You know how before you have kids, you’re an expert on kids and parenting and what everyone should or shouldn’t be doing with their kids? Well, in the same vein, I have two boys and so I think I am in the perfect position to discuss what to do with female children. In particular, female children who want to wear bikinis, as Rebecca Schorr’s recent post on Kveller discussed.
Rabbi Schorr explains that one aspect of her “no bikini” rule derives from Judaism’s concept of tznius, or modesty. As I have discussed at length in my posts about why I choose to embrace certain aspects of tznius, when we guard what parts of ourselves we show, we leave a lot to the imagination of others in a safe way and we learn to develop aspects of ourself that are often not encouraged to develop when people are busy looking at our outsides. “The glory of the King’s daughter is inside” is the pasuk (verse) that is often quoted in this context, but it goes for men as well as women. And as a person who spends much of my life as a public person being observed, judged, and picked apart for how I look, I have come more and more to appreciate the healthy sense of protection that tznius provides me.
Tznius is not just about what you wear; it’s about how women and men conduct themselves. Being humble, not screaming at people from your car when they cut you off, holding your tongue when you are unjustly insulted rather than retaliating and cursing, not doing what Miley Cyrus did at the VMAs the other night; these are all aspects of tznius.
So yes: I vote for young girls being protected from learning about emphasizing their bodies with bikinis when they are still sleeping with teddy bears and playing with baby dolls. And I am sure many of you will say I have no clue what I’m talking about and if I had a daughter, I’d see how hard it is to raise them like that in this culture and that I should just shut up and parent my boys and be grateful I don’t have to worry about every billboard, TV commercial, and magazine showing my pre-pubescent daughters what kinds of bodies belong in bikinis.
I hear that. I also know that tznius is not just about bikinis. It’s about self respect, healthy boundaries, and perspective. And that’s something even moms of two boys can get behind.