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February 18, 2010

A modesty proposal

Filed under: Celebrities,issues,pop culture — posted by Breakup Girl @ 7:37 am

Turned out that 9-year-old Noah Cyrus, sister of Miley, is not launching her own lingerie line (SHOCK Perez Hilton got the story wrong SHOCK). But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to hell in a skimpy, midriff-baring handbasket.

The real shonda, as Tablet Magazine’s (and FOBG) Marjorie Ingall points out, is that the Cyrus story, after all, was credible. (“This didn’t seem shocking, since Noah was photographed on Halloween at a children’s AIDS fundraiser in a slinky black dominatrix outfit, sexy makeup, and knee-high, high-heeled, black, shiny PVC boots, then seen in the boots again the next day, along with a super-short ruffly polka-dot mini, black sheer stockings, and a black spaghetti-strapped top. A few weeks later she was filmed performing Akon’s ‘Smack That’ (‘Smack that/give me some more/Smack that/Till you get sore’) while smacking her own teeny butt. And then there was that time she played around on the stripper pole.)”

But Ingall isn’t there to Cyrus-shame. Framed in the context of traditional Jewish notions of modesty (“tznius“), though relevant to anyone who has ever been, all, “That tween is wearing what?!”, her question is: How do we teach our daughters, collectively speaking, to not (un)dress like that, to not be pulled in by porn-glam, to enjoy and love and respect their bodies — all without instilling a sense of shame and fear and something to hide? There’s a “shaming,” “hectoring” kind of “modesty,” Ingall observes, that objectifies them just as much as microminis.

Here’s what she suggests:

“Maybe we can all agree that one kind of modesty worth embracing is one that preserves childhood—when children are unashamed of their bodies and think “hot” only refers to the temperature of the bath water—as long as possible. Tznius 2.0 would involve keeping newborns away from spike heels (Heelarious high heels for babies, I’m talking to you!) and toddlers away from Bratz dolls. It wouldn’t stuff little boys into outmoded gender roles by discouraging play with “girly” toys. And nobody would wear a Huggies Thong. /snip/

Ultimately, I think, the pinnacle of this new modesty would involve teaching our kids to value themselves for who they are rather than what they wear, whether that’s a floor-length denim skirt or a micro-mini. Of course, we want our kids to know they’re more than their looks. I’m just not sure how we achieve that. It’s easy to be horrified at the little Noahs…But more nuanced struggles with self-expression aren’t easy for anybody.”

I dare say that this new modesty, to the degree that we can achieve it, would also better prepare our chilluns for dating and the immodest stirrings of young lurrrve. Glib as it may sound, if they truly value themselves — no matter how much of themselves is showing — they’ll only get all goopy over people who truly value them, too. Insofar as young boy/girlfriends are accessories, they’ll choose ones that make them feel good in their own skin.

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