On Calling Little Girls "Sexy"

Yesterday, I was bothered by a post that I saw on my news feed. It was a picture of a little girl, about 3 years old, in an outfit and posed in a way that on an adult female, would be considered provocative. The pictures were captioned "sexy", and it was posted by the little girl's father. I didn't make much of it, but it bothered me enough to stay on my mind for the rest of the day. Because it was really bugging me, I showed it to Big C when he got home that night and asked if I was such a prude for being weirded out by the picture. He took one look at it and said, "No, that's just wrong."

So I had to sit down and think about it. Why was it bothering me so much?

I guess it was the fact that she didn't have to be dressed that way, but she was. The picture was taken during a school activity where the kids were asked to dress in a particular theme. I saw that while the other kids were dressed in a way that was cute and appropriate to the theme, this little girl's outfit was specifically modified to show more skin than was necessary.

It bothered me because back when I was still teaching, one of the biggest challenges I faced was educating my female students on sexual behavior. At that time, some six or seven years ago, many of them were already engaging in meaningless sexual relationships, treating sex so casually and suffering its effects afterward. I've seen teenage girls, aged 14, 15, or 16, display alarming behavior, acting angry all the time and unmotivated in school. With some probing, I found out later on that it stemmed from incidents where they slept with a guy and were devastated when the guy moved on to his next conquest. I've had girls ask me, distressed and teary-eyed, "what if he only likes me because I have big boobs?" More than once, I've had to dispense advice on safe sex and teenage pregnancy, and each time was one time too much.

Drawing on those experiences, I am always disturbed when I see little girls dressed up in a way that is designed to draw compliments that focus on how sexy they look. I feel that people fail to see how these actions and comments affect the girls later on, when they hit puberty, and being "sexy" (which includes dressing revealingly and acting sexually forward) has more dangerous consequences.

Maybe we have failed to teach our young girls the importance of respecting their bodies, of not putting it on display, of dressing attractively, but modestly. Maybe I'm a prude in this day and age, but I feel that my body is a private thing, only for me and my husband to see. Like many women, I want to look good, but I want to look good in a way that will still require other people, especially other men, to treat me with respect as a woman. I am also very aware of the fact that my sons will be looking at me as an example, as a standard for when they choose their girlfriends, and later on, their wives.

I've heard the argument that telling girls not to dress provocatively is oppressive, and places the responsibility for proper sexual behavior on women, instead of placing it on the men as well. They say that men should respect women regardless of how they are dressed. In some ways, I agree with that line of thinking, but I do feel that it's a bit flawed and utopian. I used to tell my female students that in a perfect world, we would be able to dress however we wanted with no worries. But the thing is, we don't live in a perfect world. In this world, to get respect, you have to show the world that you're deserving of it. That starts with how you package yourself. Isn't that also true?

There seems to be a belief that claiming your sexuality is a sign of female empowerment, or that engaging in sexually forward behavior is modern and enlightened. I say that it shouldn't be that way. For me, female empowerment is rooted in what makes me feel good about myself as a woman. Why does female power have to stem from the fact that now it's more permissible to sleep around just like men do? Why can't women feel empowered because they're smart, or because they help make the world a better place? Shouldn't we work on changing the perception of what empowers women? Doesn't that start with what we teach little girls?

So that places the burden on us as parents. As mother to two boys, my task is to raise men who will respect all girls and women, regardless of what they're wearing or how they're acting. To the best of my parenting abilities, I will raise boys who will see women as more than objects of sexual desire, but as people with individual and intrinsic value. That in itself, in this day and age, is hard enough. The greater burden is on parents with little girls.

To parents of little girls, please, I beg you. Let them stay little girls, even for just a little while longer. Keep them innocent, and help the world see them as innocents. Don't dress them up like little Bratz dolls and raise them to think that being sexy is what they should aspire to be. Raise them to place value on themselves, to regard their bodies as treasures that should only be revealed to a deserving person. Teach them to present themselves properly, but modestly, not gauging beauty based on how much skin they show. Teach them a new way to measure themselves, not based on how attractive they are, or based on how others find them attractive. Teach them to show the world their worth, their intelligence, their kindness, their generosity. Maybe, just maybe, we can raise a generation of TRULY empowered young women.

I do apologize for the long post, but I would like to hear the thoughts of fellow parents on the subject. That's it for now, and happy weekend, all!

On Parenting and Oversharing

<a href="">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Today, I read an article published on Smart Parenting's Facebook page, about things that parents do online to violate their child's privacy. I have to say, I'm more than a little bothered by it, and based on the reactions of many parents on the thread, so are others.

First thing, I'll come right off the bat and say it. I'm one of those annoying parents who loves to post pictures of her kids on her social media pages. I also post little anecdotes about them, the funny things or the sweet things they say, the little accomplishments they have. I do have to say that I am as careful about it as I can possibly be. I avoid posting pictures of them without clothes, or compromising things that I feel would be embarrassing for them later on. I absolutely avoid posting information that could compromise their security. I find the practice of "checking in" especially abhorrent. In addition, my posts can only be viewed by my social media friends, and the friends on my list are people I actually know. It's not 100% secure, but like I said, I'm as careful as I can be. So when I share things about my kids, I don't think I'm violating their privacy. I really AM just sharing, with friends and family, and not with the general public.

While I agree with some points (like posting nude photos of children and sharing too much information), the article came across as a bit much for me. It calls parents out for posting about their kids' small accomplishments, numerous photos of the little moments that make up a child's life and for talking about their kids. While I felt that the article's intention was coming from the right place, the way it was written came across as very scathing and bitter (to me, at least). It felt very angry to me, and I don't know who the author is or where she's coming from or what she was feeling at the time that she wrote it, but I felt that she turned something innocent into something very negative and dark and unhealthy and wrong. I don't like that.

Anyway, this isn't the first time that I had to think about my sharing habits online. I read another article before (I can't find it anymore, but if I do, I'll update this post with the link) which says that people curate the stuff they post to present a skewed version of their life. If I remember it correctly, the basic gist of the article was that people tend to feel bad about what they see in other people's social media updates and feeds. They feel jealous, or envious, and wonder why their life possibly can't be that great?

After I read that article, I had to do some soul-searching, and ask myself. Do I try to present a picture of myself that isn't real? A picture that makes other people feel bad about their lives?

The answer to the first question is no. Do the posts and the pictures show every detail of my life? No, they don't. I don't post about the bad stuff, because those things, I prefer to reflect about on my own, or discuss with my sisters or a close friend.

Does that mean bad stuff doesn't happen to me? No. Of course not. Bad stuff happens to everybody. But I don't like focusing on the bad stuff. I like focusing on the good. Does that mean to say I hate on people who post emotional, heartbroken status messages? No. If I feel they're too negative for me, then I simply unfollow them, or remove them from my feed, so I don't have to deal with the negativity anymore. Everyone has that option. You don't like what I post? Remove me from your feed. I don't really care. As Mommy Jo-An said on the thread in reaction to the article, walang basagan ng trip.

But the great stuff, the good stuff, the stuff that makes me smile? Yeah, I'm a bit trigger happy with that stuff. Because that's the stuff I want to remember. See, to me, my social media page, is more for me than for anybody else. It's really like an online diary, a way for me to keep memories and remember the times when I felt happy or when good things happened to me. I like to think that my social media page as a way to keep track of my life, and when I look back through it, I like that all it will help me remember is the good parts. But you know what, everything on that page is real. It's not posed or contrived. It's things that happened to me. Things that made me smile. Things that made my day brighter. It just so happens that most days, those great things have to do with my two boys.

When I see other parents posting pictures of their kids or stories about their kids antics, it makes me happy for them. For example, just after I read that article, I saw a post by a fellow mommy who posted her daughter's perfect exam scores. Did I feel bad about it? No. I was happy for her. I was happy for her daughter as well. She did great on that test. And if my sons got perfect scores in all their tests, I'd be damn proud and happy too, and I'd probably post it on my social media page.

Seeing these posts also makes me feel connected to these other individuals because we are all going through the same experience. And people may say that a connection through a social networking site isn't a real connection, but hey, who are you to judge?

Parenting is hard enough. If we choose to focus on the crap, then we're screwed. I'd rather look at the parts that make it worth it. The fun memories, the happy smiles, the silly quips, the occasionally funny toddler tantrum, the milestones they reach.

So do I brag about my kids on my social media pages? Maybe I do. I'm proud of my kids. In my mind, they're the two best kids in the world. Like me, every parent feels that way about their kids, so they also post pictures and anecdotes and accomplishments about their kids. That has to be okay. As Mommy Kizzie posted in the Smart Parenting thread, there's already too much judgement on parents going around. Let's not add to it. Let's not turn parental pride into something wrong or bad.

So do I feel bad if what I post online makes other people feel bad? Yes. I feel bad that they feel bad. But I will not apologize for choosing to focus on the great things in my life as opposed to the negative or the bad. I choose an attitude of gratitude. I will not highlight these sad parts or the things that don't go my way just so people wouldn't feel bad about their lives. That's on them, not on me.

I know that not everyone would agree with me, and that's okay. It seems to be a pretty hot button issue for parents, and everyone will have their opinion. We will all just have to agree to disagree. Again, to quote Mommy Jo-An, walang basagan ng trip.

That's all for now!

* Quotes from the mommies in this article are found in the Smart Parenting FB page, under the link for the article.

School Kiddie Party Tips

Happy Monday!

A Team Umizoomi Party!
The "-ber" months are officially here, and with them comes birthday season in our family. September kicks off almost weekly celebrations that stretch until the end of the holiday season. If I'm counting correctly, in our family alone, we have 8 birthday parties coming up before the end of November. We're not even counting the birthday parties that are coming up in school. With all these birthday celebrations, no one is more excited than J, who will be celebrating his 4th birthday in a few weeks. He has already made his requests for his school birthday party. He wants blue balloons, including a blue number "4" balloon, a blue cake, and Team Umizoomi invitations. So far, all I've got are the Team Umizoomi invitations. I'm trying to see what I can do about the rest. I think that so long as I splash a whole lotta blue around, he'll be happy.

But anyway, if you're thinking of throwing your little one a birthday party at school, here are some basics you'll need to take care of.

1. Food. This is pretty basic. The most convenient way is to find a nearby McDonald's or Jollibee near your school and have them come deliver food for your kids' classmates and teachers. They're tailor-made for kiddie parties and you can't go wrong with spaghetti and fried chicken. Last year, for J's birthday, I decided to go with Amber's because like I said, there were a lot of birthdays in October, so for a change, I went with something else other than McDonald's. We had the same food though, fried chicken and spaghetti. But Amber's also has a lot of other choices that would be a hit with kids, a variety of noodles and fried finger food.

This year, I'm trying something new. As early as March, I had already been in touch with Kat, a mommy who makes these adorable bento boxes for kiddie parties. We had originally agreed on a Tomica cars theme, but J is super in love with Team Umizoomi. Thankfully, Kat will be able to work with it. You can check out her FB page here.

2. The cake. Aside from J's and KK's first birthdays, we haven't had one of those pretty fondant cakes. Instead, the boys love the oldies-but-goodies Red Ribbon or Goldilocks cakes. They're budget-friendly, nice to look at and pretty yummy too! Candle-blowing is a pretty big part of birthdays for kids, especially those aged 3 to 6, so the cake is a very important thing to have. For the school party, we sliced up the cake we brought and distributed it to the kids, and left the rest for the teachers to snack on.

3. Giveaways and other stuff, like balloons. While most parents do provide giveaways for the kids, I'm a bit on the fence on that for this year. I think McDonald's and Jollibee have kiddie party packages that include giveaways. Other options are small art kits, or the ever-popular loot bags of candy. Some parents make personalized bags and fill them with treats, and some pick practical items like name stickers or bag tags. I'd like something more unique though, and since Team Umizoomi isn't popular here, I'm still thinking of how I'll be able to integrate it into the giveaways if I do decide to have that.

4. Invitations. Last year, the parents were pretty consistent about giving out invitations before the party, to give the other mommies time to prepare a little something for the celebrant. This year, parties popped up everywhere with no invitation, so in those cases, what I usually do is send in a birthday gift after the party. I say this as a mom of kids who are not the celebrant, I appreciate the advanced notice, so I can find a gift. If not, I'll have to add "buy gift TODAY for (insert birthday celebrant's name)" to my long list of things to do.

5. One last tip. It might be prudent to provide a plastic bag or some sort of container that holds everything that the child might bring home from the party. Trust me on this. This is a lesson learned from painful experience. Imagine simultaneously trying to keep a Happy Meal container from falling apart, holding a cup of orange juice, a cupcake topped with a mound of sticky frosting, a giveaway bag and a balloon on a stick. Is that it? Wait, I'm forgetting something. Oh yeah, my kid!

After several birthday parties a.k.a. juggling acts, I decided to provide covered containers for the cakes and tetrapaks of juice for the drinks. The tetrapaks are easy to stuff into bags, especially if the kids hadn't started drinking from it yet. As for the cake, you don't have to worry about dropping it on the floor, or getting icing on your clothes, your hair and god knows what else. This year, I'm looking into providing huge plastic bags where you can just stuff everything so all the parents or caregivers who will be picking the kids up won't have a hard time carting everything around.

So there you have it! Happy planning, and I hope your child's school party turns out wonderfully!