FYI (If you’re writing to teenage girls)

There’s a post making the rounds on Facebook, at least among my friends, and it’s being met with really positive, glowy reviews and nods of agreement from moms of girls and boys alike. Teenaged girls, it asks, please pay attention, because the Hall family has some stuff to say to you:

I have some information that might interest you. Last night, as we sometimes do, our family sat around the dining-room table and looked through your social media photos.

We have teenage sons, and so naturally there are quite a few pictures of you lovely ladies to wade through. Wow – you sure took a bunch of selfies in your pajamas this summer!

[I]t appears that you are not wearing a bra.

I get it – you’re in your room, so you’re heading to bed, right? But then I can’t help but notice the red carpet pose, the extra-arched back, and the sultry pout. What’s up? None of these positions is one I naturally assume before sleep, this I know.

Yeah, we’ve all seen it. Glossed-up duckface. After-shower shots. Stuff that really ought to be reserved for private texts between a consenting adult and her Congressman. Should young girls be posing in overtly sexual poses and sharing it on public media? Nah. Not a good idea. Is it often done to get attention? Usually from boys? Yeah, probably. Do we want to encourage that? Nope. There is possibly some problematic belief system motivating those grabs for attention, and that should be discussed. So I’m on board so far, Mrs. Hall. Continue.

Did you know that once a male sees you in a state of undress, he can’t ever un-see it? You don’t want the Hall boys to only think of you in this sexual way, do you?

Got that, girls? Once a man (or a boy) sees you in a state of undress, from then on, he’ll only think of you in that sexual way. And that’s your fault, k? Because you posted that ill-advised photo on Facebook and that instantly shuts down the part of male human brains where they can distinguish between boobs as disembodied sex toys and boobs as a small part of a whole person with thoughts, dreams, ambitions, emotions, fears, and autonomy. K?

We hope to raise men with a strong moral compass, and men of integrity don’t linger over pictures of scantily clad high-school girls. Every day I pray for the women my boys will love. I hope they will be drawn to real beauties, the kind of women who will leave them better people in the end.

Parenting is really just exhausting work. We’re all so busy with our blogging and taking photos on the beach of our scantily-clad, flexing boys (who are nothing like scantily-clad, pouting girls, FYI) and stalking all your Facebook selfies. If you could just go ahead and remove any scantily-clad pictures from the internet so that we don’t have to actually teach our sons not to linger over things that we think aren’t so healthy for them, that’d be great. I mean, it’s easier for us to go ahead and try to remove any temptation than to teach them how to handle temptation. Amirite?

And *real* beauties don’t post sexualized pictures of themselves. I mean, really, *real* beauties are pure and innocent and don’t tempt boys. You can’t be a sexual creature and, you know, leave the men in your life better people (which is your job, btw). *Real* beauties aren’t sultry temptresses. They’re, you know, clothed women. Preferably who don’t talk much.

Girls, it’s not too late! If you think you’ve made an on-line mistake (we all do – don’t fret – I’ve made some doozies), RUN to your accounts and take down anything that makes it easy for your male friends to imagine you naked in your bedroom.

Yes! Take down anything that makes it easy for your male friends to imagine you naked in your bedroom! Like that picture of you in your pajamas! And also that one of you dancing at the prom in the dress with the spaghetti straps! And also that one of you laughing with your friends while you eat peach ice cream! And also that one of you at your little sister’s 2nd birthday party, because, well, you’re a girl, and you are pretty well-endowed, and poor little Jimmy has such a vivid imagination, bless his heart…

Yeah maybe just delete your whole Facebook account.

There are boys out there waiting and hoping for women of character.

Character is measured in the amount of skin that never sees the light of day. Make a note, ladies.

Some young men are fighting the daily uphill battle to keep their minds pure, and their thoughts praiseworthy.

And so, the cycle of male escape from responsibility for their own thoughts and actions continues with enthusiastic support. Young girls are shamed for their bodies, their choices and their burgeoning sexuality to “protect” them from the apparently indiscriminate, uncontrollable wildfire of male sexuality. Young girls are blamed for being objectified because of their choice of dress, pose, lip position or even benign household setting (did you know THE SEX happens in bedrooms?!). And mothers post blogs asking all their teenaged sons’ female peers to please not tempt their pure, innocent boys, who are probably upstairs whacking it to the fleeting glimpse of their homely teacher’s white bra strap they grabbed during second period social studies today.

Business as usual.

*A note on tone: When I sat down to write this, I took a measured, fair approach. I expressed my concerns about what the words used here actually say to people, what they really mean, how we internalize them, and how they accidentally perpetuate really problematic, widespread views. I know Mrs. Hall blogged with the best of intentions. I know people I know support this because they’re concerned about choices they see young people making. I know parenting is hard and accepting that your teenagers are sexual beings is really, super-duper hard, and we really, really want to hide from that instead of help them learn to deal with the realities of it.

But I just can’t keep that tone right now. The more I read and wrote, the angrier I got. The more personally incensed by Mrs. Hall’s words I felt. The more ache I felt for any young girl who read what she wrote and got not just the message that she probably shouldn’t post sexual, revealing pictures on social media, but that there is something inherently wrong with her for being a sexual creature and that she has some grand responsibility to protect men — and herself — from their sexuality. No. Just no. I’m angry and I’m hurt and this is what came out, and I could revise it, but I won’t. And if it makes you angry, then good. Talk about it. Yell about it. Blog about it. But have the hard conversations. Please.

21 thoughts on “FYI (If you’re writing to teenage girls)

  1. I disagree with you fully…..
    This was mom telling the truth about how boys perceive these pictures and her boys were no different. If they wanted to continue then they would continue without including her boys.
    Her right as a mother to talk to her boys keeping communication open and honest.
    I myself a mom of a almost teen agree that a lot of self pictures are not always the most appropriate to share on a public media site. She was not telling not to but she also had the right to make a decision to block them. And gave her opinion as a mom. As a mom of a girl I tell her you never know who is looking, and not everyone you know. We need to protect our girls and yes sometimes that means telling them not everyone who sees these images will have the best intentions.

    • Even if you accept “Mrs.” Halle’s doctrine, which she is imparting to the kids who will continue to affect and impact others as they grow into adult society, how is this “talking to her boys”? It’s a public blog post, which condemns all the girls who were/are FB friends with her sons, and makes a broad comment about a swath of females in general.

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment!

      Actually, I think you’ve sort-of missed the point of my post. I agree with you that she had a right to block them, and she has a right to her opinion, and that yes, not everyone who sees ANY pictures has the best intentions.

      What I disagree with, viscerally and wholeheartedly, is her choice to shame these girls, and to put the blame for her sons’ potential objectification of these girls *on the girls.* Frankly, it doesn’t matter WHAT the girls are wearing or how they are posed — there is absolutely no excuse for any person, ever, to see them as “just bodies.” If they were fully naked and spread-eagled on a bed, they are still human beings who have a right to be treated with respect. All people are sexual beings, but have no right to be reduced to *solely* sexual beings, no matter what choices they make. Sex does not reduce humanity or value. Our value is inherent. As a Christian, I would think Mrs. Hall would agree with our inherent value, regardless of our “sins.”

      If her sons see anyone “only in a sexual way,” that is THEIR fault and nobody else’s. Implying in any way that it’s a girl’s fault if a boy reduces her to sex object rather than a full human being perpetuates rape culture because, unfortunately, if it’s a girl’s fault a boy objectifies her, it’s just not a very far leap to it being a girl’s fault if the boy acts on that objectification and assaults her. And that’s appalling.

    • You know, presumably, Ms. Hall has a sexual relationship with her husband (the four kids and all that). Presumably, Mr. Hall can find his wife a sexually exciting object of lust, AND a whole and complete and lovable person that he respects, even if he’s seen her in their bedroom wearing nothing but a towel. Presumably, figuring that Mr. Hall is not chained in the basement, he’s seeing photos and videos and billboards of scantily clad young women (and men) every day as he goes about his daily business, and yet, presumably, Mr. Hall is able to treat his wife and other women with dignity and respect.

      I’m not a fan of overexposure on Social Media for young women OR men. But Mr. & Ms. Hall’s job, as parent, is to help their sons negotiate the stages of development, from “Ewww, girls, cooties!” to “Girls are AMAZING (and total boner-dom)” to “Women can be amazingly sexy and I can still fully respect them as human beings.”

      I’ve parented a teenage boy, I “get” what a challenge it is. Block the pictures on FaceBook or Instagram or whatever if you don’t like the girls, for whatever reason. But the slut-shaming tone has to go. Even if somebody posted pictures of one of those girls (apparently) enjoying a sexual encounter with the football team, she should still teach her sons to treat that girl with dignity and respect. Because sometimes the way people react to pictures isn’t the whole truth. (Steubenville, anyone?)

    • Ha! Well, I wish it were easy to just blame it on religion (regardless of which one you blame). But I think this kind of thinking is actually really common…and really dangerous. Female sexuality is incredibly regulated and stigmatized in our culture, and women are often held responsible for the regulation of male sexuality, too. In other words, “men can’t help it” and if women don’t want to be harassed, molested or objectified, then it’s supposedly their job to alter their behavior so that men don’t have to alter theirs…even though it’s the MEN’S behavior that’s problematic. Women can never and will never be equal until we’re allowed to dress however we want, be sexual in whatever ways we want, and be vocal about those things without being slut-shamed, cat-called, groped, or worse.

  2. Great post! I have been seeing Mrs. Hall’s blog post floating around Facebook but didn’t read it until this morning. I found your post linked from another site and found it refreshing. Girls shouldn’t have to walk around wearing head to toe robes in order to save boys from being turned on by us. For teenage boys, it doesn’t take much for them to be turned on! Heck, I was a tomboy for many of my teenage years and still managed to attract the opposite sex. Her message should have focused on how damaging it is for either sex to post pictures online that may come back to haunt them, not to belittle girls for turning her sons into horny toads.

  3. Gee, I’ve a really novel idea. Let’s talk to our kids (boys and girls) as if they were sentient, thinking human beings. I hate that kind of preachy parenting crap! I don’t think I ever went wrong telling my kid, look, here are the problems with what you’re doing, without shaming her or making her feel stupid. I totally understand your anger, Krista. That was a stupid blog. “Some young men are fighting the daily uphill battle to keep their minds pure, and their thoughts praiseworthy.” Are you effing kidding me???

    • I see so many parents struggle with this where sex is concerned. I get it, on one level. It’s really hard to see your kids as sexual beings (or eventually sexual beings).

      Of course, it’s also really difficult to see your children wrestle with their own identity, wrestle with decisions they are too emotionally undeveloped to make at this stage of their lives, wrestle with societal pressures and expectations of them, wrestle with trying to find their way in a world that won’t give them the information they need to make good decisions (or worse, that gives them deliberately incorrect information).

      For me, the consequences of my bowing to any discomfort I have with my kids’ sexuality vastly outweigh the discomfort. I think it’s selfish not to tell your kids the truth about sex, attraction, and love, and it comes at a very high price. And I’ve learned that first-hand, unfortunately.

      • I guess I could’ve done more in that category but I raised a practical hard-headed girl who didn’t mind being called a bitch when she wouldn’t let a guy put his arm around her in the cafeteria…It just never really seemed to be an issue with her. She’s got a million selfies, lol, but none that are inappropriate.

      • It sounds like you’ve done a fine job.

        I have a million selfies, too, and lots that are inappropriate. I just carefully limit the audience for those ones. 😉

  4. Pingback: FYI: (bras are not the protectors of virtue, among other things) | gratuitous double dash

  5. I am really tired of people like her giving me crap for so much of MY life because her sons are idiots, and I am a woman with breasts. I don’t even take that many selfies, and I feel that she is a patronizing cow cloaked in religion shaming women for being women. I can personally attest to having been treated as nothing more than a piece of ass in ginormous sweatshirts and faded baggy jeans. Her sons are not being done any favours by Mommy Dearest. I also think it is creepy, obsessive AND hypocritical that it is ok for her to post pictures of her sons in swimsuits and not ok for women to do the same.

    • Anya: I’ve had similar experiences, too. Especially if people find out in one way or another that I actually like sex….suddenly, that’s all I become. I’m sorry you’ve had to experience that — it can really hurt to have your humanity reduced like that, even if it’s by somebody whose opinion you don’t respect.

  6. Pingback: FYI (If You’re a Teenage Girl): Reboot | Drivel Balderdash & Twaddle

  7. Mrs. Hall’s writing bothered me too. I shared your writing on facebook, l am curious to see if anyone will “like” the post. I have 2 boys and a girl and I have been trying to instill in them that they are always responsible for their own behavior, ALWAYS. As my oldest son grows up, I have begun to let him know how the world does view girls and women differently and how wrong that is. I feel it is imperative for him to know about rape culture and I do talk to him about the cases involving girls close to his age. I am hoping to raise boys that turn into men without prejudices, and with strong characters and I am hoping to raise a girl who turns into a woman without fear and the knowledge that she is a person first and entitled to the same rights as afforded to any other US Citizen. I always tell my children that it doesn’t matter what you look like, it doesn’t matter what you wear or what you have, what counts is always what’s inside a person.

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