Perhaps you\’ve heard by now about the new line of unmentionables for tweens and teens, from the Pink brand by Victoria\’s Secret–if not, think undergarments with phrases like \”Call Me\” and \”I Dare You\” embroidered on them. Justin Bieber (popular among the tween crowd) even performed at the annual Victoria\’s Secret fashion show in November, making it clear that the new \”Bright Young Things\” line is being marketed to a younger demographic than has historically shopped at the king (queen? princess?) of all underwear stores. Check out this statement from the company\’s CFO, as reported by Bloomberg:
“When somebody’s 15- or 16-years-old, what do they want to be?” Stuart Burgdoerfer, chief financial officer of the Columbus, Ohio-based company, said at a conference in Miami last month. “They want to be older, and they want to be cool like the girl in college, and that’s part of the magic of what we do at Pink.”
Emphasis mine, of course.
The only thing sadder than a company intentionally sexualizing young girls for profit is that Victoria\’s Secret knows their stuff. When Burgdoerfer says that teens are looking to be like girls in college (which apparently in this case means being suggestive, titillating and promiscuous), he is speaking the truth. Young women are encouraged to throw innocence and chastity to the wind at increasingly younger ages, sometimes while their parents look the other way, but also sometimes by their parents. The very people given by God to protect them.
In his homily given on the feast day of Saint Joseph, Pope Francis spoke specifically about Joseph\’s role as protector, and went on to say the following:
The vocation of being a “protector\”…means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!
Profoundly beautiful, while driving us to both prayer and action because the call to protect, like most good things worth pursuing, is not easy. Instinctual perhaps, but not automatic. It takes effort, foresight, hope, and faith.
When I first heard about the appalling \”Bright Young Things\” line, I immediately thought about my own six daughters, the oldest of which is nine–not too far off the target age for a product line utilizing Justin Bieber to ratchet up sales. (Regardless what Victoria\’s Secret says, if they\’re bringing Bieber into it, they\’re marketing to girls around the age of ten. Period.) And the thought of any one of my beautiful girls plastering a suggestive slogan across her God-created body–whether she be eleven years old or eighteen years old–sickens me. It is an affront to her dignity, to her womanhood, and to her God. It conveys the message that she is something to be used, when in reality she is a human person–capable of exercising free-will and of giving and receiving authentic love.
And yet my daughters live in a growing-ever-more-coarse culture which tells them that it is precisely through the rejection of a dignified, integrated personhood that freedom and life are found. Want to be a whole, well-rounded, liberated woman? Cast off any and all antiquated notions of sexuality. Don\’t want to be oppressed? Rid your life of virtues like modesty and chastity. Want to show people you\’re in complete control of your womanhood and sexuality? Surrender it to men by wearing pithy and provocative words across your undergarments, while lining the pockets of one of America\’s biggest retail giants.
It is, therefore, tempting to become fearful and distraught over what is happening to our nation\’s youth. No one can deny that it is disturbing. But you know what? I\’m really not afraid. Because we have an opportunity here to be in and not of the world, to give our children a childhood marked by innocence and joy, and to be the light of Christ in a dark and backwards society. It is by God\’s own design that we are living at this particular time in this particular place. And as parents, grandparents, priests, consecrated laypeople, religious, friends, and employees, we can answer that call to protect. We can teach our children what it means to be a man or a woman of God. We can encourage others towards charity. We can uphold the things that are good, and decry the things that are bad.
And, we must.
Do not believe the prescient lie that telling our children the truth about unbridled freedoms (especially those of a sexual nature) will result in negative feelings and shame. Far from it, we must instruct our little ones in how to live and how to be happy, and how to experience peace and joy in this life, and also how to navigate suffering. And none of that is possible without a love for Jesus that will, by its very nature, include obedience. Not perfection mind you, but a life oriented toward following our Lord, that includes the reception of the Sacraments and prayer.
My Facebook feed over this past week–almost solely devoted to the promotion of civil unions as Prop 8 is evaluated by the Supreme Court–more than indicates that it is an interesting and challenging time to be Catholic. And yet I would argue that it is also an exciting and important time to be Catholic because the world is watching, and the world really kind of hates us just like Jesus said it would. Yet we also have what the world needs, and it\’s what we all need: the Good News of Jesus Christ. And we can share that news as we seek to live out our vocations, cultivate holy families, and grow in virtue. We can explain the reason for the hope that we have. We can exude joy in our most simple of daily tasks.
And we can protect.
Because as Pope Francis also pointed out in his homily,
\”Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.\”
That, my friends, is a given. We really ought not be surprised by so much of what we see, and if anything it should further inspire us to action and remind us that our role as parent (whether spiritual parent or physical parent) is critical to the well-being of our children.
And being a good mother or father really is sometimes as simple–and exquisitely beautiful–as being a protector.
© 2013. Brianna Heldt. All Rights Reserved.
Photography: See our Photographers page.