A recent Instagram post by Clint Edwards (AKA @noideadaddy) is stopping a lot of people in their tracks this week, for highlighting just how toxic the language around girls and their appearance can be.
Edwards, a Babble contributor and the author of I’m Sorry … Love, Your Husband, posted a picture of his wife, Melodie, at work in her classroom where she teaches 4th grade. In it, she’s wearing khaki dress pants and a floral print T-shirt — pretty standard teacher garb, if you ask me. But that’s not really the point.
In his caption, Edwards shares the comment his wife recently received after wearing it, from one of her female 4th-grade students: “How many times are you going to wear that outfit?” the student boldly asked in front of her classmates. “You wore it last year, too.”
Edwards says that his wife largely shrugged off the comment; but there was something about it that he just couldn’t shake. Actually, there we a lot of somethings.
For starters, he was struck by the subtle sexism in the statement.
“As a man, I have never once dealt with comments on how I dress, or how many times I wore an outfit,” Edwards tells Babble. “And I literally wear a polo and jeans every day. I think that’s what ultimately made me want to write this sucker. I mean, what difference does it make what a teacher (or anyone for that matter) wears? And why is this sort of thing beginning at such a young age?”
But then his wife said something that bothered him even more.
“I was obviously more bothered by this than she was,” Edwards continued, “and when I asked her why, she said, ‘Women just say stuff like that,’ as if it was as normal as someone asking for the time. All of this made me feel like my wife, an educator with an educator for a husband, was expected to have vast wardrobe money, even though we had white collar educations, with white collar student loan debt, but were living on blue collar wages.”
As a mom with a toddler-aged daughter myself, I can’t tell you how much I wanted to stand up and applaud Edward’s post when I first read it. Especially when he continues on to call out just how unfair it is that girls are taught — from an incredibly young age — to not only be hyper-aware of how they dress and present themselves, but also of how other girls and women dress, too.
My daughter is barely 2, and already I’ve seen shades of this when I take her out in public. Take the other day, when I took her to the school playground before we picked my two sons up from elementary school. While my little girl waddled around the play area, a fellow mom came up to me and said, “Oh, my gosh, her hair would look so much cuter if you spritz it with some water to set the curls better.”
Comments like that are not uncommon. In fact, there’s a lot of chatter around what my daughter looks like — as well as what I look like as an exhausted, not-always-so-put-together mom. And honestly, I’m pretty sick of it.
Edwards is sick of it, too.
“I have two girls, and I see fashion judgment played out in movies and books,” Edwards shares with Babble. “My [older] daughter is 9 and she came home the other day talking about how she’s ‘fat.’ At 9? Come on; there’s no reason for that. This sort of thing [can] lead to anorexia, suicide, and a number of other tragic consequences that I don’t want for anyone.”
While that may sound a bit extreme, he’s not wrong. According to The Jason Foundation, a national non-profit that tracks suicide rates and offers resources for parents and families, suicide is actually the second-leading cause of death for kids and young adults ages 10-24 — and among the many risk factors are school environment, struggles with fitting in, and bullying.
The point is, we can do better by our kids, and especially our girls, by raising them to be compassionate and outspoken against hurtful double standards that tell them to be pretty or cool in ways that simply don’t matter.
Edwards ends his post with this final mic drop:
“I don’t know how many times my wife wore that outfit, and I don’t care, because that isn’t the point. And if you are reading this, and you think otherwise, you are part of the problem, and it’s time for you to spend more time giving back, and less time judging how people dress. Because garbage like this obviously begins young, younger than I ever imagined, but it can end now, with adults focusing on what really matters.”
It certainly can. So thank goodness for parents like Edwards, who are willing to be loud in public about matters of equality. I think we could all learn a lesson or two from looking at our world through a similar lens.