My Daughter Wants to Go Topless: Why Can't She?

girl in tankini

There are certain things about having a girl that can leave parents tongue-tied. Let's say, for instance, you're at a beach, or a playground with sprinklers, or just out in public and it's hot out. Her brother Jimmy takes off his shirt. Your daughter wants to do the same, but your shake your head. That's when she hits you with a doozy: "Why can't I go topless, too?" 


While it's a tricky question to answer, phrasing it just right is important, since it will shape how she views the parts she's covering.

"Its important to note that nothing is wrong with these areas," says  Tammy Gold, a licensed therapist and author of Secrets Of The Nanny Whisperer. Instead, just explain that little boys and girls have "private" parts that they must keep covered in public because, well, they're private.

"Tell her that in our country and culture, people covers certain areas when in public," says Gold. As for why girls have to cover their breasts and boys don't, just explain in a matter-of-fact tone that boys and girls have different private parts, much like they use different bathrooms and wear different clothes (and swimsuits for that matter).

You can even turn this into a teaching moment by expanding your daughter's awareness about different cultures by saying, "In certain countries, men and women cover up even more -- or less -- than they do here."

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If you feel your daughter is old enough, you can open an even bigger can of worms: that not all Americans agree that women should have to cover their breasts, as is evidenced by the "Free the Nipple" movement. Yet you should drive home that this is not the norm, and your daughter isn't old enough to join a cause like this until she's grown up and making decisions on her own.

And if your daughter still isn't satisfied with your answer? Then this may be one of those moments when you need to shift the focus from the question back onto your child.

"There will be many questions your child asks in your life where your answer will never be good enough, like 'Why can't I watch more TV?' or 'Is there a god?'" says Fran Walfish, Ph.D., author of The Self-Aware Parent and an expert panelist on the WE TV series Sex Box. "If your kid keeps coming at you for more, call her on her repetitiveness and say you've answered her question as best you can."

Bottom line: sooner or later you will encounter questions like this one with no definitive answer, and as a parent, your best is good enough. In such instances, just say, "Because those are the rules. They may not always make sense to you, but this is a rule I want you to follow." It may not be perfect, but it beats the eyeroll you'll get with, "Because I said so" any day.

How do you feel about women going topless?


Image via Igor Demchenkov/shutterstock

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