"The problem is much more radical—radical meaning a problem of roots. The underlying, root cause of the sexualization of today’s girls is the same underlying, root problem of their mother’s alleged promiscuity and inability to talk to their daughters about appropriate dress and sexual behavior.(Emphasis mine. I had a hard time picking what quotes I wanted to highlight, so I copied a lot, but there's still a lot more good stuff.. Go read the whole thing at the Exponent.)
And since I am Mormon and this is a feminist Mormon forum, I’m focusing on the Mormon aspect of this problem: that our culture of hypermodesty contributes to the sexualization of young girls as much as a culture of absent modesty does.
It’s very easy to fixate on the extreme of young girls and young women getting all dolled up like little prostitutes and then to scream foul at irresponsible parents and the terrible media and the evil feminists, but our own emphasis on the externalities of modesty sends the same message: females are first and foremost sexual beings, meant to attract the sexual interest of men in order to reproduce, which is, after all, the divinely sanctioned role for women (if you believe the contemporary Mormon church, anyway). Both extremes (the extreme cover up and the extreme exposure) reduce girls to their bodies—their sexual bodies and the capacity of those bodies to attract the male gaze and set off a process that ultimately leads to sex and reproduction. The fact that the Mormon version ends up with sex and reproduction within marriage does not change the fact that that is how we define women. And the fact that we think sex and reproduction within marriage is a Good does not change that defining women in such a limited fashion is Not Good.
The Mormon emphasis on external, clothing-oriented modesty is just another form of sexualization. We attempt to negate the sexualization of young girls’ and women’s bodies by covering them up and locking them behind the door called Chastity. But when the female body is taboo because of its inherent sexuality (a sexuality so powerful that a woman literally turns herself into pornography for some men by dressing immodestly, according to that canard advanced by Dallin Oaks), and when women are celebrated almost exclusively because of their potential as breeders and nurturers of children, then we successfully sexualize the female body every bit as much as pushing heels, padded bras, plunging necklines, and miniskirts for pre-teens does. The invisibility of the female body, or of the attributes of the female body that stand for Sex, does not mean we have refused to grant the female body a sexualized status."
I'm not against teaching girls to love and respect their bodies. In fact, PLEASE teach that... Just understand that by telling a woman it is respectful to HIDE her body, or that she is responsible for men's thoughts about her, or that if she wears a tanktop she is "asking for it" does NOT teach love and respect. I learned to hate my body: the teachings on modesty combined with my life experience created a deep hatred for everything about my body. I tried to hide it, shrink it to nothingness, kill it, avoid it, until one day... I just had to do it differently.
I liked Amelia's final proposal:
"I have a radical proposal: the church and Mormon parents should teach girls that they have value without connecting that value to the sexiness of their bodies, their attractiveness to men, their capacity to make babies.
I guarantee that if we prepare our daughters to be successful, well-rounded individuals rather than spending so much effort to prepare them to fill a preconceived concept of “wife and mother,” then we’ll have a sure way to get away from both ends—extreme cover up and extreme exposure—of the sexualization spectrum. When we do so, we will see women and girls as human beings with enormous worth and potential, with wonderful things to offer the world."