Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

May 12, 2009

What About the Little Ones?

I recently attended a dance recital for my boyfriend's 8 year-old niece. She was fabulously cute in her pretty pink and white ballerina outfit. However, the recital included the whole dance studio, ranging from little 5 year-olds to high school age girls. My boyfriend and I were outraged because in almost every single dance piece, young girls ages 10 to 16 were coming out scantily clad in fishnets, knee-high dance boots, and mid-drift tops (or slashed up leotards) and dancing to dirty rap music or trashy Britney Spears songs (yes, the trashy ones). I mean, just imagine your 10 year-old daughter in a ripped-up leotard that barely covers her chest, and exposes all the rest of her body except her intimate parts, dancing like a stripper complete with straddles and other seductive 'dance' moves, and you'll get the idea of what we witnessed.

Anyway, we were the only people who were outraged. Even the grandparents of the children teased us for being prudes and said, 'Well, that's just how they do things here.' My boyfriend promptly replied that he deals with cases putting men in jail for looking at pictures of girls dressed like that. We just could not believe that parents could allow their daughters to participate in this with a clear conscience. We vowed to each other never to let our future children to participate in a dance troupe like that.

Is it wrong to want your children to remain innocent in a world so inundated with sexuality? Why were my boyfriend and I (two twenty-somethings) the only people in an entire auditorium who found the recital offensive, not just to us, but to those girls?? Why would we want to over-sexualize our children, instead of nurturing them in love?

About the same time, I discovered that there were others out there who are outraged at stuff like this recital. I heard about the work of a beautiful mother named Marybeth Hicks. Marybeth Hicks writes about raising children in today's society. Her book, Bringing Up Geeks is acclaimed for its advice on how to bring up children as Genuine, Enthusiastic, Empowered Kids (hence *GEEKS*). She writes on how to combat what she calls the 'culture of cool,' or the media-saturated, hyper-sexualized culture we find ourselves in. And parents accept that culture. I call it the 'they're-gonna-do-it-anyway-so-as-long-as-they-do-it-under-my-supervision-it's-okay' attitude. I knew those parents, and they weren't mine, that's for sure. But everyone wanted to go to those kids' houses, because they had 'cool' parents who let them get drunk at their house.

Hicks seeks to promote 'innocence over exploitation.' What she emphasizes in her books is that she is not trying to raise prudes who really cannot handle the culture. It's important for kids to engage the world and the culture, but not to have to lose their innocence either. That's pretty hard to do, and something I want for my future children. I will definitely read what Hicks suggests when the time comes for me!! Here's an excerpt from the book, part of a longer one linked here.
Ever since Glenn Close boiled a bunny over her love for Michael Douglas in Fatal Attraction, I don’t go to scary movies with suspenseful soundtracks. It’s not that I stand on moral high ground. It’s that I stand in the lobby, where it’s safe. I don’t like to be made afraid recreationally.

On the other hand, my husband Jim enjoys frightening films so he occasionally goes with a buddy. One such night found Jim and his friend sitting in the theatre watching trailers for upcoming releases while waiting for the evening’s feature presentation to begin. Into the theatre walks the mother of one of our daughter’s classmates. Behind her is a group of 12-year-olds from Betsy’s seventh grade class, giggling excitedly and taking their seats as the theatre dims.

Just what film did my 40-something husband and a row of pre-pubescent middle schoolers enjoy together? Matrix Reloaded, starring Keanu Reeves – rated R. An online review service,, says the movie is “heavy” in blood, gore, frightening and tense scenes, profanity, sex and nudity; and “extreme” in guns and weapons, violence, disrespectful or bad attitudes and scary or tense music.

My husband’s review: Uncomfortable. “I’m watching these graphic scenes, but the whole time it’s really awkward knowing Betsy’s friends are a few rows ahead of me. I felt like the girls should have covered their eyes,” he said. “Since they didn’t, I covered mine instead.”

What possible benefit could there have been in taking those girls to see a movie starring sex, violence, profanity, terror and gore?

Here’s a radical thought: Parents have the power to decide the content to which their children may be exposed through TV shows, movies, music and Internet sites, and these decisions help to either preserve or destroy childhood innocence.

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