Recently, a mom to young boys wrote a letter to teenage girls that has since opened up quite a discussion. Many of my friends posted the link on their Facebook pages. I even copied the text of it and emailed it to my own daughter, asking her to read it so that we could discuss it. I didn't say anything more about it in the email - just gave her the text of it and told her I wanted to know what she thought. And the reason I didn't give her any more than that was because I couldn't quite articulate my thoughts about it.
It didn't quite sit right with me.
There was a lot to which I found myself nodding in agreement - the fact that the family is involved in their children's social media interaction, how she pointed out that, if you're friends with one of her sons, you can consider yourself friends with the entire family, that they all enjoy 'seeing things through your unique and colorful lens'. I truly love the people with whom my children are friends because they are so unique and dynamic and interesting. I also think it's wise that parents stay involved in their children's lives - particularly online - because there are so many pitfalls and difficult situations and having someone to guide you can often mean the difference between wisdom and regret.
But there was something that hovered at the back of my overloaded brain and I just couldn't lasso it into anything articulate until I read a post by 'Beth' where she pretty much seemed to reach into my brain and pull out my inarticulate thoughts and wrestle them into submission. She points out that our goal as parents is to teach our children - boys AND girls - to see people as PEOPLE, not as objects. She also points out the one thing that really weighed heavily on my heart - the idea of second chances. Mrs. Hall states that, for the ladies, there are no second chances; once you make a mistake, you're toast. I find this sad and, if my daughter ever faces this situation, it will break my heart.
How many of us have never made a mistake?
I didn't think so. I make plenty of them. Every day. Every hour. Sometimes, more than one at a time. I've posted things I later regretted. I've said and done things in real life I wish I could take back. Haven't we all? Last I checked, there was only one perfect person to walk this planet and He is not me. Thankfully, there are people in my life that love(d) me enough to see past my mistakes. They love me enough to give me a second chance. And a third. And a seventy-seventh, if the need arises (though I try hard not to make that necessary). Isn't that what we're supposed to do? Isn't grace for our fellow human being one of the biggest parts of love? I'm not saying condone poor behavior - what I AM saying is that casting aside a person because they made a mistake is not loving. It's not graceful. It's not kind. And it leads to a very lonely and confining life.
That was the heaviest thing on my heart.
But then I read this piece about 'Seeing A Woman' and it really struck at the heart of what had been weighing on me. Mrs. Hall - though I'm pretty sure she did not mean for it to come across this way - put words to an attitude that has become more prevalent of late: that the responsibility for how people view us (as girls/women, as boys/men, as people) rests SOLELY upon the shoulders of the person being viewed. The attitude is that how a girl - in this instance - is viewed is based completely upon how SHE presents herself to the world. If she chooses to wear a 2-piece swimsuit, for example, then the world has the right to view her as a skank. None of the responsibility rests upon the person doing the viewing. In this case, none of the responsibility rests upon the male - it's not *his* fault that he's now seeing her as a piece of meat, rather than a human being in a 2-piece.
This attitude is wrong. We should not fault a female who was sexually assaulted for wearing the wrong clothes or giving off the wrong signals so why is it acceptable to fault a female who is wearing a bikini when a male objectifies her? Why is this a zero-sum game? An all-or-nothing proposal?
It shouldn't be.
It should be a two way street; a team effort, if you will.
To quote Nate Pyle, "There are two views regarding a woman’s dress code that you will be pressured to buy into. One view will say that women need to dress to get the attention of men. The other view will say women need to dress to protect men from themselves. Son, you are better than both of these. A woman, or any human being, should not have to dress to get your attention. You should give them the full attention they deserve simply because they are a fellow human being. On the other side, a woman should not have to feel like she needs to protect you from you. You need to be in control of you."
And that is what I not only intend to teach my son but my daughter as well. Because this life IS a team effort. It takes both parties - males and females - to make this work.
Females need to be aware of the people around them. Human beings (not just males…all of us) are visual creatures. We LOOK at things, especially things designed to catch our eyes. Therefore we need to be mindful of how we dress and how it affects those around us. That being said, it is NOT our responsibilities, as females, to do anything more than that. If it were, where would we draw the line? Bare bellies are provocative to some so let's cover those. Thighs are enticing - cover those too. And some people find ankles overwhelming so cover those as well. Oh, and hair too. See what I'm saying? It's a slippery slope into a burqa. Where do we draw the line?
We draw the line by teaching our sons to see girls/women as PEOPLE. We teach them to appreciate the beauty of a female but to do so while not objectifying them. We draw the line by teaching our sons that women are individuals with hopes and dreams and thoughts and feelings - just as men are. Respect them as people. Don't turn them in to objects.
My son is responsible for HIS brain. He is not responsible for what a girl wears but he sure as hell is responsible for HIS brain - what it thinks, how it classifies the people with whom he interacts, how it affects his words and his actions. Just because a female wears an immodest piece of clothing does not mean that he gets to let his brain turn her into a piece of meat - an object. He is BETTER than that. He is STRONGER than that. He is SMARTER than that. We ALL are.
It's about time we start acting like it.