Seen this yet? Whether you’re the parent of a girl or a boy, of a toddler or a tween, it’s worth a read. Mostly because the blogger who wrote it probably had the best of intentions, but boy, did she ever miss the mark. The gist of Kim Hall’s piece on her blog Given Breath is something like ‘Hey teen girls! If you don’t want anyone to think you’re a whore, don’t post that duck-lipped selfie – and if you’re titillating my poor, weak sons, you’re off their friends lists.’ Which honestly, I hope isn’t what she meant. It can’t be what she meant… can it?
Because I have a daughter and I have a son, and I have a newsflash for Kim.
My son will not grown up to be an animal incapable of controlling himself. He will furthermore not be incapable of treating women with respect – even those who truly do debase themselves – because he will know it isn’t his job to judge or chastise and that a provocative pose isn’t an invitation. He will not judge a girl by her selfies – as I hope they will not judge him by his. No doubt he will not be able to un-see said provocative pose, but frankly, teenage boys have enough imagination to put the most demure of teen girls into the sauciest of poses anyway and I doubt he could un-see those imagined flirtations, either. But picture what he will in his head or see what he will online, my son will be taught that HE is responsible for HIS reactions to what he sees.
And I will expect him to hold himself to high standards of behavior in that and every other regard.
Likewise, my daughter will not grow up thinking she is responsible for making sure the men around her don’t act like pigs or think like perverts. She will not hold herself accountable if she finds herself in a situation where a man is incapable of controlling himself. I will teach her that men who blame women for making them think, feel, or do certain things are no kind of men at all. Her job is not to keep the boys around her chaste in thought or in deed – that is a responsibility that rests squarely on their shoulders. At the same time, I will talk to her about why so many girls her age do feel pressured to take sexy selfies and about better ways to get attention from boys and others. But post what she will online or share what she will with others, my daughter will be taught she SHE is responsible for HER OWN behavior and not for people’s reactions to it.
And I will expect her to hold herself to high standards of behavior in that and every other regard.
I hope BOTH my children grow up to respect themselves. Though it’s not a popular hope these days, I also hope they BOTH grow up to dress modestly and act thoughtfully. I will certainly talk to them BOTH about how the way they look and act in public and online will influence how others think of them – for better or for worse. We will talk about being mannerly on social media, whatever form it happens to take when they are old enough to use it. BOTH my children will be raised to respect other people – even people who make mistakes or seek out attention. BOTH my children will be raised to believe that people can change, and that one selfie or one outfit or one anything should not shape how you think of someone. BOTH of my children will be taught how powerful sexuality can be and how to be agents of their own. BOTH will be taught to look for substance and goodness in the people they date. BOTH will be taught that they are capable of self-control in the face of sometimes overwhelming temptation.
I should say, in case it’s not clear, that Kim and I do agree on some counts. I certainly plan to monitor my kids’ computer usage. We seem to disagree on others. It’s my job to teach my son about what is and isn’t appropriate, not the job of his female peers, and sometimes that means seeing and talking about why something is wrong and how we can be agents of change versus simply making inappropriate things disappear.
But the big difference between my approach and Kim’s approach? When the time comes, I will talk to MY children.
She seems to think it’s appropriate to talk to everyone else’s.
*This post originally appeared on I Know How Is Babby Formed