for release Friday June 6, 2003
by Melodie Davis
Straight Talk for Women and Girls
I can still hear my high school home economics teacher in Blountstown, Fla. going off in her wonderful southern accent about the clothing we girls wore to school. Blountstown is in northeastern Florida; it might as well be Georgia or Alabama in terms of the deep southern accents there.
Anyway, Mrs. Gaskins was a dear dear woman who took it upon herself to talk straight to the senior girls in her "Family Living" class, where we did archaic things like make scrapbooks planning our "weddings" and practiced diapering real live babies that she had coaxed some na´ve young mother into bringing to class.
She told us the advanced facts of life (the basics of course we had learned much earlier), and added her own opinions: "I jes' feel so sorry for those po' lil ole boys," she would say. "You girls jes' don't know what you do to 'em when you come to school with those short short skirts and cross your legs. It's no won-da they wanna dooo what they dooo." This of course was 1970, and yes, skirts were very short, and I'll confess my skirts were as short as my parents would allow, too (but not as short as some). I had to think of Miz' Gaskins (as we called her) when we ate in our daughter's dining hall at college in early May. It was one of the first warm days of spring, and all I could think of was, "I feel sorry for those poor little old boys." The difference today is that I think young women today are fully aware of what they do, and even flaunt themselves because it turns them on, too.
Now, of course, this is no excuse for rape or forced sexual advances; women (or men) do not ask for rape and it is never wanted. But I do think women have some responsibility to dress appropriately. And I am going to sound like all of my 51 years when I say that women can still set some standards regarding what goes on morally. Guys after all do not force women to wear the clothing that they do.
Let's face it: most guys are gonna look at all they are given opportunity to see and most guys are going to go as far as a girl lets them. Yes, men absolutely need to be responsible, too in how far they go, but women have a lot to do with that.
Is that fair? Is that sexist? As the mother of daughters I guess I feel like it is my first line of defense, to try and teach my daughters that they are responsible for setting their own personal standards in dress and intimacy.
What a huge job it is, in our culture today! When young women think nothing of flashing their scanty underwear or bare skin in private and in public, I think this goes beyond the skirts that inched ever shorter that we dared to wear to school. When college girls are described invitingly as "uninhibited" on spring breaks in Cancun and who knows what orgies go on during the June "high school graduation beach week" that so many kids take part in, I think we are at a different place today.
I wonder, how did we get here? Who is to blame? I will trot out all the usual answers: the movies, TV, the fashion gurus, and parents who seem to look the other way.
And of course our hormones themselves-and the tendency for evil forces in the world to drag us down into the muck of society's lowest denominators: money, sex, sin. My father used to say, "We secretly like to do what is wrong." It is sometimes thrilling, intoxicating, fun, and titillating.
But it is also deadly, and I don't think I have to mention the specter of AIDS, STDS, unwanted pregnancy. Wise up, women: it is your body, life and love. Respect yourself and use a little common sense. Maybe someone should write a column speaking to the guys, too, but I'll let that for a male or someone maybe who is the parent of sons. Sometimes, it can be titillating to hold a little back-to not show everything, to save something tender and special for a one and only in marriage.
What do you think? Write to me at: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
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