Do I really need to say more?
Well, yeah, apparently I do.
Earlier this morning I read a post that Jessica Gottlieb had shared on her Facebook wall. She mentioned that it had bothered her, so of course being the curious kind, I wanted to know what had potentially set Jessica off. It turns out that Kim Hall wrote a post directed to teenage girls which addressed girls who post what she deemed as questionable images via social media. To paraphrase, she and her family were looking at what I’m assuming was one of her son’s social media streams and they came across an image of a young women (I don’t know the ages, she just states they are “teenagers”) taking selfies in their bedrooms, who pose – as defined by Kim in, “skimpy PJ’s” and “that you are not wearing a bra.“ Kim went on to say, “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.”
Why would she call out these young ladies, even though, according to Kim, if you’re friends with one of the Hall boys on social media, you’re friends with the entire family, still, why would she call them out? We had a policy when my adult kids were growing up, not an implicit policy, but one that more or less said, “If you are friends with my child on social media, don’t be shocked when my kid runs and shows me something utterly ridiculous that you’ve posted on social media!“ It wasn’t a message that my kids lived in a totalitarian state and we monitored every single move they made. They just thought we did. Kim goes on to say that:
“That post doesn’t reflect who you are at all! We think you are lovely and interesting, and usually very smart. But, we had to cringe and wonder what you were trying to do? Who are you trying to reach? What are you trying to say?
And now – big bummer – we have to block your posts. Because, the reason we have these (sometimes awkward) family conversations around the table is that we care about our sons, just as we know your parents care about you.
I know your family would not be thrilled at the thought of my teenage boys seeing you only in your towel. Did you know that once a male sees you in a state of undress, he can’t quickly un-see it? You don’t want our boys to only think of you only in this sexual way, do you?
Neither do we. We’re all more than that.
And so, in our house, there are no second chances with pics like that, ladies. We have a zero tolerance policy. I know, so lame. But if you want to stay friendly with our sons online, you’ll have to keep your clothes on, and your posts decent. If you post a sexual selfie (we all know the one), or link to an inappropriate YouTube video – even once – it’s curtains.
I know that sounds so old school! But we are hoping to raise men with a strong moral compass, and men of integrity don’t linger over pictures of scantily clad high-school girls.”
So basically, if the Hall boys, and then by virtue, the Hall family happens to see one of these silly images (and that’s what I think they are. Silly images where a girl is crying out for attention. That’s not to say I want Gaby to ever ever ever post anything like that, and if we find out she has, her social media will be seriously curtailed to searching for term paper material!) that’s it. One strike and you’re out! You’re blocked! I’m not sure whether that extends to real life interactions with these girls, but one can assume, based on the fact that Kim is making some pretty broad assumptions about these girls, that these are not the type of young women she wants her sons fraternizing with. Oh mama! Just wait ’till those boys of yours go to college!
It wasn’t even the fact that in her original post she put up photos of her boys at the beach, being silly, which made it appear slightly contradictory, or even that she then acknowledged this by going back and posting the same exact post, but this time her family was fully clothed (which made me do a complete “WTF?”), it was the message that girls are responsible for the sexual downfall of boys that had me truly irritated by the post. What kind of sexist message is she sending to her sons?
So, in response, here’s my missive to the boys in Gaby’s future.
I’m not going to sit here and ply you with Biblical platitudes about a Godly man, or the inner strength that can be attained through a personal walk with Christ. That’s not my place. Dude, that’s your parents job! However, I will let you know that if you so much as look at my daughter in a way which makes me question the job your parents have done, you’ll never so much as set eyes on my daughter again. So what all does “makes me question the job your parents have done” include? So glad you asked.
If you ever so much as base a judgement about my daughter based on what she’s wearing or her outward appearance, you’re out!
If you ever so much as state that she’s wearing a bikini, so she must only want to be oggled, and have cat-calls made in her direction (while a form of flattery, a compliment about how nice her hair looks, what a great smile she has, or how kind she is GOES A LOT FURTHER! Again, those are things good ol’ mom and dad should have imparted on you . . . better yet, you should be witnessing this kind of behavior in your own home!) based on what she’s wearing, you’re out!
If you can’t understand the simple concept that you are to remain in control of your body at all times around my daughter, you’re out!
If you ever so much as try to push my daughter into doing something she’s even remotely hinted that she’s either not comfortable doing, or ready for, you’re out!
Go ahead and post all of the selfies you want online. We may or may not see them. Chances are we will, especially if you’re acting like a tool. Gaby has the same sense of humor her older sister Meg has, and she tends to point out to us the silly, and often outright ridiculous things she notices. However, we won’t completely eradicate your online or physical presence from our daughter’s life. No, we’ll probably just throw marshmallows at you at the next bonfire we have . . . and we tend to have a lot of them!
If you allow yourself to buy into the notion that my daughter’s character is based on the clothing she wears (Namely bikinis or other warm-weather wear), and that because she posts a photo of herself in a bikini at the beach, having fun, that she’s somehow less desirable in God’s eyes, then you are so far out as to be practically in space. No, I’m not joking about this.
It’s really very simple. I know you’re a teenager and as such you’ve got all these hormones raging through your body. I know that there are people that claim that due to all those hormones and the fact that your prefontal cortex isn’t finished forming until you’re 25, that you really can’t help how you react when you see a girl who strikes a pose in what your mama deems questionable, that it’s only natural that you’ll be aroused and stimulated . . . well that may be so, but it’s still your responsibility to hold it together and control yourselves. I hope your parents care enough about you to teach you that you are in control of your body at all times, despite whatever exciting images you might come across via social media. I hope they taught you to not only have respect for yourself, but for the young women in your life.
If you were raised by a parent that decided place the sole responsibility of controlling human sexual behavior at the feet women, well, I’m sorry, you’re definitely out as well!
In the spirit of complete openness, here is the comment I left on her original post, which, as of right now, is still awaiting moderation:
“As the mother of a 7 1/2 year old daughter (I also have male/female twins who are 23 and a 20 year old son) who is completely enamored with technology and very internet savvy already (with STRICT boundaries that she adheres to), I can tell you that we’re raising her to implicitly understand that once it’s on the ‘net, it’s there forever and that how she is perceived in this day and age – especially when so much of how we are portrayed nowadays is based on our digital profile, that she had better not ever put anything out there that could cloud or darken the impression she gives others, or lead them to question her moral compass. That said, I’m hopeful she’ll never find the need to post anything like what you’ve described, especially if she’s under 18. After that? She’s an adult and as such I hope we’ll have equipped her well enough to make good choices.
That said, you had better believe that I’ve sat both of my sons down, now adult men, and told them that it was just as much their responsibility to control themselves and respect the females with whom they are friends/acquaintances because anything less is unacceptable! I don’t care how scantily clothed the females they know are, or what sort of provocative pose they’re striking on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or even at the beach. My sons do not have the right to publicly shame a female simply because she posts something questionable online.
As much as it’s my obligation to teach my daughter to value herself and know that she is not only defined by her outward appearance but by her actions and character, it’s my same obligation to teach my sons that they don’t define the women in their lives by those outward appearances. And yeah, you need to “go there” and become a bit uncomfortable and flat out tell your sons that while those kinds of images are both scintillating and exciting, and perhaps stimulating; that’s as far as it goes! Don’t make the mistake of putting the ENTIRE BURDEN OF SELF CONTROL on my daughter. Not all parents follow the same Biblical moral compass that you impart on your children and do not burden their daughters with 100% responsibility for how a man behaves. That’s not to say their children don’t possess a moral compass – it’s just not one that based on Biblical/religious doctrine.
I understand the lesson you’re trying to impart to your sons. However, in doing so, you are placing all of the responsibility for self-control on the part of the girl. By posting Justin Bieber’esque poses of your boys, your point is even further lost to the masses, or even to the girls themselves, because believe me, females are just as much visually stimulated as are males. But ya know, it’s not even so much the pictures that trouble me, because honestly, your boys are probably great kids . . . but, you’re still missing the point. Even when you responded above:
“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.”
You still missed the point! You completely failed to mention how it’s YOUR OBLIGATION/RESPONSIBILITY as a parent, to teach your sons to control themselves and that it’s not OK, it’s NEVER OK to judge the character/morals of a young lady/woman based on an image they see online. I get it, you’re trying to tell your sons that a girl who posts something like that online has no morals. While I think that’s misplaced judgment, worse yet, I think that your lack of acknowledging your sons own responsibilities to control their actions/reactions is the even greater problem.”