My daughter and I have a running disagreement over whether tank tops are appropriate for her to wear in public (i.e. the Sweet Pea Festival). It sounds like a trivial argument, but it really isn't. It involves issues of feminity and sexuality, of safety, of comfort vs appearance: all the body issues a young woman has to wrestle with as she passes through adolescence. I want her to be comfortable in her body, not ashamed of it - but how much skin is too much skin at this age? Does it matter that the skin is below her collar bones? What is the difference between feminity and sexuality? Where is the dividing line between looking attractive and looking available? How does the line move with her age and the setting? Her swimsuit shows more skin, so why is that ok but not the tank top?
In a perfect world, she could wear anything she liked and it wouldn't matter - but this world isn't perfect, and so she needs to learn where the boundaries are to give her a better chance of staying safe. Like it or not, appearance matters, and boys will treat her differently depending on how she is dressed; the clothing sets a limit of sorts on what a boy sees as permissable, and so when he pushes the boundaries, as he will, it is good to have them set conservatively. And yet she finds the tank tops comfortable in the summer heat, and that matters too. Maybe we can compromise by finding her some tank tops with a shallower neck scoop.