Q: “My almost 10-year-old girl is a fan of Britney Spears. What’s an affirmative and empowering response I can give when she rolls up her shirt to expose her navel, throws back her long locks, and slithers in front of the mirror Britney-style? I want her to enjoy her body and celebrate its beauty, but not on pop music’s terms.”
J.F., Boston, Massachusetts
Wow, did J.F.’s dilemma hit home for me! Several years ago when the Spice Girls were trying to sell their Girl Power message with all their over-sexed dances and outfits, I was appalled. And when my daughters, now 10 and 15, began to sing out those questionable lyrics, expose their bellies, and gyrate around the house, I felt trapped and tongue tied. I knew that the more I said I disliked the Spice Girls, the more they would want to emulate them. So I decided to let them enjoy the music and act out their little girl fantasies only in the privacy of our home or a friend’s home. They were not allowed to dress inappropriately or wear outlandish make-up anywhere in public. I would say things like it was a shame that beautiful young women like the Spice Girls (and now Britney) had to dress in such a risqué manner, and that it made them look like tramps (I gave each girl an age-appropriate definition of tramp). Real Girl Power comes from within, I told them.
Then I let them know what kinds of beauty and strength I saw in each of them. I also admitted that the singers’ voices were pretty, and I even enjoyed some of their songs, but did not care for some of the lyrics, and why. Then I let them sing and dance to their hearts’ content. I see nothing wrong with letting them pretend they are sexy superstars in the safety and comfort of their own homes, with the guidance and love we have to offer. My 15-year-old now says that she understands why I didn’t like the Spice Girls, and is quite vocal about her dislike of Britney’s manner of dress. My younger daughter still listens to Britney and even occasionally emulates her while with her friends, but doesn’t seem overly interested. Listen to your daughter’s dreams, aspirations, and friendships, and the Britney phase will pass just like the Barbie phase did. Trust her, guide her, and love her like you always have.
L.H., Belleville, Illinois
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