Am I taking crazy pills?
Because either I’m crazy or everyone else is, and we all know how that usually goes. But really, this time I’m pretty sure it’s not me.
Less than a week after I wrote about a little old lady body-shaming my infant daughter, another woman commented on her sexuality. Yes, her sexuality. SHE IS 10 MONTHS OLD.
It had been a long, hot day, and the kids were miraculously still hanging on after an impromptu dinner at the diner when I decided to stop in a cute new baby store in our neighborhood. My daughter was strapped to me in an Ergo, and my 4-year-old son was being his silly self, telling one of the saleswomen some creative, long-winded and adorable story.
At that point, another saleswoman walked up to my daughter and me with a smile. She didn’t ask if I needed help or inquire how old my daughter was or say that her dimples were delicious or any number of things that I had expected. No, instead, this was what came out of her mouth:
“Oh, look at her. So sexy.”
“Um…what?” (Yes, that was my stellar response. No attitude, just shock. Really, say what?)
“With that little strap falling off her shoulder. So sexy!” She said it with a provocative lilt in her voice.
I looked down at my little girl. Just her shoulders and the top of her brightly striped cotton top were visible. I loved this outfit; it reminded me of summer when I was a kid. Of ice cream and perfect summer days on the playground and roller skating. It had thin spaghetti straps tied in perfect little bows on each shoulder, and one of those straps had fallen down over the side of her shoulder.
In a sexy way, I guess…if she were an adult…which she is not.
Is this just part of having a girl? Because you know what? It sucks. Even if this woman was joking, which I’m sure she was, it’s still…icky. And unfortunately, I’m finding that it’s not uncommon.
Is this just part of having a girl? Because you know what? It sucks.
I did not experience this with my son. Sure, people would say that he was handsome and a heartbreaker, and I didn’t have a problem with that. But mostly, people would talk about the fact that he’s built like a football player, that he’s strong, that he’s outgoing, that he’s a force to be reckoned with. He is all of those things, and it’s wonderful.
With my daughter, the discourse is different. It’s all framed with a tinge of worry.
It’s about how my husband must be panicking already for the dating years. It’s about how I’d better keep a close eye on her because she’s so pretty. It’s about how if she has any sort of an opinion (and she’s got lots of them, even at this age), we’re going to be “in trouble” when she’s older. It’s about how much food she eats. It’s about how thin or how chunky her thighs are. It’s about how she will be seen by others. It’s apparently about how she’s “sexy.”
Part of me wants to ignore this nonsense and just stay in my baby bubble with my little girl, but I know that would be a disservice to her. I feel like I need to counteract these unintentionally negative comments that are already being launched her way.
So, from the time she was born, I’ve been careful with how I’ve praised her. I say she’s beautiful and gorgeous, because she is, especially to me. But in the same breath, I add that she’s clever and smart and kind and strong. I do this with my son as well, but it seems more urgent with my daughter.
Why? Because we live in a world where people tell girls how to dress—down to strap width and skirt hem—so that boys aren’t “distracted” in school.
Where we blame rape victims and tell our girls to live in fear instead of teaching our boys not to rape.
Where young girls are seen as Lolitas and vixens, not as the little girls that they actually are.
Where double standards about sexuality are alive and well and literally everywhere.
Where women’s bodies are ogled and discussed like pieces of meat. And where those same bodies aren’t praised for what they can do, but fretted over because they might offend someone’s warped sense of propriety.
Our bodies are constantly being scrutinized and appropriated by everyone else, and in doing that, a piece of us is taken away.
So when a stranger comments on the sexiness of my 10-month-old daughter, it’s gross, yes. But it’s also damaging on a much more fundamental level—to all of us.