I am soooo glad people like Miley do what they do, because they provide continuous opportunities for parents to talk to and listen to their children. Don’t fret and don’t judge, just listen, watch, and educate.
Research shows that girls who watch TV shows and movies with their moms and discuss what they are seeing receive much needed protection from the unhealthy messages being portrayed. Ask questions like: “Why do you think Miley would dress and act that way?” “What is she trying to communicate or ‘sell’ to viewers?” “How might it affect her reputation?” “Do you know anyone at school who acts provocatively, and how does it affect her?”
Allow your daughters to think for themselves, learn to become media and image savvy, and process through what are complicated issues over time. And it’s okay to add your wisdom in there too.
Why is this so important? Let me share with you a drawing from a mother-middle school daughter retreat I facilitated a week ago. I asked the girls to draw the ideal woman at 25-30 years of age: what does she look like; what is she doing; what kind of person is she? I’ve done this excercise many times, and the results are pretty identical. The moms are in another room making their own picture of the ideal daughter at age 25.
As you can see from the picture, girls spend most of their time focused on the woman’s appearance. Notice the word perfect keeps showing up: perfect teeth, boobs, hair, nails, skin and other features. She got a full scholarship to an ivy league college, and she’s beautiful and popular without trying. This version has her weighing in at 5′ 7” and between 100-130 pounds, which incredibly is the most reasonable measurements I’ve seen yet. Usually the woman is around 5’10” and 100-115 pounds. And, she even teaches zumba classes on weekends!
These girls are just showing us the unhealthy conditioning they have already absorbed from the culture. Think how much pressure they face every day trying to measure up to this unrealistic, impossible standard. And they are screaming out, loud and clear, for guidance and perspective.
So thank you Miley and other media icons for giving parents more chances to open up dialogue about what is important. If you don’t educate your daughters about topics like beauty, integrity, and sexuality, the culture, advertisers, and media will.