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Monday, May 20, 2013

For Our Granddaughters: This Is Our Dream

 “I have a dream that... children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

I, too, have a dream, especially for our young daughters and granddaughters. It is not about the color of their skins but how we judge the attractiveness of their bodies.

My dream is that all children and teens could grow up in a world in which they will be valued solely for how they take care of themselves and care about others, and for their own worthwhile efforts and accomplishments.

In contrast, our daughters and grandchildren are exposed to a barrage of media images of air brushed and artificially endowed female models intended to define what it means to be beautiful and popular--for the purpose of making them feel inadequate if they don't buy certain products to help them achieve these goals. They are a part of a world in which someone like Mike Jeffries, CEO of the popular clothing manufacturing firm Abercrombie & Fitch, in explaining why they market clothes only in more petite sizes, openly states, “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids... Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”

I’m OK with the “great attitude and a lot of friends” part, but Mr. Jeffries' own attitude is just plain wrong at so many levels. Not even one child should ever be seen as anything but beautiful in their own unique way. No one of any age or body type should be made to feel that unless they fit certain arbitrary, superficial and nearly impossible criteria, they will always be seen as second class--no matter how decent, hardworking, kind and generous they are.

Sadly, our young are growing up in a world in which a very profitable company like Victoria’s Secret is targeting ever younger women through its recent PINK campaign, using the slogan “Bright Young Things.” Their spring line includes underwear with words and phrases like “dare you,” “feeling lucky” and “call me” on the front and back, and while the company claims they are appealing primarily to college age girls, Stuart Burgdoerfer, CFO of Limited Brands, which owns Victoria’s Secret, recently said of teen girls, “They want to be older, and they want to be cool like the girl in college, and that’s part of the magic of what we do at Pink.” 

I’m glad to hear that lots of women and mothers are speaking out in protest, according to a recent ABC News report, and recent campaigns by the women of Sojourner’s magazine of Washington, DC, and others have added to efforts that have resulted in things like a “Dear Victoria’s Secret: Pull ‘Bright Young Things’” Facebook page and a Change.org petition penned by a mother of three in Washington that has more than 1,000 supporters.

In addition, Evan Dolive, a Texas father of a 3-year-old daughter, has written an open letter to VS that has gone viral. He states, “I don’t want my daughter to ever think that her self-worth and acceptance by others is based on the choice of her undergarments... I want my daughter (and every girl) to be faced with tough decisions in her formative years of adolescence ...like should I be a doctor or a lawyer? Should I take calculus as a junior or a senior? Do I want to go to Texas A&M or University of Texas or some Ivy League school? Should I raise awareness for slave trafficking or lack of water in developing nations? There are many, many more questions that all young women should be asking themselves…not will a boy (or girl) like me if I wear a ‘call me’ thong?”

One woman, defending the brand, wrote on the Facebook page, “OK, honestly who cares if they (VS) are wanting to reach out to a younger crowd? Isn’t that the point of business, to expand their fields and make money?"

That's a big part of the problem, isn't it, that its all about making money, but the point of our business as parents is to pray that families, communities, schools and congregations everywhere will speak out for values that do really matter to girls, like respect, safety, opportunity and decency. Only these can help stem the epidemic of eating disorders, depression, low self-esteem and sexual assaults that increasingly threaten our young. 
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