It began with Des' mom and her grandma (hubby's mom) buying Des very short skirts and high-heeled black boots because they think it's a cool look (for her?!). When I met Des at age six, she had plenty of those outfits. But they made me cringe so badly (I've written before about how I feel about inappropriately dressing children), that I told hubby I would not appear in public with her dressed like that and by the 5th grade it was forbidden because it was inappropriate.
Des, now 12, is obsessed with wearing black. It's not quite the typical "goth" thing, more of a rock-n-roll-slash-biker rebellion dealio, a carry-over from those "cool" outfits, I suppose. (Those boots are still popular with her, but now she only wears them with pants or long skirts; and Des is now too prudish to wear short skirts unless her 80's leggings are underneath them.) But the fact is, Des will do just about anything to wear her black clothes, including picking them out of the dirty laundry pile. If she can't do that, she'll at least wear a black bra under a white t-shirt.
I've repeatedly told Destiny that she cannot wear her black bras under white or other light clothing; it shows thru. Each and every time I get a, "Oh, I didn't know." Which one might be inclined to believe if they weren't the one telling her once a week -- and if the kid weren't extremely weirded-out by anything remotely "risque". But after so many times, it's infuriating.
Now oddities about Des aside, and leaving out the "typical power struggles of the pre-teen in Western culture" conversation, we must first deal with the fact that I am step-mom.
As step-mom, it's only "natural" (and I say this because what we call "natural" and "normal" regarding the role of the step-parent in this culture is mainly out-of-whack because as a society we allow and perpetuate it), that she test me. Many times that I've pointed out Des' visible black bra her father has been present -- but said nothing. What's more, he's been the first to see her, send her off to school, without, apparently, noticing it. So understandably she might think that the lack of comment of disapproval on his part is approval by omission, and I, by comparison, am just noise she can ignore.
I needed to get hubby to support my statements.
Step one was to educate him about how serious this was. Not just giving Des the impression that she could divide and conquer, or ignore what I say, but because I see this "bra thing," like the short skirts and boots, to be a safety issue.
He doesn't get it because he's never had to live like a woman.
The fact is that as much as I wish it otherwise, girls and women are held responsible for the actions of boys and men.
I'm not (only) talking about date rape ("She went on a date with him, didn't she?" "Why else would she let him in her apartment?" "She was dating him for so long... it can't be rape."), or "real rape" ("What was she wearing?" "What was she doing in that parking lot?" "What is her job?") -- and don't even get me started talking about domestic violence!
And I'm not some alarmist prude either, imagining every boy, man-child and man as a sex predator or abuser. I'm just talking about the facts.
Ever since Allie was in middle school, continuing through high school and Des' start of middle school, I've been getting those notices about how girls should and shouldn't dress at school -- specifically stating things such as no visible bra straps protruding from or sliding out beneath the straps of tank tops. Girls with blossoming buds and young women with full breasts are monitored for the "snugness" of their t-shirts.
Because the boys in class could be distracted.
We can't have boys running around distracted! And we certainly can't teach them to control themselves. No,no, no. It would be much better if we taught the females, the tempting sinful devils that they are, to behave in ways which do not elicit problematic male responses.
So, like Muslim women who must pray at the back of the mosque so that their prostrated backsides won't distract men from their God, girls and young women here in the US must mind their place and their dress so that boys and young men will not have to be responsible for their own thoughts and actions.
I certainly don't think a young girl needs to display her thong or otherwise dress like a mature sexualized adult, but I am completely against this notion that females are the ones responsible for male thought and action. It makes me furious!
Knowing that this is the world we live in...
That the girl with the showing bra straps is the one who will be sent home -- not the leering boy.
That should some young man touch her, she will not only be the one abused but she will have to defend herself, her actions & her dress -- and, no matter the outcome, she will be the one with a ruined reputation.
Knowing all this, it would be damn-near criminal of me not to protect her from the fall-out of a visible bra.
It's not right, it's not fair; but it's what happens in our world.
And so Des cannot dress as she likes. She (and anyone else) can hate me for it for the rest of her life. But it will be a safer one.