Dear Mrs. Hall, Regarding Your “FYI (if you’re a teenage girl)”…

Dear Mrs. Hall,

I saw your letter to teenage girls yesterday posted by several friends in my Facebook feed. Friends I admire. Friends with whom I have deep, true things in common. Friends who are strong women who care deeply about the character of their kids and my kids and all our kids. Friends who found richness and beauty and wisdom in what you shared about teenage girls and sexuality and online presence.

I was torn up by your letter. And not in a good way.

And I tried to let it go. To release it and let it be. But here I am, 24 hours later, still thinking about it. Still mulling it over. Still dwelling on it. Still imagining, if you were here in my house with a freshly brewed cup of coffee, sitting on my slightly sticky couch, what we might say to each other. How I might respond to you in person.

Because you are a person, which seems to have been forgotten by many of the folks who commented on your post. You are a lovely person who is obviously involved and invested in raising your sons to the very best of your ability because you love them and you want what’s best for them. And I want to give you mad props for that and to tell you I understand how hurtful it can be when people judge the public persona and not the heart. I, for example, was once called a “classic example of a woman who puts herself up on a pedestal” for writing about the ways we women are all becoming; as in, already lovely and still in process. And it sucks to be called names online.

But I did have a problem with your letter, and, as I have both a teenage daughter and a teenage son, I feel compelled to respond. To gently and, I hope, kindly open a dialogue that offers some alternative thoughts. Whether I actually push “publish” on this is another decision entirely. We’ll see. We’ll see.

Mrs. Hall, I know that the most vocal criticism about your letter to teenage girls and, specifically, your reminder that they reconsider their provocative poses and their public state of dress is the fact that you published pictures of your boys wearing low-slung swim trunks without shirts and making muscle poses on the beach. I saw lots of suggestions that, if those pictures hadn’t been there as a “hypocrisy” or “double standard,” the rest of the your letter was wonderful.

But I actually had a tough time with your words, not the pictures. And that’s what unsettled me all day. The idea that your words were written to teenage girls, and, to personalize it, to my teenage girl.

So I’d like to go through your letter and talk about it a little and pray for the right words to express what bothered me.

I see that you and your family look at each other’s social media feeds together. At Facebook and Instagram and maybe others, and I just want to say, HOORAY! I love that you do this. I love this part of your message. I love that your boys know you’re part of their online community. And I love that you’re telling our teenager daughters that they’re part of a bigger, broader community, too. We can see you is a good thing for our girls to know. It’s a good thing for our boys to know, too, of course… but your letter implies that, even though it doesn’t say it out loud.

And so I read the start of your letter cheering you on.

But then you mentioned the part about the bra. And I started to feel a little unsettled. Because I didn’t see the picture you saw, so I don’t know how you knew, with your sons and your daughter around you, that the girl in question wasn’t wearing one. I think it’s clear, based on your letter, that you’re concerned about overt sexuality and come-hither eroticism and not trying to make a cultural statement about whether or not girls should have to wear bras. I don’t know how closely your family had to look to determine that one was absent. I assume the “the red carpet pose, the extra-arched back, and the sultry pout” were part of the clue, so I assume the bralessness was obvious, but I don’t know if you critiqued the photo that specifically with your family present, so I don’t know whether you quickly blocked that picture or detail-by-detail discussed the girl’s body with your boys.

Then you mentioned the towel. “I know your family would not be thrilled at the thought of my teenage boys seeing you only in your towel,” you wrote. “Did you know that once a male sees you in a state of undress, he can’t ever un-see it?  You don’t want the Hall boys to only think of you in this sexual way, do you? Neither do we.”

That’s when my stomach sunk. Please, please tell me if I’m reading too much into what you’re saying here, but it looks like you’re suggesting that once a male sees a female in only a towel, he can only think of her in a sexual way. If so, YIKES. Also, NO. 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.

Yes. What my dad said, exactly. I’m raising a young man, too — three of them, actually, though only one’s a teen so far — and I want him to learn that once he sees a young woman as a sexual object (which he undoubtedly will, what with being human and a sexual being, just like most* men and women), he can look with new eyes and see her also as a friend, as a member of his community, as someone worth championing, as someone with talents and gifts, as someone to learn from, and maybe even, eventually, as a romantic interest. Because the real goal, of course, for all of us, is how to stop objectification and to start seeing people.

The last issue I had with your letter was on the subject of second chances. “And so, in our house,” you wrote, “there are no second chances, ladies. If you want to stay friendly with the Hall men, you’ll have to keep your clothes on, and your posts decent.  If you try to post a sexy selfie, or an inappropriate YouTube video – even once – you’ll be booted off our on-line island.” And I guess, to be completely honest here, the reason this made me so sad is because I’m someone who needed a second chance as a young woman. And a third chance. And a fourth chance. Infinity chances, really. The difference then, of course, was there was no social media to check. Or ways for my insecurity, my disrespect of myself, my questioning, my doubts, my wandering, my desperate search to find myself, to find value, to find meaning… to be part of the permanent record. 

Now, is it your right to look as a family at pictures people have made public and to determine whether you need to block them? Absolutely! It’s your responsibility as a mother to decide what’s appropriate for you and yours, Mrs. Hall.

When you write a letter to my daughter, though, I need to weigh in on the message she’s hearing. Both from our overly-sexualized culture and from a well-intentioned mom on the internet who’s trying to combat that. That’s my responsibility. And the message I want her to internalize is this:

photo 5.PNGWe see you, sweetheart. We do. We see what you’re writing. We see what you’re posting. We see more of you than you think we do. We see sometimes down to the very center of your soul. And what you need to know is this: You are beautiful. You are valuable. You are worthy. You are your physical body, and you are so very much moreAnd you, baby girl, have infinite chances for grace and redemption and relationship and community and wholeness and LOVE. Always. Always and forever. Amen.

Which I bet, Mrs. Hall, is very close to what you think, too, and that we’re really not so very different at all. Thank you for the food for thought and for love-loving your children like I love-love mine.

In friendship,

Beth

P.S. You’re welcome for coffee any time. But wear long pants; I wasn’t kidding about the sticky couch.

………

*The original post read “what with being human and a sexual being, just like all men and women.” I changed the word “all” to “most” to reflect a kind correction I received that encouraged me to look at the Asexual Visibility and Education Network

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
519 comments
  1. The Hall boys sound incredibly lame. Maybe it’s because their parents are overprotective prudes. Just saying.

    For the record, under-sexualization can cause problems, too. The thing about both of these letters that is completely subjective is that they both suggest that sexuality is a bad thing. Even when two people are married, if they have spent their entire lives being taught that sexuality is something to be ashamed of, they’re going to have problems in their marriage – particularly if it is the case with one partner more so than with the other.

    I agree that posting “sexy” pictures on the internet is probably ill-advised, but the idea that they exist as part of some kind of permanent record is almost completely false. When I started college, Facebook was reserved for college students only. We never had problems like this, and we posted just about every bad thing we did. When Facebook decided to start letting grandma’s and little cousins (and nosey parents) join the “community,” I deleted most of it. It’s gone. IF you are some kind of prolific hacker (or just know the tricks like I do) you can find some of it. Most people don’t know how, including employers. Unless they’re planning to run for office, the level of scrutiny of their social media past by employers is incredibly exaggerated. For all intents, those pictures never even existed.

    1. Recently, there’s been a lot of discussion about the so-called “selfie” pictures, especially when it comes to teenage girls. Two moms of sons wrote contrasting blog posts about girls posting inappropriate pictures that they took of themselves in suggestive positions or with sexual innuendo. The first mom who started this off commented that she was disappointed in the girls because she knew they were bright, well-rounded, beautiful girls and that these pictures degraded them and turned them into sexual objects that boys couldn’t “unsee” or ever stop thinking about. She also went on to say that as soon as one of these inappropriate pictures showed up on her son’s Facebook newsfeed, her son would have to “unfriend” her because there were “no second chances.” The second mom, in response, was concerned about some of the first mom’s attention to the girl’s photos that may have actually encouraged the son to view the girl sexually. The second mom also questioned the true validity that the son would never view that girl as anything other than a sexual object. And most importantly, the second mom also raised the point that in her own life, she has needed second, third, and really infinite chances to learn from and correct her mistakes and stumbling blocks throughout her life and encouraged the first mom to be more forgiving. These two moms couch their posts in their Christian faith and support their different perspectives in that faith.

      It reminded me of when I was thirteen and taking roll after roll of self-portraits with my 35mm camera. I wanted to add my thoughts to the discussion, reflecting on my desire to take selfies, and as a mom to both a son and daughter (and step-mom to another son and daughter).

      Eighth grade in middle school, The Mickey Mouse Club television show on the Disney channel was doing a nationwide casting call. I was a dancer, experienced with working professionally, and a singer. My dream job was to be a dancer/performer at Disney World. We had only recently gotten cable and my brother was still little, about 7 years old, and we watched A LOT of Disney Channel. So I had seen the commercials for the casting call and had seen the ads in the newspaper. I showed up at L’Enfant Plaza in Washington, DC with my mother to a cattle call. Every dancer got a number and we had to wait in the Conference area of this hotel, stretching, singing, warming up, before we were let in by groups of 20 or so for our audition. Inside the audition room, the put on Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” (I am not joking) and we were supposed to dance in the 1-foot by 1-foot space between you and the next person and make an impression. Then, a producer or casting person came through one by one and had us sing a few lines of the song we prepared. I didn’t make the first cut. A few well-known stars made the cast that year: Brittany Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Justin Timberlake.

      Afterward, I became a bit obsessed with correcting what was obviously a mistake. The producer/casting person had said that if we had names similar to anyone already on the show, we probably wouldn’t be consider. Well, MMC already had a Jennifer. So I created a resume using my middle name, Elizabeth, and wrote a letter to the studio. And I started taking self-portraits in various clothing styles, makeup, and poses for what I thought would be my portfolio. I don’t know, I was 13.

      I do not consider myself a photogenic person, and sometimes I wonder if that fuels my selfie fetish because I’m always looking for a good shot. I want to see myself looking beautiful, interesting, and yes sexy. I don’t know how it is for uber-beautiful girls who run in the popular crowd, but part of my desire to see myself as beautiful is due to extremely low self-esteem. I can only imagine that with all the pressure on conventionally beautiful girls who run around with other very beautiful girls, self-esteem also comes into play.

      Also, at 13, 14, 15…and even now at almost 36, I was growing as a woman. I was transitioning out of being a child, just starting to understand myself as a sexual being. And make no mistake, BEING SEXUAL IS PART OF BEING HUMAN. While idealistic as it may be to view each other as equal, and I am a foremost proponent of treating people equally, as I’ve mentioned before in previous posts, there is evolution and biology at play. Women are just not going to be as physically strong as men. Is that always true? Of course not. But men are generally larger and stronger than women because of how we’ve evolved. It’s just a fact. There’s no prejudice in play here. It might CREATE prejudice but that’s more of a psychological issue. As my therapist once reminded me, we may have primal urges but as humans we also have this big thinking brain that helps us moderate our instincts and control our behavior. So just because I want to yell and scream at the crazy slow lady pushing the shopping cart down the grocery aisle, it doesn’t mean I will. Again, is this always the case? No. People make mistakes. People lose their temper or give in to temptation despite their better judgment. I mean, hey, that chocolate cake just looks so good right? And there re varying degrees of consequences. And then there are people with mental issues who have an innate difficulty that makes the instinct-thought behavior filter faulty.

      It is a complete contradiction to raise a child without acknowledging that they have sexual urges. It is culturally accepted, and even pressured – ESPECIALLY during the teenage years – to find a boyfriend or girlfriend. Falling in love is a central plot development in many many kiddie movies. Children see their parents’ affection for one another, or for their boyfriends/girlfriends. Children see their brothers and sisters seek out relationships. They see it on tv. It is part of our culture, and part of being HUMAN.

      And part of finding a boyfriend or girlfriend is to see them in a SEXUAL WAY. How many people have you known, stories that you’ve heard, read, or seen, where a person falls in love with their best friend but only after finally finally looking at them in a new way? Not just in a “hey, you’re neat and we both like the same things” but “hey, you’re neat and I really want to kiss you and touch you.” I’m not trying to be vulgar, just real.

      Does looking at someone in a sexual way mean that you see them as nothing else? Who thinks this way? I feel like people who must feel this way are really repressed or simply terrified of their own sexuality/sexual urges. We all operate in our daily lives without ogling our coworkers inappropriately and I think for the most part, our children will be similarly socialized.

      But part of that socialization, part of that growing up process is EXPERIMENTATION. Teenagers are trying to figure out who they are, what they like, who likes them, what they want, where they’re going. It’s incredibly confusing and overwhelming. I honestly dread parenting my kids through their teenage years because I remember it so viscerally. And I want to protect them. I want to save them from heartache. I want to parent them so much that they always make the right decisions and never make a mistake. Is this realistic? Hell, no. My kids are going to make mistakes, and what’s more, they NEED to make mistakes in order to become better people. People who get everything they want, in my opinion, don’t actually know what they want because they’ve never had to fight for it. They’ve never had to struggle. Struggle, failure, disappointment, heartbreak and all those horrible things make us stronger and better as human beings. Sometimes mistakes turn out deadly. Sometimes a bad call in judgment leads to a truly traumatizing experience. Sometimes, though, those things happen anyways. And the fact is there is no way to judge when that may happen, no way to control it, no way to really prevent it. But we can’t live our lives in fear of those worse-case scenarios. We can’t raise our children in that fear.

      My experience, so far, has taught me that if we over-protect and try to “save” people – loved ones especially – from themselves, save people from hurt, we only prevent them from growing. And we’re only doing it out of our own fear and need for control.

      I’m not saying to let your daughter post topless pictures of herself online. But kids are going to experiment with flirting, their sexuality, and their image. Because it’s all in flux. And you know what happens, often, when things are just too crazy? People try to control things.

      And guess what? Taking selfies is a form of control. These girls are controlling their experimentation. Controlling their image. Getting validation on their own terms. Think about it, when a sleezy male photographer takes pictures of young girls in sexy poses or nude or whatever, we feel as if the girls were taken advantage of. And maybe they were. But when girls do it to themselves, we judge them as being slutty. I think in both cases, though, there is on some level a NEED to explore these burgeoning feelings, this changing body and that has been going on for centuries. How many paintings of nude young women are there? How much emphasis on celebrity culture, sex tapes, sexy poses? As a young woman, there is so much self-doubt and having a picture that you can look at and say “damn, I look good,” can help you through a shitty day. Having someone else look at that photo and say “damn, girl, you look hot,” is even better.

      Cameron Diaz made a controversial statement a little while ago that women LIKE to be looked at as sexual objects. Women like to be catcalled. And, like most generalizations, I’m sure that’s not true. But what I do think is true is that women like to be validated and SEEN as beautiful and sexual and as long as that validation is not coming from a threatening source, I do think women secretly appreciate it.

      What I appreciate about my horrible teenage years was that I got to completely fuck up within the safety of my home and with the support of my parents. Did they agree with what I was doing? NO! Did they worry? YES! But I got to go to a number of extremes in my experimentation that allowed me to explore who I was on every level and I came out of it and went into adult life, away from my parents, without a need to go crazy. Many people I saw in college had never experimented with drugs or sex or alcohol, and it seemed like a much scarier proposition to see them let loose without any safety net. No parent to set a curfew, or to pick them up.

      I don’t share the two mom’s Christian faith and there are some morals there that I have a hard time relating to because, again, I feel like it’s contradictory. Don’t view women as sexual objects but find a wife and then have sex with her? I think better to acknowledge that men, and women, are going to have sexual feelings and teach the kids how to incorporate that into the full picture.

      Online pictures become a part of a person’s social reputation. But unless a girl only posts inappropriate selfies over and over again, I don’t see cause for more than just open dialogue. And the girl who does post all those pics? She needs help because she is not getting enough love and support from the people closest to her and she’s seeking it out in the anonymous and to some extent “safe” world of the internet where everything feels a bit less real than the overwhelming feelings of every day life.

  2. […] Facebook is a great place to get ideas on what to write about for most bloggers, including myself. And it might even be where you get your news or your laugh for the day! So, most of you readers probably have read or seen someone comment on one Mom’s blog “FYI (If you’re a Teenage Girl)”. But you may not have seen the response to Mrs. Hall’s very to the point and sincere letter to young girls in high school, called “Dear Mrs. Hall, Regarding Your “FYI (if you’re a teenage girl)“”. […]

  3. […] Dear Mrs. Hall, Regarding Your “FYI (if you’re a teenage girl)” by Beth Woolsey (She links to the original post so read both, but I’ll just leave this one here.) […]

  4. As a mom of three boys (and one very little girl), this is exactly what I want to teach them. Behind every flirty, pouty girl is a person created in God’s image deserving of respect. I don’t care what they wear, I will teach my sons that they are responsible for their reactions and the way they treat women. I’m sure the day will come soon, where they will see a girl at the pool who is scantily dressed and have a physical response, but they need to be the ones who act with respect and kindness. (Just like I don’t start slobbering over my computer screen whenever a picture of Ryan Gosling appears.)

  5. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this blog! Speaks truth and gives grace. GREAT JOB!!

  6. I think both young boys and girls have accountability here. The guys want to blame the girls and the girls want to make excuses and blame guys. Social media is not helping at all. I am the mother of 3 boys and I agree mostly with Mrs. Hall; although I feel that Beth had some valid points to. As parents, we have an obligation to teach both our sons and daughters to respect each other and respect themselves. It saddens me that everyone on here can’t see that there is accountability to go around. Parents, teachers, boys, girls, social media, our culture…Do I need to keep going? I can see valid points on both articles, but I feel like it is somewhere in the middle. We have a right to protect our children and we don’t have to agree with the way other people raise their children, but I find it heartbreaking in today’s society that we always want to blame someone else. It is not up to me to judge, it is up to me to guide my children the best I know how. I think it is important to teach our children. Yes, I believe in forgiveness, but that doesn’t mean I have to accept it or allow my children to view it. #commonsense #integrity #accountability #love #forgiveness

  7. As a single dad of a teenage son, I may offer yet a different perspective.

    So maybe the message may need to be something like. Girls, guys may hear a different message that you send. You may have to choose between communicating by understanding each other and just “saying” what you want. And girls, guys may not give you a second look if they don’t want to be distracted by what you are or aren’t wearing. You will make mistakes. Everyone does. Mistakes can be exchanged for wisdom when we learn from them. Girls, modesty makes boys look harder at the real you, and when they are less distracted. Modesty is a real win. Modesty won’t get instant results, but then again, what other things are really good when they are instant. At best, instant things are convenient, at worst, they are cheap imitations that leave you more hungry for the real thing than before.

    And girls, men and women are different. It ranges across a spectrum. Mrs Hall is drawing from her experience for what men have told her about erasing visual pictures from their memory. Many men are that visual. Beth is not wrong for drawing from her experience, and from that of her dad to say that some men have visual markers that aren’t as permanent. The best thing to do is to read some things that describe the spectrum well.

    There is a blame and laziness war that goes on at various levels that is sometimes described as the battle of the sexes. It is generally characterized by someone wanting someone else to change. It may be hard to find balanced truth about how men and women differ, that is also based on social science. It is important to choose what you seem to see as the best, and then prayerfully, see what you believe to be true. For my son, I bought Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn’s books for my son to use as a starting point of discussion, so that he could learn how his messages might be received by young ladies, and how he might understand better messages that he was receiving. The books by the Feldhahns have been done by good statistical methods, and more than that, Shaunti Feldhahn didn’t ever have as a goal to try to study the differences between men and women. She had no stake in the outcome, at least initially, other than to improve her own understanding. She just happened to have to tools to do it well. But one other caution as well, sometimes we can get so caught up in the differences that we can lose sight of the commonality between men and women, the need for love, respect, kindness, grace, forgiveness, and the need to forgive.

      1. No what, Lola?

  8. […] sexual selfies on Facebook. It’s created quite the stir online (here’s a valuable response) but since it didn’t break into ESPN’s Top 10 or interrupt Call of Duty, I bet that […]

  9. Beth, I respectfully disagree. You seem to have two problems with Mrs. Hall’s letter. One is that, you argue, men don’t necessarily continue to see women as sexual objects once they’ve seen a sultry picture. I think the point Mrs. Hall is making is that you can’t un-see those images and they can stay in a person’s mind for a very long time. Especially a teenage boy’s mind. I totally agree with Mrs. Hall on that. My teenage sons have told me that it’s nearly impossible to forget those visual images. And why should they have to grapple with those pictures in their mind when they see these girls at school? The second problem you have with Mrs. Hall’s post is how she only gives these girls one chance. If they post a sultry, inappropriate picture she’s taking them down–and somehow that seems unfair to you. You’re bothered by the no-second-chances thing, because you say you were a girl who needed a few second chances. Uhhhh, it’s not Mrs. Hall’s duty to give girls who want to post sensual pictures of themselves a second chance, at her children’s risk. (And frankly, who has time to monitor that, to make sure their word is good?) If those girls want a second chance they can see their spiritual leaders or clean up their pictures for themselves and move on. Mrs. Hall’s duty is to her own children. As the mother of four teenage/young adult sons I completely applaud Mrs. Hall. She is teaching her sons not to view young women as sex objects. And she’s teaching young women that portraying themselves that way is not cute and appealing. She’s deciding what’s right for her boys to view on the internet while they are minors in her care. She’s playing an active role in her children’s internet use. We need more mothers like this. All Hail Mrs. Hall!

    1. No. This has nothing to do with memory. Can “unsee”, can’t “unsee”; doesn’t matter. Completely irrelevant. The problem with Mrs. Halls letter is, “see you ONLY in this sexual way.” The problem is the suggestion that once men see sexual imagery, they have no choice but to objectify. That they couldn’t possibly see the person. This is wrong. Every male can choose to remember that in addition to looking good, there are thoughts, feelings, values and struggles that are more important.

  10. I hope, Beth, that you and Mrs. Hall do, indeed, get to share that cup of coffee and friendly, frank conversation. I would love to read the article a conciliatory, meeting-of-the-minds discussion might produce. Each of you has valid points and positions; each of you has a voice that speaks for many. Wouldn’t it be lovely to impact, in the best way, our collective uses of social media, and effect real change in the myriad, mediated ways our sons and daughters see themselves and each other? I appreciate your words.

  11. […] There are two blogs going around Facebook lately.  You might have read them.  Or you might’ve just scrolled right on by, which I usually do.  But I happened to read both because they were both reposted by friends whose opinions on parenting I value and trust.  Here is the link to the first post written by Mrs. Hall on behalf of her sons. http://givenbreath.com/2013/09/03/fyi-if-youre-a-teenage-girl/.  Read this first, see how you feel about it, and then read the reply blog letter to Mrs. Hall. http://putdowntheurinalcake.com/2013/09/dear-mrs-hall-regarding-your-fyi-if-youre-a-teenage-girl/. […]

  12. […] Beth wrote a beautiful and, I feel, very compassionate piece that addressed the issues I personally had with the letter, but still kept in mind the fact that Mrs. Hall is, first and foremost, a human being with feelings and undoubtedly a loving mother that wants what’s best for her children. Should others have addressed their concern for the words she wrote? Absolutely, and I hope someone would do the same for me. I just wish there were more response letters that were less about mocking this woman, and more loving explanations as to why the letter concerned so many of us. […]

  13. I read the original letter post, and something about it didn’t settle with me as well. First, I felt that the ‘no second chances’ was extremely harsh. I, too, have needed second, third, and fourth chances even as an adult.
    I didn’t feel her photos were inappropriate, because real-life is boys wear trunks. My boys often play outside without shirts on. It isn’t a showing-off thing. It’s a it’s 100 degrees in the shade, Mom kicked us out of the house, and we don’t want to die thing.
    I do feel like all blame was placed on girls in her letter, and that’s the part that hurt my heart the most. Even though this is exponentially more serious than girls ‘asking’ for inappropriate thoughts and comments about boys by posting sexy selfies, it struck me that this isn’t that far removed from this messed up society’s idea that girls and women ‘ask’ to be raped by wearing suggestive clothing and by teasing men.
    Instead of writing this letter the way Mrs. Hall did, I wish she would have talked about teaching her boys that girls are worth cherishing, that girls are worthy of respect even if they make poor choices, and that girls who post these photos need to be valued for more than their bodies and their faces.
    I feel sorry for these girls that have been blocked from her boys. They were just told, very publicly, that because of one thing they did, one poor choice, they don’t deserve a second chance. That’s not the message I want my sons to hear.
    Shaming women is ingrained in this society. Women are taught how not to get raped, but men aren’t taught not to rape. Women are told not to entice men, and men are let off the hook when they stray. Women are told to cover up, but men aren’t taught to keep their eyes averted.
    I have a 19 year old step daughter, and she’s been taught that her brains and abilities define her, not her body. I also have 4 sons of my own and one step son, three of whom are teenagers. They have all been taught that people make poor choices, but that it shouldn’t define them, women are strong, intelligent beings that should be cherished and respected, and that understandably they will have those hormonal thoughts and feelings, but that doesn’t mean they act on them.
    I feel this subject does need to be discussed, but placing blame isn’t the way to do it and rarely leads to any solutions.

    1. Men are not taught NOT to rape? Please. That’s an utter lie.

  14. Dear Beth,
    Your response to Mrs. Hall was condescending in tone and in completely missed the point. Mrs. Hall was pointing out to some, not all, girls that their actions have consequences. Please, be realistic; when a girl poses in revealing clothing and poses in a pose she has seen in any Victoria’s Secret ad or music video and sends it out to the public, she is saying “Look at me in a sexual way.” She has just made a big mistake and it wouldn’t hurt her to hear Mrs. Hall tell her in a kind but very firm way that introducing these images to her sons will not continue and that Mrs. Hall hopes she will make a better choice. Maybe what these girls need is to hear no strongly and feel a little shame. Meanwhile, we will continue to encourage our sons to focus on what really matters in a person, as difficult as it may be as they are flooded with sexual images at every turn. And, by the way, a boy flexing his biceps in a bathing suit is not sexual behavior. Let’s not dump on Mrs. Hal’s boys because we are reluctant to confront our daughters.

    1. And posing in a towel, or standing with an arched back and pouty lips is ALSO not “sexual behavior”. It’s an attempt to solicit attention, it’s an attempt to align oneself with the messages being spewed by popular culture every day in videos, entertainment t.v., etc… Sexual behavior is posting an image of two girls kissing, or a video of masturbation or fellatio. The fact that you equate a photo in which the young woman is COVERED, and not performing any sexual act, as sexual – is echoing what Beth is talking about. Instead of shaming these girls, how about teaching her sons to ignore the attention-getting antics and learn what they are made of past the towel and the pout. Mrs.Hall is teaching her sons that one bad decision labels a woman for life – not the lesson I would encourage for anyone’s child, male or female.

      1. Oh please, stop making excuses for these girls. They made a mistake and need guidance not rationalization. No one said they were performing a sexual act but they are certainly acting out in a provocative manner. If the word “shame” makes you uncomfortable than substitute “embarrassed” ; however you label it, it should be an action the girl does not repeat. This is all about teaching girls to respect themselves and value more than the reaction they can get by intentionally posting pictures in various stages of undress and mimicking sexualized behavior they are far too immature to understand or accept the consequences. In fact, the Hall’s are acting respectfully by removing the photos and making sure they will no longer participate in any girl’s unfortunate embarrassing situation as well as encouraging them that, in spite of this incident, they are not judging any girl’s character because of the photo but hope they will do better in the future. Her sons did choose to ignore the act by deleting the photos. It’s hard to hear that you have embarrassed yourself and others but these girls did and the kind thing is to help them deal with it. May I suggest they work hard to remove any compromising photos out in public and even apologize?

        1. Beth, I appreciate Mrs. Hall’s call for girls to show self-respect online. Yes, please. That is a wonderful goal, and I’ve raised two girls to 18 and 15 who, at this point, have not embarrassed themselves via photos that others might interpret as sexual.

          But for the most part, I agree with you. I hate that the onus is always, always put on the girls. Don’t look that way, or pose that way, or dress that way, because boys just don’t have enough self-control and self-respect, let alone respect for others, to keep it in their pants. I don’t believe that. I believe that boys who are raised in a home in which objectifying women is SOP – and that takes on many, many different forms, some that would likely surprise a lot of people – then yes, they probably will objectify women themselves, see them as sexual toys before seeing them as people. But boys whose parents talk to them about WHY objectification is wrong and how what they see in the media perpetuates it and how to not do that, well, they’ll be more likely to show girls and women the respect they deserve. My girls have lots of male friends who are great guys and who know all of this – so I know it’s possible. Thanks for speaking up. Your family is beautiful. My girls are both adopted as well, and it’s been the most amazing ride!!

        2. Existing as a girl is not a mistake. Having a female body is not a mistake. Taking pictures of yourself is not a mistake.

          If you want girls to think they have more to offer than their physical availability, you should criticize the society that makes them feel that way every day. You’re trying to cure allergies with corks up both nostrils, and it’s wrongheaded and just WRONG. There is nothing kind about anything you’re saying.

  15. I read your post first via a friend on Facebook before reading the teenage girl post. I understand where you are coming from. However I have two teenage sisters both in high school. One is 15 and the other 16 (one with mom/stepdad and one with dad/stepmom). I’m telling you this to tell you that I’ve seen it ALL. I’ve been the one to monitor these girls Facebooks. These teenage girls take way too revealing of pictures. And the saddest part is, they are posting them on Facebook for the world to see. I can only assume even more promiscuous photos are being shared via text message or Skype. Let’s get real…. this is not good. Media has opened up a window of opportunities for teenagers to post inappropriate pictures. And it breaks my heart to say that they don’t agree with us adults when we say it’s inappropriate.
    On a side note, I am a believer and I have many God fearing friends who are male.

    I’ve had many conversations with them about the battle of their eyes and mind. Whether you want to admit it or not, men are created with a sexual mind. And, YES, once a boy (especially a teenage boy who hasn’t yet practiced controlling his thoughts) sees a girl undressed, he can’t quickly unsee that image. You should do some reading on how often the male brain thinks about sex a day or even an hour…. You will be shocked. Also, study how often the male body desires to have sex and have that release. After you do that, maybe you’ll think twice on the fact that your little teenage boy and soon to be boys will think of most of their teenage girl friends in a sexual way more than once, twice, or even three times a day. Re-read that teenage girl post again with a new set of eyes, a fresh set of eyes, that aren’t taking it personal. Read it with an open mind of taking in the wisdom that family has to offer to those teenage girls.

    Sincerely,
    Erin

  16. I’m sorry, but I respectfully disagree. At all. I’ve been in high school. Those pictures, which are so readily available now, and which clearly came from actions, they get passed around locker rooms. They get whispered about in hallways. They start reputations. If we want boys to be able to look at women with new eyes, then there can’t be second chances ONLINE, because unless the girls’ moms step in, those pictures don’t come down. They get added to. Your boys may be able to unsee it, but I would say that many teenage boys can’t.

    1. What is this absurd reasoning? If we don’t want boys to be disrespectful, we have to teach girls to never give them any opportunity to be disrespectful (ie. by existing and being female, because I guarantee you that boys were whispering in locker rooms and hallways long before the internet was even invented, let alone social media)? How about we TEACH BOYS TO BE RESPECTFUL.

      What an utter load of tripe your comment is.

      1. Why don’t we do both (i.e. teaching both boys AND girls their responsibilities toward their fellow human beings) cos both are responsible. Just because some people don’t make the effort to teach their boys properly, it does NOT automatically follow that we must then give girls a pass on their behavior.

  17. Really nice job. Outstanding. Major props to you.

  18. […] Dear Mrs. Hall, Regarding Your “FYI (if you’re a teenage girl)”… on Five Kids is a Lot of Kids […]

  19. Thank you, thank you, thank you Beth.
    Mother of three daughters 16, 15 and 10.

  20. Slow clap. That was wonderful and very respectful. Thank you very much for your careful and loving response, and YES! Exactly. What you said. Times two.

  21. As a mother of three girls aged 21, 19 and almost 16 – I just wanted to say: What a beautiful response and what a beautiful letter! Thank you for taking the time to write it and having the courage to press “publish.”

    1. I agree, Leanne from oceans away…as a mother of an almost 16 year old daughter and a son of 14. 🙂 Beautifully written.

  22. Thank you for writing this. You have expressed exactly what I was feeling about Mrs. Hall’s letter.

  23. CAN’T EVER UNSEE HER HUSBAND HALF DRESSED!!!
    (Dear God I thought it would never end.)
    Something tells me she wouldn’t have thought that was as cute if it had been my daughters doing that in front of the camera.

  24. […] This post at Put Down the Urinal Cake is a lovely, thoughtful, heartfelt reply to Mrs. Hall. […]

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