A few days ago I came across the now viral post by Mrs. Hall about how her family gathers round and searches through all of the kids’ social networks and ultimately deletes or blocks any young woman deemed inappropriate.
I’m sure a little late to the response club, or at least too late to gain any sort of major click through traffic. I had to ruminate on this for a while. I had to read it and discuss it and decide exactly how I wanted to approach this particular subject. I’ve read lots of the responses in the comments section, I even considered leaving a comment myself, but I knew my knee-jerk reaction would probably seem quite judgmental and fairly scathing. I read many of the responses on other blogs and major websites, most of which I at least partly agreed with.
See, I don’t want to be the feminist that’s constantly raging against the system, re-blogging, re-posting and re-tweeting constant outrage at the patriarchy. I don’t have anything against those feminists! That’s just not me. I can’t live in a constant state of frustration. Trust me, I’ve tried.
Mrs. Hall’s post did unsettle me. I should say it downright annoyed me.
I had many a harsh word on the social networks, but my dear friend Sandi, who is the awesome mom of an adorable little boy, gave me some perspective.
Mothers want their children to marry people of integrity, and society has such an ingrained belief in the notion that the clothes you wear (or don’t), especially as a woman, are an indication of virtue or character. Some of the most interesting, charitable, honest, and amazing people I have ever known were what some would call “immodest.” One of my favorite people in the world is a nudist. Does her appreciation and empowerment in her own bare skin classify her as unsavory? No. No it absolutely does not.
Teenage girls are learning to be happy in their own body. Something I would kill to have learned at an earlier age. Heck, I didn’t wear shorts until I was nearly 30 years old because I was so ashamed of how my body looked. Oddly, I didn’t ever think much about wearing or not wearing a bra (unless I was at work), because my boobs were always considered “too small to be noticed” by societal standards. Side note: I was informed later, by my now husband, that they are more noticeable than I thought.
Here’s the deal though: Ms. Hall probably had good intentions. She wants her sons to grow up to marry upstanding women. I understand and respect that. I just really disagree with the fact that she has reinforced the idea that women are solely responsible for the sexuality of men.
I understand wanting to guard your children from what you deem inappropriate, but sometimes we have to examine what crosses a line and what doesn’t and we have to apply that sensibility across the board. Because feminism isn’t about just empowering women, it’s about finding equity in the way all humans are treated.
It is unfair to castigate young women, whom you’ve never met, simply based on their social networks. Judging people by their display photos or the photos they post is the internet equivalent to judging a book by its cover. If I were to be judged by the photos I post and my primary avatars, people would probably think I’m a dog obsessed beach bum. Only half of that is true, I have the pale skin to prove it. If one were to judge me by the photos taken of me as a teen, you might think I was some stoner kid who could shoot up the school, or maybe the perfect prim young hippy girl who just wanted to sing songs and play in drum circles, because I rocked both looks. One day it was sun dresses and sandals, the next it was as much black eyeliner, baggy pants and metal shirts as I could escape the house with.
You see, teenagers are searching for identity. Women are searching for their identity. Teenage girls are faced with the most abrasive barrage of how to be sexy, but simultaneously told to be virtuous. We teach our young women that they must be sexy to attract a partner, yet they can’t be too sexy because then they are perceived as slutty and shamed publicly.
Can we please take a moment to say “Screw this system!”
Young men are taught to be manly, stoic, and tough.
Again, let’s take a moment to say “Screw this system!”
I’m not a parent, but I was a teenage girl. I know what it’s like to be judged by someone’s mother. I know what it’s like when people chastise me for what I wear. I know what it’s like to surprise someone when they expect me to behave one way because of my clothing, but when they take a second to look beyond the packaging they realize I’m smarter than the average ‘hippy-kid’ and way less violent than the average ‘metal-kid.’
Mrs. Hall’s blog post is a prelude to victim shaming. It is where the seed of excusing men for rape is planted. We water that seed with statements about how if she hadn’t been wearing something so revealing, if she hadn’t gone out with multiple boys, or generally dismissing her based on anything that can be dug up that might make her look like anything less than a nun.
This has been said over and over again in the responses I’ve read to Mrs. Hall’s original post, but I will say it again. What are you teaching your sons about their behavior? Are you teaching them that they should never, ever mistreat a woman? Are you teaching them to never judge a woman based on her attire or behavior or who she has or hasn’t had sex with?
Mrs. Hall, I read through some of your other blog posts. You seem to primarily blog about Christian faith, which teaches us not to judge and to always care for the least of these. When you inadvertently (or maybe intentionally, I don’t know) place young women in an “other” category you are judging them and not caring for them the way that Jesus would have desired. Remember who was with Jesus at both his crucifixion and his resurrection, and now consider how she was judged.
That young woman you tell your sons isn’t worthy of his attention or affection could possibly be the only woman who would be there for him in life and death, but he may never know, because you were too worried about what she was wearing rather than teaching your sons that all women (and men) have value and are worthy of love.
Camicia Bennett: Founder of The Well Written Woman, Florida Native and cerebral creature, she loves her husband, yoga, red wine, potty humor, swearing superfluously and putting hats on her dog. If given her druthers she’d be surfing the web and writing randomness from someplace sunny and tropical whilst sipping her favorite vino. Oh wait, that’s exactly what she does.You can find her randomly sharing her own brand of slightly pretentious propaganda at her personal blog.