Suzanne Fields is a syndicated columnist who writes about culture and politics. Recently, she addressed modesty, our sex-saturated culture and its effect on children and teens.
"Adult fashion trends affect the way little girls see themselves," she wrote. Raise your hand if you're the parent of an elementary-age girl and you have trouble finding modest, non-sexy clothing for your child. Me, too. Moreover, girls are encouraged to say, with a dose of sass, "Don't tell us what we can wear. Tell the boys to stop staring."
Frankly, I intend to do both. I'll tell my daughter what she may and may not wear. And I'll tell my fifteen-year-old son not to stare at young women.
I agreed with Fields right up to the end of her article. She encouraged "a little feminine modesty to engender male restraint." I'm a writer, and something about that phrase bothered me. One little word stuck in my craw.
Engender means to produce, to give rise to. Fields implied that feminine modesty produces male restraint. And that males cannot restrain themselves if women are immodest. Both statements are false. Many modestly dressed women have been raped. And men are not knuckle-dragging Neanderthals at the mercy of testosterone.
Now, as the mother of a teenage boy, I do have a request for teen girls. Please don't dress immodestly and make his struggle more difficult than it has to be. For that matter, girls, respect yourselves enough to dress modestly. But it's not up to the girls to create restraint in my son. It's his responsibility to restrain himself.
This wording matters. It's an important distinction because without it we start down a road that can end with the question, "What did you do to get yourself raped?"
How do we avoid that road? Remember this.
1. Words matter.
2. So does modesty.
3. So does restraint.
Oh, and one more for my kids. As far as words go, I will keep proofreading so that you can write better papers. Roll your eyes all you want, but I will be picky. Fewer comma splices in the world: a noble goal.