arm holes so large that it shows your entire lace bra?  Why are you wearing shorts so short that your cheeks show? Is it because you respect your body?  Or is it because that is what you feel is normal...what is expected of you?

 Society's view of how you should look can start to shape your view of yourself and your body. If that is what you feel is normal, break the mold.  It may be hard to walk into a  store and find longer shorts, but let me tell you, it's possible.  I do it.  There are plenty of other women who do it.  And, perhaps if more young women stop buying the short, booty-exposing shorts, companies may get the hint and stop making as many.

Don't expect boys to respect your body if you don't.  Respect your body and you may just attract those who respect you for who you really are.


A Girl Who Became A Woman

Check back on Monday for the last letter in this series, a letter to Men regarding the body image of women!

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