As the mother of six daughters, Jessica Martin Weber has ample experience raising young girls. Like many mums, she wants her daughters to learn to love their bodies and how she is teaching them body positivity might leave some surprised: there are no rules when it comes to what they wear.
In a recent Facebook post, Jessica shared that not only does she not enforce any standards of modest dress for her children but also the reasoning behind her strong conviction. "Modesty is too subjective and true modesty is about attitude and our heart," she wrote. "To us, enforcing modesty standards is about controlling people and we have found that is counter-productive and undermines our commitment to respecting bodily autonomy."
To prove her point, Jessica included a photo of herself with two of her girls and explained how some might consider their outfits to be inappropriate while others might think they are modest. "We never, ever tell them something isn't OK to wear for modesty reasons," she wrote. "I don't regret this decision as we watch our daughters bloom with confidence and dress for themselves rather than for the gaze of others."
Jessica explained that her children follow the dress code guidelines at school but other than that lets her girls wear what they want. They ask six "practical" questions about their clothing choices, that has nothing to do with modesty:
- Can you participate in the activities you will need to do without worrying about your clothing?
- Is it practical for the weather?
- Will the clothing you wear seem out of place in that setting or will it communicate respect for where you are and who you are with based on the social norms of that setting?
- Are YOU comfortable with the parts of your body that are showing and that others may notice those parts and though we are not responsible for the actions of others, how will you feel if someone says something about that?
- Can you tell me what inspired you to pick that outfit and what you feel it expresses about yourself and communicates to others?
- Are your genitals adequately protected and safe from accidental harm or accidental exposure
Although she grew up with "very restrictive" modesty standards, Jessica shared why she refuses to enforce these rules with her own children. "Focusing on what is or isn't OK for other people to see of our bodies, in my opinion, leads to shame," she wrote. "Shame makes everything more difficult, including when sexual assault or harassment happens because then one wonders if it is because they dressed 'wrong.'"
If Jessica or her husband, Jeremy, have a concern over what one of their kids are wearing, they refer to one of the questions and discuss it with them. "It is a priority to us that we be respectful of them and do not put them in the position of having to defend their choices as to how they dress their bodies," she wrote. "Instead, we may let them know what we observed that led to our concern. We will not overpower their autonomy and will show them the respect they deserve as individuals that does not hinge on what they wear but rather their personhood."
For those who don't understand how this works, 7-year-old Cosette perfectly summed it up: "I wear what I like but I make sure my vulva is covered," she told the Huffington Post.