Dad wonders if he was in the wrong for not allowing his tween daughter to wear a pushup bra
Striking the balance between protecting kids and oppressing them is an age-old dilemma for parents. Perhaps this goes double for fathers with daughters, for even the best of intentions to shield their young girls from the darker aspects of adulthood can lean into sexism.
Take this well-meaning dad for example.
In a story posted to Reddit’s “Am I The A**hole?” forum, the father—and police officer—shared that he got the “cold shoulder” from his family after telling his 12-year-old daughter she couldn’t wear a push-up bra.
According to the man’s account, his wife, who “developed fairly young” herself, bought the push-up bra without his knowing. When he found out, he was “furious,” explaining that he had always limited their daughter’s use of tank tops for fear that “some sick person would see her that way.”
Meanwhile, his wife seems to have a completely different stance, having “always been of the mindset that women should not have to conform or hide due to men’s poor behavior.”
And while the father agrees with this in theory, writing, “I get my daughter wants to feel good in her own body, and looking in a way that makes one personally happy goes with that,” he still felt they should be taking some harsh realities into consideration.
This disagreement eventually led to a fight.
“My wife told me I should not police what our child wears that is what breeds resentment, and I also should not be sexualizing our daughter they are just clothes. I called my wife naive if she thinks a pushup bra and a tank top are just clothes with all the creeps running around. I even showed her our sex offender registry, and this is where she flipped and said I am teaching our daughter to live in fear, while she is trying to teach her to feel empowered by her body and choices,” he wrote.
The dad would later give an update that he offered a compromise to “slowly integrate more adult-looking clothing” but that it was ultimately seen as “an aspect of control” and therefore rejected.
Eventually he doubled wound on all his points, declaring that “a 12-year-old does not need a pushup bra to feel cute, I am not telling her to be ashamed, but I am telling her sadly we live in a world where women are still viewed as nothing but slabs of meat to some.”
“We can wish all we want, but in common sense, certain actions and attire bring about more attention, and more attention increases one’s likelihood of getting the attention of a person that may harm,” he concluded.
As far as what other people thought, most sided with the mom and daughter, noting that despite his altruistic goal, the father was sending the wrong message.
“Your wife is trying to raise your daughter to love herself and to dress for her own enjoyment,” one person wrote. “Your wife’s approach is more likely to result in your daughter feeling confident and comfortable in her own skin. Your approach is more likely to teach your daughter that she has to hide herself to avoid getting hurt. It will also teach her that if she does get hurt, it’s her fault for not hiding herself.”
Another honed in on the father’s strict tank top rule, saying, “you’re the one sexualizing your daughter, and teaching her to be ashamed because she possesses a body. Please let your wife handle all this because you SUCK at it.”
Still, not everyone thought he was in the wrong.
One person commented, “You’re worried about her safety. I understand. Mom is trying to make her comfortable in her own skin. No one is trying to hurt her self-esteem. However, 12 is too young for a push up bra. She can get bras that are less geared to kids, however she’s still a kid. She’s only 12. She shouldn’t have to not wear the tank tops she likes, she should be able to wear what she likes, in an age appropriate matter. If you don’t have daughters, you won’t understand. She’s 12. She doesn’t need the pushup bra, but dad you need to stop policing her clothing.”
Another argued that “the whole point of a push up bra is to create fuller boobs and make cleavage. That type of bra is definitely sexualizing the 12 year old. It’s whole point is to make a woman’s boobs more appealing.”
Virtually no aspect of parenting is easy, but navigating tween girls through puberty in a way that actually serves them is particularly challenging.
On the one hand, the sexualization of young girls is an ongoing issue, one that negatively impacts their mental health and self esteem. On the other hand, sexual awareness is something that begins at an early age (as early as infancy, according to the National Center on the Sexual Behaviour of Youth) and young people will continue being curious about their bodies well into puberty, and beyond.
What’s more, teaching young girls that any unconsented sexual attention is due to their choice of clothing is an outdated and misguided form of victim-blaming, as illustrated by the famous “What Were You Wearing” exhibit, which shows the often conservative attire women were wearing when assaulted.
Parents do their best to keep their children safe. And sometimes there’s no easy answer as for how to make that happen, especially if the “safe” route means instilling a sense of shame into young kids. Often the only way to come to more informed decisions is to have difficult conversations, and kudos to the parents willing to have them.
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