Dear Savvy Auntie,

I have a six year old niece who I'm very close to. When she was younger I didn't have a problem changing or coming out of the bathroom in my bathrobe after a shower in front of her because she was too young to understand things like not seeing naked people, etc.

As she grows older, I feel that it is my duty, being a feminist and an activist in my community, to explain that there's no shame in a woman's body (I live in a deeply patriarchal, highly misogynist country, for reference's sake) but you should respect a person's privacy and body, and thus if I'm not comfortable with her looking at me when I'm not even wearing my knickers, then she should respect my wishes and not do so. However, she frequently peeps and doesn't listen to me so I finally told her mom who didn't scold her, but explained that god burns out your eyes if you look at naked people.

Being an atheist, this sort of religious indoctrination bothers me and while I make an active effort to raise my niece with critical thinking skills and an open mind so she grows to accept all religions and questions religion even if she remains a theist, I still do not want her to think she just shouldn't look at me when I'm not wearing knickers because her eyes will be burnt out by some fairy in the sky. What do I do?

Atheist Feminist Auntie

Dear Atheist Feminist Auntie,

It must be very difficult for you to live in a society that is so at odds with your beliefs. Think about how you emerged from your upbringing and tell your niece your personal stories. She will be inspired rather than be put in a position of listening to her mother and the dogmatic “rules."

All that being said, seeing a woman’s body is simply a matter of curiosity and not an opportunity to emphasize self respect; that will come later. It is up to you to maintain your privacy, not her job. Keep the door closed, wear a cover-up, and time your bathroom time around her schedule. If she continues to be curious and peek, just ignore it and go about your business sans lectures.

It is a testimony to the intimacy of your relationship that she is interested in your body.

Good Luck,
Natalie Robinson Garfield

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