Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Dear Kim: My Son Is Not an Animal, and My Daughter Is Responsible for No One's Sexuality But Her Own

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's piece 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.

19 comments:

  1. Thank you. THANK YOU for articulating perfectly what I, in my sputtering feelings about the original article, haven't been able to articulate well.

    Well and perfectly said.

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  2. The last two lines of your post *perfectly* captured the problem I had with her article: I'll talk to my kids, you talk to your kids, and let's just all agree on some basic acceptable behavior standards.

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  3. Not quite sure why everyone has their panties twisted by her article. I have seen some extremely sexual photos of young teens on facebook(most of them aren't even old enough to drive) why wouldn't it be responsible of me to want to block them from my child's feed? If her parents cannot teach her to respect herself and dress like a young lady then I reserve every right to teach my sons to aim for higher standards then a girl who obviously doesn't respect herself enough.

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    1. I bet your sons aren't as squeaky clean and preciously sinless than you imagine them to be. I don't think harshly judging young girls and their parents is really a road you want to go down, lest someone dig up something not so nice about your own parenting.

      -kt

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    2. I feel like if you're going to hold your sons to high standards, good grammar and spelling as a result of being well educated is a great place to start. And news flash...any adolescent boy can and does look at far more risque things than profiles of adolescent girls.

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  4. It's funny cause I agree with everything you say but when I read the blog post by Kim I must have taken something else away from it. I didn't read it as though her boys couldn't control themselves and thus they de-friend all those scantily clad facebook friends but she'd rather her boys spend time with girls who do not feel the need to attract her sons sexually. I can't think of a reason for a scantily clad selfie if not for sexual attention and while I think it's one (wrong) thing to blame a female for a man's sexual lust for her, it's another thing to blame the man who looks at the picture of the women who is dressed intentionally sexually and then bash him for responding the way he was physically made too. Realistically, we don't live in a society of modesty and I don't think that saying that it doesn't/shouldn't make a difference is realistic. I don't know if that makes sense. My hope is that our sons be be taught sexual self-control and discipline as well as any possible future daughters be taught self-respect.

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    1. See you're totally right about the fact that we're not living in an ideal world. I want to reach all my Kidd all the things you mentioned at the end of your comment. And u don't necessarily think the author did anything wrong. I would probably do likewise depending on my kids ages. But her framing if it irked me. She could have written much more thoughtfully from the perspective of teaching sons versus focusing on other peoples daughters.

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    2. Ugh so many typos - that's what I get for writing on my phone.

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  5. Hello,
    I read both articles, I have a teenage son and a very soon to be teen daughter, I think a big part of the original blog that is being missed is the fact that these young people (in this instance it happens to be girls) post images that many would deem inappropriate thinking (or maybe NOT thinking) that its only their "friends" seeing them, when in reality it can be any number of unwanted viewers, whether it be your friends' mother, a prospective or employee, or a sexual predator. I think rather focusing on the gender specifics perhaps people shoukd be focusing,on teaching children of both sexes and all ages the consequences of online postings, to ask themselves the questions "is this something I would be comfortable with ANYONE seeing", "is this something that I will feel comfortable and proud of indefinitely" because the reality is once something is posted online you can have no realistic expectation of privacy (so if you think your facebook filter, which most teens don't even have set properly, will protect you think again) and once something is out it may very realistically come back to haunt you long after you have outgrown the immature need for self indulge, attention seeking, and immediate gratification. We would all do better to try to focus on promoting self worth, self and mutual respect and finally teaching our children how to protect themselves from their own momentary thoughtlessness.

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  6. Sorry for all the errors. Night shift brain:)

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  7. Thank you 1000 times over! How will her sons learn to be respectful human beings, if they are told that those girls are bad in some way. How will they know how to react around those very same girls in the halls of their high school, if they are told they can't look at social media pics, because those girls are in a towel? Do her sons ever go to the local pool or the beach? Do they have gym class with girls? Do they go to the mall? There is nothing their friends are doing on social media that those boys aren't seeing in real life. Why not have the discussion of how to appropriately (re)act to those kinds of images? Teach her sons that those images are not an invitation? That the clothes a person wears or their pose does not equal the sum total of that person's character or value as a person?

    I am grateful that there are moms of sons and daughters that are just like you. Who will be this voice of reason to their children. Your kids are very, very lucky!

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  8. I have to agree with a bit of both posts. Being the Father of a 14 year old daughter I am Very active with her online social profiles ... just because ... we have taught her to be respectful of herself and others but I also see many of her friends posting images that should not see the light of day and I can understand the other article too.

    About a 1000 years ago I too was a teenage male ... and yes, I had the ability to see any women, in my mind, naked

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  9. I disagree with this poorly written (pretty much attacking) post....I couldn't even read it all. I agree with Kim completely. We don't live our own bubbles - the choices we make DO AFFECT others....and it's not that you have to feel accountable for other peoples thoughts, but please be considerate of others when it comes to modesty, photos, and behavior. Stop focusing on just yourself and how you "perceive" things. The world does not revolve around you.

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    1. Nor does it revolve around others. Consideration is one thing - and yes, let's all be considerate of one another!

      But Kim's post was just as much about how she "perceives" things. I'd suggest she stop focusing her parenting on other people's children and focus on parenting her own.

      Her piece could have been a thoughtful post about parenting boys in an immodest world - one which I would have loved to have read had it been written considering my own son will someday have to move through that world. Instead, it targeted other parents' daughters, placing the blame for her son's mental purity squarely on them. She should worry about her sons - by monitoring their social media usage, absolutely - instead of trying to parent other people's.

      tl;dr: Parent your own kids. If someone causes you to stumble, it's still your own fault for stumbling.

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  10. Your words are powerful and you are a great writer. Sadly, you lose the grace and elegance and power of your words simply because you are using them to put someone else's personal thoughts in the trash. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and everyone should be given the benefit of the doubt. Including Mrs. Hall.

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    1. I did give her the benefit of the doubt... "The gist of Kim's piece 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?" I actually don't think that's what she meant - and consequently, because it came off that way, she lost a wonderful opportunity to write about the subtleties of raising strong, moral boys (since she focused on other parents' girls as temptations).

      But in any case, the nice thing about blogging is that it becomes a conversation. Someone posts, other bloggers respond. I'd be fine with her responding to me - and like I said above, I don't disagree with her approach to parenting her children, just the tone of her piece.

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  11. I totally agree with you. I'm just trying to point out that you are using an insincere tone in your piece too. But I know we are all just trying to do our best with parenting...It is harder than it looks. :) Have a great day.

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    1. I suppose you could call my tone "rankled". ;)

      And yup! We're all doing the best we can!

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