What Not to Wear: Girls' Edition

This past week saw schools re-open for the 2011-2012 school year. While I was out and about running errands during Ramadan, I could feel the back to school vibe returning...stationary was being stocked in stores, parents were out with kids who were flailing their class supply lists, and TV commercials were increasingly being geared towards back to school clothing and making sure YOUR kids have the latest fashions.

Kindergarten marks the entry into the next thirteen years of children's academic careers, and many parents agree that it's one of the hallmarks of childhood. "The first day of school" is an exciting time, with kids being all dolled up and loaded up with backpacks that are way too big, hairstyles that are way too jelled and hair-sprayed, and girls wearing clothing that is way too...mature.

In one of my recent blogs, I wrote about seeing an eight-year old dressed up like a hoochie mama for Eid. Sadly, this problem is not only seen during Islamic festivities, but among Muslim mothers who insist on dressing their 4.5 and 5 years old daughters like they're on the set for Hannah Montana. There's a stark difference between Kindergarten girls looking CUTE on their first day of school and looking like a teenage idol. Why on earth are mothers sending their daughters to school wearing boleros, excessive jewelry, mini skirts and tights, and carrying purses with MORE goodies inside?! 

OH and did I mention fake fur coats and tall fake leather boots?! Ridiculous. 

So, this is what happens to the girl who dresses like Hannah Montana. She starts to think that there's something extra special about herself, since she's the only one dressing up to this extent in her class. Her mom seems to be investing a lot of time into getting her ready each morning, so that means it's important to always look like this. In class, a lot of other girls want to be friends with her because she looks SOOOOO pretty and has so much "nice stuff". The girl then starts to get an ego trip while seeing her friends follow her around like a flock of lamb. But then oh no....there are TOO MANY girls who want to play with her, so she starts to be selective with whom she wants to play with, and therefore chooses other girls who LOOK the most like her...very trendy and pretty. The other girls feel excluded and start to do things to gain the main girl's attention, such as bringing stickers and jewelry from home and trading it for time with her. Pretty soon, the friendships in this Kindergarten class are based on a spectrum of trendiness, rather than positive traits girl SHOULD be looking for in friends. The trendy girl further gets on an ego trip and bosses other girls around, develops mannerisms which includes flipping her hair and acting like she's somebody, and feeling like she should have what she wants WHEN she wants it. 

Anyone see this as a problem, or is it just me?

There's a difference between mothers dressing their daughters to look CUTE and dressing them to look they want attention. I really don't understand how mothers can be give their Kindergarten children MAKEUP at age four and a half...chap stick is one thing, but sparkly and shiny lip gloss?! And you're darn right that this is an issue that I take straight to heart because the outcomes for these girls as they age into becoming teenagers is not pretty.

So what we can we do about this? If you see a girl dressed up to the nines, I would not be afraid to say something to the mother. And if you don't have the guts to do this, then at least DON'T tell the girl how pretty and amazing she looks, you're only reinforcing a bad thing. On a more global scale, mothers need to be taught HOW to dress their little girls LIKE little girls, and how to determine the message they are sending the world with the way they are dressed. And to be honest, perhaps the mother needs to dig deep to determine WHY she is dressing her daughter the way she is...is it because the mother is making up for her own shortcomings?

Raising girls in this day and age is tough enough as it is, and Islam does not passively make girls any less likely to face issues as they age. Contorted body images and low confidence levels are very common among girls. The only way girls are going to grow up with a good head on their shoulders is to actively learn strategies to deal with whatever is thrown their way.

So let's stop with all the glitz, glam and Ga-Ga like manics, and give girls what they really need. A strong heart, a good head, and the belief that they are UNIQUE based on WHO they are as a person and NOT what they wear.

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