10 Bloggers Respond to Mrs. Hall's Letter with Thoughts on Slut-Shaming, Respect, and Selfies

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As a mom of two boys, I have high hopes of teaching them many important lessons. Things like compassion and acceptance, the importance of education and hard work, the benefit of a leap of faith versus never trying due to fear of failure, and of course, respect. Respect remains one of those Big Things in our home -- for all people, in all ways, both physically and emotionally. You don't get to be a jerk just because you think you can, neither do you get to put your hands on someone else. As such, my gut-reaction to the now viral letter that Mrs. Hall wrote to teenage girls posting "seductive" selfies on Instagram and thus tempting her precious sons... well... I'm having a hard time with the general concept.

On the one hand, teaching our youth that you don't need to post and share every single thing in your online space is a concept that I agree with -- for both girls and boys. On the other hand, placing the blame of sexual attraction solely on the girls is point blank and straight up wrong.

In her post, she says this:

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.

Except, of course, that they do. Maybe not online everyday, but unless a teenage boy (or girl!) is losing his sight as he ages and never goes to the pool or the beach or the mall or even church, young (and old!) men (and women!) will look at fully clothed and scantily clad and every point of dressed or "undressed" human beings and feel an attraction of some sort. End of discussion.

10 Bloggers Respond to Mrs. Hall's Letter with Thoughts on Slut-Shaming, Respect, and Selfies
Oh! Here I am! In my bed! Look away, boys (and girls!). No makeup to boot.

Ignoring the fact that as boys grow into men and girls grow into women, sexual curiosity and hormones and desire smash together to create a Perfect Storm of Teenagedom does nothing to help our teens understand that these feelings are normal, expected, and age appropriate. To immediately block a girl because she posted a sexy-posed, duck-face selfie, not only places the blame on the girl for any feelings that are stirred within the young male, but teaches our sons that their feelings are wrong. Instead of having conversations about the normalcy, we simultaneously silence our sons and drive home the fact that these good girls gone bad are responsible for their "inappropriate" feelings. Big fail.

The bigger fail is that in neglecting to teach our sons that the blame is not on the girl for what she is wearing, we then raise a question as to what lines are crossed and when and who is responsible when a woman is sexually assaulted. "Oh, but she looked at me seductively across the room and she had on a short skirt and my mom said that made me "think of her in a sexual way," and I couldn't stop, which was her fault, so I had my way with her." Nope. Instead, we need to have an open dialogue how attraction -- sexual and emotional and all mish-mosh of ways you can be attracted to another human being -- happens, and while that's all fine and well, you are in control of your own actions with regard to that attraction.

Obviously, the Internet is abuzz with posts on the letter that Mrs. Hall shared -- some in support, some with further questions, some with advice, and a lot with a bone to pick.

Jessica Gottlieb writes a letter to the girls in question, assuring them that they will make mistakes and that they're not dirty or slutty.

Girls, adults are afraid of your sexuality. The moms who are teaching their boys that you’re nothing but a seductress if you dare go braless or post a selfie where your [gasp] shoulders are exposed are terrified. I’m not sure what makes them afraid. It’s possible that they think their sons will burn in eternal hell, that they’re worried you’ll knock on their door pregnant one day soon or something that’s less easy to identify. Just know that adult women who are concerned about teenage girls not wearing bras are fearful women. Know that women (and men) who are operating out of fear have no advice to give that’s of any value.

Beth at Put Down the Urinal Cake tried to relate to the letter, but ended up having to call her dad to get his opinion.

I made a phone call on this one, just to double check with one of the most rule-following, law-abiding, deeply-rooted-in-Christian-culture men I know… my father, former Marine, former missionary. And he said two things that stood out like flashing neon signs: 1) Although men certainly retain memories of seeing exciting things – “like I’ll never forget seeing my first Ferarri!” he said – it’s demeaning to men of any age to presume they can only see a woman as a sexual object once they’ve seen her in a state of undress, and 2) This shifts an unreasonable burden of responsibility to young women for ensuring men don’t view them sexually.

Michelle at Balancing Jane shares a lot of the opinions we see in the viral response to Mrs. Hall's post, but shared a deeply personal story and a wish for her own daughter's moral compass.

I, too, hope my daughter has a strong moral compass, but mine's defined quite differently. I hope that she learns to judge her peers' worthiness for friendship not by their clothes, but by their mutual building of trust, love, and fun. I hope that she learns to recognize when someone needs support, not dismissal. I hope, above all, that she is kind.

Deb Vaughn at Unfinished Symhony points out that what one finds sexy, someone else might not -- and vice versa.

Girls shouldn’t post pictures in poses which are provocative.

That’s fair. But what is “provocative” might I ask? I think it is in the eye of the beholder. You put up a picture of your four, lovely children in their bathing suits. The young men’s suits were all below their navels. Well below their navels. In fact, you could see their tan lines. Isn’t that a little too sexy for a post on purity? And they were making “muscle” poses – yes, in fun. I get that. However, based on the blog comments, I wasn’t alone in thinking that perhaps you missed the point that what is “sexaaay” for the goose is “sexaaaay” for the gander.

Jen at People I Want to Punch in the Throat parents a boy and a girl, and wants to teach both of them important lessons.

The difference is, I intend to teach my daughter to not send ridiculous selfies with accidental nip slips while at the SAME TIME, I intend to teach my son not to be a fucking creeper.

"Boys, don't be jackholes. I don't care what a girl looks like or what she's wearing. I raised you better than that. Find something else to do rather than ogle her."

Krystle at Gratuitous Double Dash brings up other vastly important things to teach our sons about women.

Perhaps you should teach your sons to see women as people with viable thoughts, feelings, and opinions–none of which are tied to how skimpily they dress–instead of teaching them that scantily-clad women are without integrity, without intelligence, and ultimately worthless.

Michele at This Beautiful Struggle questions whose job it is anyway.

A friend wisely told me, "Are we our brother's keeper? Absolutely." That stuck. We are. In the struggle of living in a culture filled with overt sexuality and confusing messages, everyone pitches in. Moms who write blogs and bring awareness to the issue. Dads who treat moms and other women with love and respect. Neighbors who give attention to kids and blossoming adults for making wise choices - about the way they dress and the character they embody. Church families who pray over the kids and the parents as everyone navigates the rocky waters.

Lake Mom at Lake Schooling doesn't like our selfie culture in general.

If we want to eliminate the selfie, we have a lot of work to do on a societal level. As a parent, I try and do what I can in my home to help my girls see themselves and represent themselves more holistically. I share with them the difference between a self-portrait (something we have likely all posted) and a selfie. One of their rules for using social media will include the prohibition of seductive selfies.

BlogHer member theillumiletty wrote her own letter, pointing out that teaching our kids what to do with their emotions is of the utmost importance.

Maybe instead of just blocking the pictures you deem “provocative”, you need to have an open discourse with your sons about respecting women. This “boys will be boys” attitude is, quite frankly, crap. Just because you block the pictures doesn’t mean you are blinding them to provocative images. You can’t control what they see when you’re not around. Teaching them how to handle what they see and their emotions is key.

Melissa at Pigtail Pals and Ballcap Buddies shares a personal story from her teenage years and then a list of questions we need to be asking whether we agree with Mrs. Hall or not.

At seventeen I didn’t need women like you shaming me. I needed women like you mentoring me, caring about me, not throwing me away. I needed women to wink at me at my youthful indiscretions, and then show me how to be a grown up. The only difference between me and the girls you shame is that when I was seventeen, there was no Instagram or facebook. At seventeen, I didn’t flash the lobby because of low self-esteem or to tempt boys or men who linger and lust after high school girls, I flashed the lobby because it was my world and everyone else was just a guest in it.

As you can see, everyone took away something different from the letter in question, thus promoting a viral and continuous discussion on everything from slut-shaming to proper use of social media to respecting all people. As much as I want to be annoyed with the original letter and its anti-girl message, I kind of love the discussions we're having in our social places and yes, at my dinner table.

What are your thoughts on this letter?

 

Family/Moms & Events Section Editor Jenna Hatfield (@FireMom) blogs at Stop, Drop and Blog.

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