Yep, that’s us!
I don’t usually reply to things I read online (we’d be here all year!), but when I read the post, “FYI (if you’re a teenage girl)” I couldn’t let it be. (By the way, Mrs. Hall has edited that post. Here is what she actually said and the images she actually used.)
First, let me tell you a few things about me. I have three kids (a 17-year-old son and twin 13-year-old daughters). I love them more than most things, but they are not the center of my life. I have some strict rules about some things (safety, especially) but on a lot of things I’m willing to be flexible. In fact, my son has convinced me to change my mind several times. I believe in letting my children make their own choices and then letting them live with the consequences. I try to be open and honest. I would rather my children hear something from me or my husband than find it out from friends or, worse, the internet. That includes questions about sex and sexuality.
Their bodies belong to them. If they want to cut, dye or shave off their hair, that is their choice. They just need to get it professionally done so they don’t damage their hair. I won’t let them get tattoos at their age because I think something permanent like that should wait until you are old enough to legally make that decision yourself. But as a mom with two tattoos (and plans for a third), I will support them if they decide to get them (and help them find a reputable artist to do the art). I have always stressed if they didn’t want to be touched (such as hugs), it didn’t matter who it was, if one of my children says no, that is to be respected, even by me. I try very hard to make sure that all three of my children understand sex is something to be respected and not taken lightly. Their bodies belong to them and when they say no, it means no. Period. All three of my kids understand, “No means no.”
So when I read quotes like,
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?
(From the original version, not the edited post. In the edit she changed this to say, “he can’t quickly un-see it”)
I see red. For a number of reasons.
I try to teach my children—all THREE of my children—that they are responsible for themselves. If they choose to not do their homework all trimester, they have to live with what it means to have the F on their report card forever and what our punishment for not doing the work is. Their choice. If any one of my children looks at someone and only sees them as a sexual object, not a human, that is on my child, not the person they are looking at.
Hall said her boys can’t be held responsible for looking at a young woman (in her jammies, in a sexy pose, without her bra but not nude, in a towel) and thinking of them sexually. It’s really the girls’ fault. It’s thinking like Hall’s that turns women into objects. It’s thinking like this that makes people say women can’t breastfeed in public because no one needs to see naked breasts (you know, because breasts are only good for sex). It’s thinking like Hall’s that implies a 54-year-old teacher didn’t really rape his 14-year-old because she was “as much in control of the situation” and acted ”older than her chronological age.” It’s thinking like Hall’s that eventually leads young men to think they are not responsible for having sex with a woman who said no because she had on a short skirt, or she was drunk in public or said no but didn’t really mean it. And that is what she is teaching her sons.
She is also teaching her sons that women are only sexual objects. He can’t ever un-see it? Never? So, since my husband has not only seen me naked but actually had sex with me, I have been nothing more than a sexual object for the 20 years we’ve been together? When he saw me push three children (two on the same day) out of my vagina, he was only thinking about sex? When he saw me in the hospital, stuck there for two weeks, having to help me go to the bathroom and shower because I had a part of my rectum removed due to pre-cancer and then getting a terrible infection from two IV sites (lets not talk about having to help me clean the incision site for weeks), he was only thinking of me in a sexual way?
That is insulting to both of us. Me in that I am only a sexual object (not a mother, designer, friend, employee, nerd, knitter, partner, christian and the hundred other things I have to be in a month). Him in that he is only capable of thinking with his penis. Here’s a little something Hall isn’t interested in knowing: My husband is a very smart man. He is a husband, a partner, a father, a son, a brother, a baseball fan, a blogger, a computer nerd, a cook and an amazingly compassionate soul. His penis doesn’t play a role in any of those (well, except the husband part, but only some of the time).
I get what she was trying to do with this post. I’m all for modesty. I don’t want my daughters wearing short mini skirts (they have to reach to their fingertips). I want my children to be aware that sex isn’t the be-all, end-all. That their bodies are special and to be respected and deserving of respect from others. But sex isn’t bad. When it is between to consenting adults, it is pretty awesome in whatever form it takes. I want my children to understand that your heart should play as big a role in sex as your nether regions.
Instead, Hall writes a post shaming these girls. Instead of understand these are young women who are struggling in a hyper-sexualized society to fit in. Instead of acknowledging that these girls are looking for approval in the wrong way, she can only see them for their sin. They are tempting her sons. The sons who are not able to control their own urges and shouldn’t be expected to. The sons who only see women as sexual objects. This post isn’t about helping the young women. It isn’t “for their information” or to help because really Hall just wants to be friends.
It’s about shame.
And that makes me angriest of all. Because that shame and blame eventually grow until a woman is nothing but her sexuality. Nothing but her vagina and breasts which in turn are only good for what a man wants them for. And if a man wants to control those who is a woman to question? Because she is just a thing anyway.