Body Shaming or Fab Advice?

Deep in thought this week…. take a read and let me know what YOU think!


This has been going around Facebook:


Muhammad Ali’s advice to his daughters…Powerful!

An incident transpired when Muhammad Ali’s daughters arrived at his home wearing clothes that were quite revealing.
Here is the story as told by one of his daughters:
“When we finally arrived, the chauffeur escorted my younger sister, Laila, and me up to my father’s suite. As usual, he was hiding behind the door waiting to scare us. We exchanged many hugs and kisses as we could possibly give in one day.
My father took a good look at us. Then he sat me down on his lap and said something that I will never forget. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Hana, everything that God made valuable in the world is covered and hard to get to.
Where do you find diamonds? Deep down in the ground, covered and protected.
Where do you find pearls? Deep down at the bottom of the ocean, covered up and protected in a beautiful shell.
Where do you find gold? Way down in the mine, covered over with layers and layers of rock. You’ve got to work hard to get to them.”
He looked at me with serious eyes. “Your body is sacred. You’re far more precious than diamonds and pearls, and you should be covered too.”

From the book: More Than A Hero: Muhammad Ali’s Life Lessons Through His Daughter’s Eyes.




Certainly, on the first impression, it seems like a little good advice – after all, Daddies don’t like their (growing) baby girls out there with revealing clothes, right? And yelling at them to cover up will only push daughters away. So approaching the situation calmly with some carefully chosen and memorable words may result in a better outcome for the family.

But, isnt telling your daughter to ‘cover up’ perpetrating RAPE CULTURE?

Rape culture, for those new to the words (and I’ll admit to only learning this complex subject only recently!) is about images, jokes, media, words, advertising, laws etc that make violence and sexual coercion against women NORMAL and INEVITABLE.

Put simply:


We are surrounded by every day phenomena that validates rape. We spend all our time telling girls not to go out alone at night, not to dress a certain way, how to behave – so that they dont get raped – and this is a part of rape culture (You can read more here and here).

Further, by telling our daughters to cover up, we’re reinforcing a culture where women/girls are ornamental objects/sex objects.

Lastly, it becomes a validation of body shame, and a suppressing of individuality. Modesty and covering up make me uncomfortable.

Where are the lines drawn? We make women feel uncomfortable not just on the beach or the pools, but in every day life because they need to have modesty. How short is too short, and how low is too low?

I was thrilled to read this article from Imperfect Homemaking which articulates much better how I am thinking!

We’re talking about ‘covering up’ as applying to just women – hardly fair! Men dont have to cover up. Which brings us to objectifying women. Well. And finally, we’re letting rape culture in – and that leads to victim blaming (she deserved it, dressed like that).

So do we really want to teach our children that? While Muhammad Ali had some beautifully spoken words, the message he sent to his daughters was that they needed to be covered. 

I feel instead we should be liberating our girls with confidence and pride, so they can stay safe regardless of what they wear.

I feel we should be sending the message to our daughters that they are beautiful, valued, and a blessing, and not because of their bodies but because of their kindness, their smiles, their love.

Let’s leave the modesty and lust and rape lessons for our boys and men. That’s a whole other topic… but I think that is where we should be directing the talk, so that we can change rape culture.






One thought on “Body Shaming or Fab Advice?

  1. I have thought about this topic a lot over the last few years.
    Parenting a daughter especially has made me think of how I speak around her in regards to my body and the bodies of others. Self worth etc.
    (of course its important for parenting sons as well, but having a girl really made me think deeply).

    In regards to the Muhammad Ali’s quote.. I don’t think that is supporting rape culture. This is my personal opinion of course.
    He is trying to teach his girls to have high self worth.
    To think hard about how they present themselves.
    To make sure they dress in a way that is a representation of themselves and not trying to please others.

    I notice already in my girl how society is shaping her to be a certain thing.
    I am trying to teach her to break that mold and just be true to herself.
    But it is really hard sometimes to break the view she has of how she “should” be.
    I really loved Muhammad’s quote.
    I personally took it to mean “You are sacred, value yourself more”.

    Just my take on it though.
    And I do see how it could be seen as supporting rape culture.
    I just personally take it a different way.

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