Alright. So once again I’m going to weighing in on a topic that I thought I was going to mildly try to stay out of.
I’m sure by now everybody in the blogging and parenting world has read FYI: If you’re a teenage girl, the infamous posts by Mrs. Hall directed at teenage girls. From here on out I am referring to her as Kim (yes, she has a first name). I have found that several of the post that I’ve read in response to her, have called her “Mrs. Hall” in the same derogatory and attacking tone that they feel she’s using on women on the Internet.
Let me take a step back here, because we’re not talking about women on the Internet. Were talking about girls. Young teen girls.
While I don’t agree with everything in the original post, I do agree that we have to be much more diligent with what our kids are doing online. I also agree with the overtone message that when you share a photo online you’re not just sharing it with your intended audience. Social media is so much more social than many kids realize. Or maybe they do realize and don’t care? If that’s the case, then it is not on them. It’s on us. We’re their parents.
If I find that 14 or 15-year-old Lilly has posted pictures of herself in a sexually suggestive manner on social media accounts, you’re damn right that I’m going to shut them down and ground her. Is that slut shaming? No. That’s called parenting.
After the rise of more public date rape cases, there was a wave of blog posts the came out with the tone of “Mamas, don’t let your boys grow up to be assholes”. Why is it considered slut shaming if we want to teach our girls the same sort of message? “Mamas, don’t let your girls grow up to be sluts”. If all things are created equal, which is the basis the feminism movement, then we should be teaching respect equally to our children. Whether they be male or female.
Now, I do consider myself to be a feminist. I do think that women have the right to be as sexually forward as they feel comfortable being. I don’t believe women should cower away in the corner playing the role of a “nice girl” all the time. We have as much right to be sexual creatures as men do. However it is our job as parents to ensure that our teens explore their sexuality in a responsible way.
I do believe slut shaming is a real issue and happens far too often. I just don’t necessarily agree that this post was as rampant of a case of slut shaming that it has been made out to be. I certainly do not believe that that is what was intended.
It does concern me that if we point out inappropriate behaviour of minors, we’re accused of slut shaming, child shaming, etc. I’m sorry, but I know I heard “you should be ashamed of yourself” at least a handful of times growing up.
I fear that we are so afraid of shaming our kids that they have nothing left to feel ashamed of.
In the name of full disclosure, I know I have a few party photos I may not want Lilly to see on my Facebook. I’m sure I have quite a few in there with me and my girlfriend getting drunk and posing seductively for the camera. I know we did that. I know we photographed it (evidence below!). But I was a grown ass woman when I did it. Had I done that at 15 years old, my mom would’ve lost her mind. Rightfully so.
Do I agree that Kim Hall should be teaching her boys about respect. Yes. Absolutely. She said that directly in her post. “I also pray that my sons will be worthy of this kind of woman, that they will be patient – and act honorably – while they wait for her.” But we all selectively overlooked that part didn’t we? I’m also guessing that people judged this post on it’s own without reading previous posts where she specifically describes the hopes she has for how her boys will turn out. She doesn’t think they are perfect.
We also overlooked the fact that she never once referred to teenage girls as sluts, whores or skanks. No, the rest of the internet did that for her with what they were reading into her words. Rather, she talked about understanding that these posts don’t reflect who a young women is. “You are growing into a real beauty, inside and out. Act like her, speak like her, post like her.”
We absolutely have to raise our boys not to be creepers and to respect young women, no matter what they are wearing. Let me be clear, sexually suggestive girls are not to blame for the moral downfall of the male race. Males are living, breathing humans with brains that can make their own damn decisions.
Likewise, we have to teach our girls to respect themselves and their bodies. We have to raise them to understand that just because their hormones are running high, does not meant they need to display them in the most public way possible.
What we’re up against as parents is constantly evolving. I want to hope that my job in marketing and social media keeps me somewhat savvy and one step ahead of my children, but really, I may have no clue.
I know this parenting gig can be an uphill battle. I know that raising a teen girl will likely make me want to rip my hair out and lock her in a closet at times. A little under 10 years ago, I was still a teen girl. It wasn’t that long ago for me. I remember.
I will say, as many other parents have, that I feel incredibly lucky that social media was not as present when I was a teenager. I’m sure I had a lot of stupid that I am glad the mass public will never see.
However, I also remember that as much as I liked boys, and man did I ever like boys, I maintained the self respect my mother taught me. I can admit I kissed a lot of guys, but the first time one put his hand up my shirt, I kicked him in the shin, pushed him off the couch and promptly broke up with him. I was 15. I did it because my Mama taught me to respect my body and I did. Enough to know I wasn’t going to give him what he wanted any time soon.
I hope to hell I can raise Lilly with the same conviction.
I want to briefly talk about the photo that Kim posted with her original post. The one of her boys wearing their swimsuits at the beach. A lot of people made a comparison of this photos to the style of ‘sexy selfie’ she was describing in her post and called it hypocritical. I’m sorry, but that is just a massive stretch.
Allow me to demonstrate fun vs sexual. I’m using my own photos, because I am not bringing anyone else into this (as so many did). If you want to judge someone (as so many feel the need to do), judge me.
In photo A, I am getting ready to play in the pool with Lilly. I don’t find it sexy. At all. It was a a cute little selfie with my wee monkey. You see a lot more of me in this first photo, but it is clearly not intended to be sexual.
The photo B, we have a whole different story. I was drunk (in case that’s not obvious…), at a good friend’s bachelorette party, sipping an apple martini and making my best ‘come hither’ look. I knew full well what I was doing when I posed for this photo. I was going for sexy and nailed it. Or at least I thought I did at the time. Now I think I look kinda hilarious. I guess that’s the nearly 30 year old mama in me
So what makes my sexy photo ok compared to the ones being described in Kim’s post? I was 24 years old! I am not 15.
On a final note, I want to say that we need to stop judging each others’ parenting techniques. We need to stop judging other parents. Period. None of us have a manual. None of us have the answers. I believe that Kim’s post was born out of some well-intended parenting, regardless of how it came across.
Side note: Stop judging her sons. I have read one too many post that attacks them and makes fun of them. What the hell is wrong with everyone? Their mom writes something you don’t agree with and that gives you rights to poke fun at 3 teenage boys?! Leave them out of it.
Also, almost every rebuttal post I have read did go on to talk about how yes, teen girls who post pouty faced, sexual selfies need to “cut that shit out.” One (from a blogger I typically adore) even went on to tell the girls they looked like f’ing d-bags. Nice. I’m sure they don’t feel at all ashamed reading that. So it’s ok for the rest of us to tell teen girls to stop posting this ‘shit’, but it was not ok for Kim Hall to say it in her post. Why? Because it was a more personal post? Because she was talking specifically about the tolerance they have for that ‘shit’ in their home?
Ideally speaking, we will be able to focus more on raising our own kids to have moral fiber, because hell, what is wrong with wanting that?!
Ideally speaking, we will be able to raise our kids to understand that the whole damn world does not need to see their underage sexual exploration. That just invites judgement (which it shouldn’t) and creepy f’ing weirdos.
Ideally speaking, we should all be able to read a post that we don’t agree with and provide our constructive criticism without blog shamming the author. The blogging and parenting communities can be welcoming and supportive, but I have blogged before about how quickly they can turn to rampant judgement and mud-slinging. Knock it off. We’re supposed to setting examples for how to behave online and we’re doing a craptastic job of it.
Lastly, I want to share a response from Kim in her comments section that has been grossly overlooked:
I didn’t put any thought into those pictures. I should have, huh? Thought is really important for writers.
That said, do I think those family pictures are in any way sexual? No.
Am I surprised that people might think they are? Yes, actually.
Have I ever been totally wrong before, and needed correction? Too many times to count:)
Could this be one of those times? Absolutely.
If I could take another minute of your time: the pictures I refer to in the post, as I mentioned, are ones taken by young ladies in closets, bedrooms, and closed-door private places. In the hundreds of fun teenage-girl summer photos we see (many at the beach), these bedroom pics are notably different and more provocative, even to the casual observer.
Do I think this is a different situation than a photo taken with your siblings, or your dad, on a public beach? Why, yes.
My main hope in writing this was not to muddy the water (and I regret my pictures may have done exactly that) but for our young people and their parents to grow in wisdom and joy. I am truly sorry if my pictures troubled you, or if you still see a double-standard.
Thank you for your thoughts, especially those who were gracious. You’ve given me much to consider as I press on in parenting, and faith (and writing) and I humbly ask for your continued prayers as I do so.
Peace, to you and yours,