Brad Warthen posted a photo of the controversial Time Magazine cover over at his blog. I won’t here, though I suppose you’ve seen it. I’ll describe it in a minute.
Time poses as a respectable newsweekly, and so it’s supposed to be reporting about real issues. The topic at hand is delayed weaning, and we are supposed to be upset that a three-year-old might still be nursing. Difficult to get upset about that, unless you can somehow stage it as a sexual issue. Keep in mind that typically a three-year-old still needs help with bathing, toileting, and often may need diapers changed. Can a child be sexually abused as part of all that? Sure. Would there be any reason to suspect a dysfunctional or abusive relationship merely because a parent looked after a child’s hygiene? No.
I’m going to describe the photo, and what’s noteworthy is that there is nothing unusual about this. I can be pretty sure that if I draw the right readership, I’ll be told I’m an uptight prude for calling the mom’s outfit immodest. These are the clothes young women wear to serve in ministry at church, for example. It’s all so normal.
Mom’s wearing ballet flats — nothing tiltating there. Which also make her as short at possible. Important in a minute.
Mom’s wearing tight jeans — technically, these are tights. Wonder of spandex, we can now have “pants” that fit like something which, a decade ago, went under a skirt to keep your legs warm in winter.
Mom’s wearing a camisole. Remember camisoles? They used to go under your clothes.
And that’s it.
We, as a culture, think this is normal. Girls dress this way at church. Well you know what? It’s not normal. It’s underwear. And when you pose someone in her underwear on the cover of a magazine . . . it’s that type of magazine.
Now I know your daughter who dresses this way is sweet and pure and innocent, because I’ve met her or a girl just like her, and in addition she’s delightful, polite, intelligent, and devoted to her faith. I don’t question her motives. She’s just wearing what they sell. But still. She’s walking around in her underwear. And doesn’t know it, because everyone else is too. The empress has no outerwear.
So. On the cover of Time, we have a woman in her underwear. A young, beautiful woman. Her eyes and her posture say, “I dare you.” Or, perhaps, “Come and get it.” We’ll go with “I dare you.”
Now for her boy:
He’s three, but he’s a little taller than a typical three year-old.
He’s dressed like a little GI – camo pants, grey knit shirt, running shoes. Grown-up hair cut.
He’s standing on a chair, which though you know doesn’t make him taller, really, your eyes see that head way up by her shoulder, and your brain thinks “twelve years old.”
The clothing, the relative heights — this preschooler has been done up to look like a pre-teen boy. In an age when grown men do their best to look like pre-teen boys.
Recap: A woman in her underwear, with a child made up to look like a grown-up, doing what grown-up men do in their bedroom with their wives during intercourse. That’s child porn.
It’s not about breastfeeding.
Allow me to hurt your brain a little more. Make that boy pose like a GI caught with his pants down. Have mom kneel down, same outfit, same “I dare-you-eyes” as she reaches up with a baby-wipe to clean that bottom . . . child porn.
It’s not about breastfeeding.
It’s about the fact that our culture is sex-obsessed.
It’s about the fact that if you even mention modesty, you must be some kind of Victorian prude (I’m not so impressed with the Victorians, but apparently some people are). Even among Catholics, the hot thing is to declare modesty is context-dependent, and more about a state of mind, and anyway here’s a picture of someone, somewhere, dressing this way fifty years ago, so that makes it modest. Also, look at this piece of classic art. We all know artists were protected from impurity until 1957. And then it degenerates into the Burka argument, since neither Nazis nor pedophile priests can be brought into the discussion so easily.
Our culture hears the word “breast” and thinks “sex”, since sex is what everything is about, all the time. We worry about three-year-olds nursing, because we know that by five the girls will be dressed like little prostitutes — surely that boy must be getting warmed up for his kindergarten girlfriend.
I edited out the last paragraph because the SuperHusband said it exceeded even the bounds of Rant-o-Rama. For those who feel shortchanged, I point you to this excellent, charitable, and informative post on modesty over at Aggie Catholics. Where they are kind, and hip, and not at all ranty like your cranky hostess here.