It’s #TBT and time for a vintage column. This originally went up in September of 2013.
Viral is as viral does. This week’s latest:
Cliff Notes version: a mother of teenage boys worries about the impact of teenage girls and their selfies on her sons. She encourages females to temper the sexiness of their “red carpet pose, the extra-arched back, and the sultry pout” in the Instagram pics they take in their rooms at night. With absolutely no irony, she posts a picture of her sons posing shirtless on the beach.
So, Mrs. Hall, I have some thoughts for you.
Ahem. *dramatic throat clearing*
Dear Mrs. Hall,
FYI (you’re not helping)
I get that you want to look out for kids: yours and others. I get that it’s hard to navigate all this commercialized sexiness in the world- when literally every medium is shoving butts and boobs into your sons’ faces in order to sell products.
I get that you want girls to be valued for more than their attractiveness. I see that you are trying to tell young folks, whose frontal lobes may not yet be done developing, that there are long-term consequences of that late night bra-less Snapchat.
But your “FYI (if you’re a teenage girl)” is PROBLEMATIC…. LIKE WHOA.
First of all, it’s lazy and cowardly to preach to a sea of non-specific girls who are not your daughter instead of writing an open letter to your own sons that says the following:
- There will always be things that lead you astray. It’s your responsibility to choose media that will foster your growth as a smart, thoughtful, compassionate person. It’s not for you to tell others what they can and can’t do with their social media.
- Learn to take responsibility for yourself. If you desire to keep yourself “pure,” I support it. But it’s not my responsibility to stop eating ice cream because YOU are on a diet.
- If you find someone attractive (or even sexy), that doesn’t diminish any other parts of them. It doesn’t make a girl less intelligent, less capable, less worthy of respect if her presence makes you feel sexual feelings.
Lots of cultures have tried to deal with the “issue” of young men’s libidos by making it the problem of young females. It’s the idea behind everything from horribly uncomfortable chastity belts to requiring women to wear veils and rape prevention classes that are aimed only at girls.
It’s a long-held tradition that females are sexual gatekeepers, responsible for taming the wild beast that is the male. But that’s a really sexist and not useful belief- and it hurts people of all genders.
It implies boys are innately brutish, that masculinity is about domination, that boys are not capable of sensitivity or self-restraint. It not only lets boys off the hook for antisocial behavior, but it even encourages it as a rite of masculine passage.
And it tells a girl it’s her fault each time a boy catcalls her in the hallway, grabs at her body, pushes past her objections on a date. SHE should have done something different, she should have worn something more modest, been less sexy, (or as is often the source of most middle school sexual harassment ) not had breasts.
So, Mrs. Hall, while your boys are growing up and “waiting and hoping for women of character.” I suggest they become men of character and find out how to be friends with girls to whom they aren’t sexually attracted. I suggest they learn how to be attracted to someone and still be respectful towards them. Because that is part of learning to be MEN of character.