Hello readers, as an aside from angsty poetry and the culminating need for self love and acceptance that I have recently been struggling with- I would like to do a quick response to an article I read recently on wordpress. I actually found the article shared through a friend on facebook. Initially I wanted to simply comment on the article, but in lieu of not making my point clearly I decided to simply write about it here. The article in questions is here.
Basically, the nature of the letter- to teenager girls, it addresses the issue of teenage girl “selfies” that appear as subjective or sexual in the eyes of a mother of teenage boys. A fair point to make- that the way you portray yourself online can overshadow your other qualities (i.e. she mentions their funniness or their insight). She claims her old school parenting techniques and need to raise boys with a strong moral compass is what leads her to block girls of the boys facebook profiles who post these scantily clad and inappropriate pictures.
In a nutshell I agree with some of her qualms but as a teenage girl myself I have a few really big issues with her article. Maybe it’s because I don’t have kids but hey, she wrote the article to girls like me so here’s on for her.
Hey, how are you? I found your article pretty interesting, I like reading and I like new insights on a topic that I think is fairly simple. I guess the topic of garnering male respect isn’t all that simple but it’s okay sometimes I live in an ideal world. I want to talk about your article though, because there are a lot of points that I don’t understand- points I would hope you clarify for the sake of your own sons (and daughter!).
I want to make it pretty clear that I am not in support of pictures that put girls in a position of sexuality because I understand the natural reaction of teenage boys (like how they “notice you don’t have a bra on”). But I also want to make it pretty clear that the nature of the conversation could be VERY different from the nature you put forth.
So here it goes.
I would say the first nature of my disagreement is that you feel the need to put yourself in the position to mother of many instead of mother of your own children. When did it become your job to speak on the actions of other children instead of speak to the nature of your own sons? I probably don’t want your advice, sorry, but I have a mom and I love her dearly- there is no room for another mom here.
Now when you say “Did you know that once a male sees you in a state of undress, he can’t quickly un-see it? You don’t want our boys to only think of you only in this sexual way, do you?” Do you understand that as a woman I do not exist as a sexual object for any man? Do you understand that I (and only me because I am selfish and opinionated) have the right to my own body and my own sexuality. If I choose to post a picture of myself with barely any clothes- do I not still deserve the respect of your apparently well mannered sons? I think I do, simply because I am human. If I go out on a Saturday night in a dress, do I deserve the come ons and catcalls of men who I do not know? Have I, simply by dressing myself in a certain way, automatically forfeited basic mutual respect? And if you said yes- should I also explain that this nature of thinking is the same one that has led to slut shaming and victim blaming in the nature of rape and sexual harassment? I mean, I could but I have a feeling this letter will be long enough.
Imagine my face popping up on your facebook- woah, crazy because I do not know you. But would you judge me based off a “selfie” of myself in glasses and a sweater- would this make me smart or make me worthy of your dinner table conversation? Who knows, considering you seem to tell your sons to judge their future wives based on the way they choose to portray themselves on the internet regardless of how they are IN REAL LIFE (which is vastly more important, trust me). Let me tell you something- girls in skirts/with pouty faces/wearing no bra can still have a moral fiber that transcends these pictures but that is mostly beside the point.
Okay, I hope you’re still reading- I use a lot of words, I know. Listen, I’m not saying these girls should scream “RESPECT ME” while they have yet to figure out how to respect themselves- however it should not matter. Instead of blocking these girls I think a more productive conversation would be- “Sometimes girls, and boys for that matter, put things on the internet that make them seem a certain way- but no matter what you as a human being should respect these women instead of treating them as a sexual object- because apparently you will now only be able to see them like that.” I want you to know that your sons do not exist for me to ogle over and I do not exist for them to ogle over. It’s that simple.
Naturally, deleting someone off facebook does not mean these women do not exist. I hope your boys will come to learn that these women (i.e. girls who are looking for sexual satisfaction and some sort of positive attention) are humans that do not deserve their scorn (or their harassment!) I speak to all boys here. It is okay to love the female body, it is not okay to harass me for it.
Just one more thing- I hope this reaches you because I want you to think about it. I really do, for the sake of your daughter. Much of the motivation behind these attention seeking pictures is that more and more girls are being conditioned to believe that this is “what boys like.” In our most vulnerable states of being (read middle school/teenage years) many girls are looking for attention and affection to cure some of their own insecurities. Those girls are learning, we are all learning. Could you please tell your daughter that she exists for herself and herself alone? Could you please tell her that she should be confident in her body and her sexuality and that no matter what the patriarchal structure of our society says- that she does not exist for boys? I would really appreciate it, because when I am old enough to have children I hope I wouldn’t even have to tell them that girls have to fight for respect from men, on the internet and in real life. I hope that society would have evolved to much better than that. I hope that is not an unreachable ideal.
Oh, and for the record- I never cared about the pictures of your sons that you posted. Because c’mon now we don’t live in a society that shames boys for their bodies, apparently we only do that to these girls.
THANK YOU, really,
Kate (one very distressed teenage girl)