Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Response to "FYI (if you're a teenage girl)

FYI, "Mrs. Hall",

The other evening, I read your article that's been floating around facebook, FYI (if you're a teenage girl). I think I understood the root of what you were trying to say.

My version of what I think you were trying to say....
"You are so much more than your budding young body. You have a mind, a spirit, a heart. You are someone with great potential. Cavorting your body around in awkward poses doesn't make you prettier. It won't make the boys "like you more"--at least in any way you want.  You are so young--don't worry about trying to be sexy. Be you. Be the beautiful, talented, amazing person you were designed to be. I want my boys to see you as friends, as equals, as people with sharp minds and numerous talents. I'm going to teach my boys to respect women as equals. To cherish inner beauty, appreciate outward, seek after girls with self esteem and brains, and to not objectify you. But it's hard. There's so many insane hormones rushing through their bodies, that they're prone to seeing women as ONLY  gorgeous and very sexual creatures. Sometimes, they see certain pictures on facebook that make them forget entirely what an amazing person you are, and see only skin and form. I know the culture tells you that you are your body. You are a sexual form. You must look, act, pose this way to be considered worthy of attention. That is so false. To keep my boys from seeing you as objects, they're going to not follow (and might even 'unfriend') female friends that have too many pictures that show what a perfect combination of development and fast metabolism your body manifests. I want my sons to respect women and for women to respect them. I want them to be the men that are wonderful boyfriends and husbands, and treat all women with respect. And I'm going to try to do that by striving to limit their exposure to certain pictures.
Girls, no matter what the culture tells you, you are more than an enticing, sexual creature. You are so much more. So don't limit yourself to selfies that project a sad image, show the inner you, and let that beauty shine through."

But that's not what you actually said or how you sounded. You also posted pictures of your sons on the beach, flexing their muscles, just being boys, ya know. Because boys get to run around shirtless, show off their bodies, and take pictures! They get to do all the things girls aren't allowed to do. Because they're male, right?

You said you don't approve of those in-bedroom selfies that you see all over social networking. I'm not really a fan either. But why do you think those girls take those? Perhaps they have been told that they are their sexuality, that they need to be "cute", that those selfies bring male attention. It means they're broken, confused, abused by a culture that tells them they have to be sexual. It's not just Seventeen Magazine that tells them that. It's their Sunday School teachers, camp counselors, and you, the mother of boys tell them that they're bodies are dangerous, powerful weapons against boys. Girls in Christian circles are tormented for being, well, girls. Girls blessed with rounded chests are told to hide them under high necked, baggy, unflattering turtle necks. Girls with long legs are berated because they can't find shorts or shorter skirts long enough to hide that provocative zone called the knee cap.

Your sons' bodies are changing and they're experimenting with them. So are the girls' bodies. Your sons' minds will probably go places you don't want them to--no matter what. At least for the first few years until they can get a hold on raging hormones and begin to see women as amazing, hilarious, talented, and beautiful friends.  The fourteen year old boy's fascination with the female form began long before the advent of the bikini, and will continue on for ages and ages.

Still, I understand, you were worried about all the extra stimulation your boys were receiving. So you wrote a post. It was a little harsh and rather condescending, but that's not unusual for a mother of many boys. You're so wrapped up in raising your sons into wonderful young men that any display of female form can seem like that girl is trying to lure your boys in. I, and others like me, might have been able to ignore the condescension in your voice were it not for the pictures. Pictures of tan, blonde, already muscled young boys posing shirtless in the sand. Add a few years and those pictures will send sixteen year old girls drooling. Unfortunately, you seem to have missed a glaring point. Modesty, respect, and understanding the body goes for both genders. You can't dismiss girls for showcasing their budding bodies, while encouraging your boys to do the same.

It's horrible being a female in today's world. A girl is either told that she needs to be as sexy, as provocative, as scantily clothed as possible, or that she needs to cover up, be quiet, and try DESPERATELY not to even bump into a boy, lest she start something. Remember, the girls you so harshly judged are fighting a societal battle and a hormonal one. The ones who needed guidance about their ill chosen selfies probably ignored your vindictive words, and perhaps even gave a second glance to your sons's muscles. You didn't encourage young girls to respect themselves. Instead, you reminded them just how free boys can be, and how judged girls are.



  1. Was Stephen as offended by the "they can't un-see" line as Kyle was?

    I wonder how much of this would be fixed if we handed more of this conversation over to stable-minded fathers. You're so balanced here, and I think you make an apt point when you say that it is often the maternal default to scream, "NO! I WILL PROTECT MY BOYS!" when really, they can't (and maybe some fathers would have a better understanding of that fact). They can just slowly train them to see and honor women--no matter how they are dressed, as the popular Nate Pyle piece pointed out. And even as much as parents try to train, it ends up being the choice of the boy/man as to what kind of character he cultivates.

    Regarding the pictures of her boys, I wonder if maybe, just maybe, this was a satirical attempt to call out the hypocrisy of youth ministry culture. Whether or not that was the intention, I think it has.

    1. Hope, yes!
      My husband's never liked the way it's all portrayed, and in fact, it's my experience with him, my brothers, and various male cousins that assures me that the church has gotten the issue all askew.

      Since I have four brothers, I've seen parents honestly believe girls are out to get their sons. And some are. However, it's not just the girls running around in three inches of clothing that get the glares, it was girls like me--fully clothed even at the beach. Because we're all female, and therefore temptresses, right...

  2. Thank you so much for writing this! It's hard to take someone seriously when their hypocrisy is so blatant.

    -Cousin Hannah

  3. Your first paragraph is perfect. Thank you.