A Timely Message for Parenting

I don’t normally do this, but for this blog I am not writing.  I am just simply copying and pasting an article that I read that needs more views, more publicity, more screentime.  I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t agree.  So when you get to the end of the posting, and you see the disclaimer that it is merely the opinion of the writer, know that it is my opinion as well.  Kudos to LZ Granderson for writing it.

Editor’s note: LZ Granderson writes a weekly column for CNN.com. A senior writer and columnist for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com, he has contributed to ESPN’s “Sports Center,” “Outside the Lines” and “First Take.” He is a 2011 and 2010 nominee and the 2009 winner of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation award for online journalism and a 2010 and 2008 honoree of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association for column writing.

Grand Rapids, Michigan (CNN) — I saw someone at the airport the other day who really caught my eye.

Her beautiful, long blond hair was braided back a la Bo Derek in the movie “10” (or for the younger set, Christina Aguilera during her “Xtina” phase). Her lips were pink and shiny from the gloss, and her earrings dangled playfully from her lobes.

You can tell she had been vacationing somewhere warm, because you could see her deep tan around her midriff thanks to the halter top and the tight sweatpants that rested just a little low on her waist. The icing on the cake? The word “Juicy” was written on her backside.

Yeah, that 8-year-old girl was something to see all right. … I hope her parents are proud. Their daughter was the sexiest girl in the terminal, and she’s not even in middle school yet.

Abercrombie & Fitch came under fire this spring for introducing the “Ashley,” a push-up bra for girls who normally are too young to have anything to push up. Originally it was marketed for girls as young as 7, but after public outcry, it raised its intended audience to the wise old age of 12. I wonder how do people initiate a conversation in the office about the undeveloped chest of elementary school girls without someone nearby thinking they’re pedophiles?

What kind of PowerPoint presentation was shown to the Abercrombie executives that persuaded them to green light such a product?

That there was a demand to make little girls hot?

I mean, that is the purpose of a push-up bra, right? To enhance sex appeal by lifting up, pushing together and basically showcasing the wearer’s breasts. Now, thanks to AF Kids, girls don’t have to wait until high school to feel self-conscious about their, uhm, girls. They can start almost as soon as they’re potty trained. Maybe this fall the retailer should consider keeping a plastic surgeon on site for free consultations.

We’ve been here with Abercrombie before — if you recall, about 10 years ago they sold thongs for 10-year-olds — but they’re hardly alone in pitching inappropriate clothing to young girls. Four years ago the popular “Bratz” franchise introduced padded bras called “bralettes” for girls as young as six. That was also around the time the good folks at Wal-Mart rolled out a pair of pink panties in its junior department with the phrase “Who Needs Credit Cards” printed on the front.

I guess I’ve been out-of-the-loop and didn’t realize there’s been an ongoing stampede of 10-year-old girls driving to the mall with their tiny fists full of cash demanding sexier apparel.

What’s that you say? Ten-year-olds can’t drive? They don’t have money, either? Well, how else are they getting ahold of these push-up bras and whore-friendly panties?

Their parents?

Noooo, couldn’t be.

What adult who wants a daughter to grow up with high self-esteem would even consider purchasing such items? What parent is looking at their sweet, little girl thinking, “She would be perfect if she just had a little bit more up top.”

And then I remember the little girl at the airport. And the girls we’ve all seen at the mall. And the kiddie beauty pageants.

And then I realize as creepy as it is to think a store like Abercrombie is offering something like the “Ashley”, the fact remains that sex only sells because people are buying it. No successful retailer would consider introducing an item like a padded bikini top for kindergartners if they didn’t think people would buy it.

If they didn’t think parents would buy it, which raises the question: What in the hell is wrong with us?

It’s easy to blast companies for introducing the sexy wear, but our ire really should be directed at the parents who think low rise jeans for a second grader is cute. They are the ones who are spending the money to fuel this budding trend. They are the ones who are suppose to decide what’s appropriate for their young children to wear, not executives looking to brew up controversy or turn a profit.

I get it, Rihanna’s really popular. But that’s a pretty weak reason for someone to dress their little girl like her.

I don’t care how popular Lil’ Wayne is, my son knows I would break both of his legs long before I would allow him to walk out of the house with his pants falling off his butt. Such a stance doesn’t always makes me popular — and the house does get tense from time to time — but I’m his father, not his friend.

Friends bow to peer pressure. Parents say, “No, and that’s the end of it.”

The way I see it, my son can go to therapy later if my strict rules have scarred him. But I have peace knowing he’ll be able to afford therapy as an adult because I didn’t allow him to wear or do whatever he wanted as a kid.

Maybe I’m a Tiger Dad.

Maybe I should mind my own business.

Or maybe I’m just a concerned parent worried about little girls like the one I saw at the airport.

In 2007, the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls issued a report linking early sexualization with three of the most common mental-health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression. There’s nothing inherently wrong with parents wanting to appease their daughters by buying them the latest fashions. But is getting cool points today worth the harm dressing little girls like prostitutes could cause tomorrow?

A line needs to be drawn, but not by Abercrombie. Not by Britney Spears. And not by these little girls who don’t know better and desperately need their parents to be parents and not 40-year-old BFFs.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.


Honorable Mention for Upholding the Code

Marriott Center at Brigham Young University.

Image via Wikipedia

I know that I am about a week late in jumping on this particular bandwagon, but I have been thinking a lot about what I would say in this particular blog and finally had some time to write it.

Last week news broke about Brandon Davies, a basketball player at BYU, being suspended from the team for having premarital sex. Many people around the country reacted with comments questioning why having premarital sex is so newsworthy among college athletes, and why the player would be suspended for it. Those people don’t understand BYU. Well, without writing a book about BYU and Mormons, let me give a quick summary (I promise it won’t be long…it goes with what I want this blog to be about anyway). After all, I am an alumnus of BYU and I am a Mormon. I think I know what I am talking about.

BYU is a private university. Any school that is private, and those that are public (if they want to), are allowed to create rules that students must live by. BYU has such rules. They are referred to as the Honor Code. What is the difference between the Honor Code and what you might see at other universities? Other universities have codes of conduct that generally relate to public behavior and upholding the law. BYU’s Honor Code is based in religious beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Mormons) which happens to own the school.

The Honor Code really is a lifestyle that is lived more than rules to be followed. No premarital sex. No coffee, tea, tobacco, drugs, alcohol. No foul language. All of these things that are a part of the church’s doctrine. On top of that, add certain dress and grooming standards and regular church attendance. Most readers by now are thinking that BYU is too extreme and there is no way that you would go there. Right?!

BYU is actually a highly respected school and there are tens of thousands of applicants that are turned away each year. With an enrollment of about 34,000 students, and about a 25% chance of an applicant being accepted, there are plenty of people that are fine with the Honor Code. In fact, it is part of the application and the applicant has to sign in agreement to live according to the code. They know what they are getting into when they apply. Yet many thousands of people still apply. Some of them aren’t Mormon either.

So why do people continue to apply as potential students at the university? For many it is because they want to go to a school that will give them an environment that coincides with their religious beliefs. For others it is because of the academic standards and national rankings within many of the academic programs. For others it is because their parents went there. And then there are the people that just want to go to BYU. It is where they want to study. It is where they want to compete on the sports teams. It is where they want to meet their future spouse. So many reasons. But they do exist and every single student agreed to live the rules.

So here we have Brandon Davies breaking one of the rules, confessing to it, and being suspended from the basketball team. His status as a student has yet to be determined but for now there is no more basketball. It couldn’t have happened at a worse time. At the end of the season as Mountain West Conference and NCAA national tournaments are starting. And the number three scorer and top rebounder on the team can no longer participate, putting the potential achievement in major jeopardy. The fallout comments from around the country were interesting to say the least. Many comments I appreciated. Others I ignored.

Some of the comments that I most appreciated came from the sports media. ESPN probably reported the most on the situation, which is understandable since they are constantly reporting on Davies teammate, Jimmer Fredette. From the panelists on Around the Horn (Toni Reali, Woody Paige, Bill Plaschke, Tim Cowlishaw, and Jackie MacMullan) to Jim Rome, to 1st and 10 panelists Skip Bayless, all gave pretty favorable remarks about BYU standing by their rules and jeopardizing the basketball post-season rather than letting sports take higher priority to the honor code. They could have all been really critical of the decision, and though they didn’t think post-season success was assured due to the suspension, they applauded the action.

What would sports be like if more universities did the same? Since the Davies story broke, Sports Illustrated has written an article about the high amounts of criminal activity with college and pro athletes and the lack of punishment that they have to face due to the institutions desire to win. Even today we learn that Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressel could possibly lose his job because he knew about criminal activity amongst some of his players, even months before it became public knowledge, and didn’t do anything about it because of the ill-effects it would have on the team’s season.

Some people think that having a BYU style honor code is too restrictive. As a student I felt the same way…about some of the restrictions. For example, I hate shaving. I once showed up at the testing center to take a test and had 2 days worth of facial growth. I was turned away and told to go shave before I could take the test. A rule is a rule. I complied. When I pierced my ear, I was in clear violation of the dress and grooming standards and was told to remove the earring or I would be referred to the Honor Code Office. I stopped wearing it on campus or any other time I was representing the university. I knew before I was talked to that I was in violation. Looking back, I am glad that they enforced the rules with even the smallest of infractions.

And that is what they did in this case. Brandon Davies is not above the Honor Code at BYU. He knows that. He made a bad decision and has accepted the consequences. He could have not confessed until all the tournaments were over and helped BYU achieve the most successful season in the school’s history. Head coach Dave Rose could have kept quiet until the season was over. Even the administration could have looked at it lightly and suspended him for one game or even not at all. Heck, many other universities do it. But they didn’t.

Just a year ago the same thing happened with a member of the BYU football team. Harvey Unga committed the same infraction. He was suspended for a year from the team and school. He missed his senior year and the team did not perform as well as it could have. If you go back over the last few years, you will find examples of other athletes that committed the same infraction, took their suspension, and came back to the team. They could have turned their backs on the team and school and transferred. Instead, they returned because that is where they wanted to be. I think Brandon Davies will do the same thing.

So what effect does it have on the rest of us? Do we learn a lesson of honor and integrity? Do we look at it as an opportunity to make fun of an institution and the religion that runs it? Do we learn that certain things are more important than others and hopefully we can recognize the difference? How about learning that if we make a commitment, we stick with the commitment?

If I were to return to BYU as a student today, I know that I wouldn’t try to challenge some of the rules I challenged as an undergrad student. I am older, and more mature (hopefully), but I also see that not only is the university going to defend their rules and their own integrity, I need to defend mine by keeping commitments I make and honoring the signature I put on the application. And you don’t have to be a student at BYU to learn how important honor and integrity are.

Hats off to BYU for upholding their end, to Brandon Davies for willingly confessing and accepting his punishment, and to all those in the world that – no matter how much they DON’T want to live according to the BYU honor code – are willing to defend the university for not turning a blind eye to an unfortunate and untimely situation. The rest of you have some things to learn about the important things in life.

Just another view from a Palmtree.