Dear Given Breath

Since your comment thread seems to be disabled, I shall add my response to your post here, contributing my small part to the din of Internet Rage.

Mrs. Hall,
I’m sure your heart is in the right place, right now, you are NOT teaching your boys to respect girls. What you are teaching them is that, if they find a girl sexy, it is shameful, she’s not a “woman of character”, and most importantly, that THEIR inappropriate thoughts are HER fault.
For centuries, girls have been told how to behave, how to dress, how to present themselves, and how to think, by society. Not by “men”, but by society- a society that older, established women like yourself are a part of. But this is the key point that I think you’re missing:
Girls must have the right to present themselves however they like, and it is the responsibility of your sons to treat her with respect no matter what.
Treating a person with respect should not be conditional, or based on the moral judgments you choose to place on her facebook pictures.
And if a boy gets a boner looking at a girl, then it is his own responsibility to react appropriately, and NOT THE FAULT OF THE GIRL.
What you are teaching your sons is that the freedom of expression available to girls should be policed, that girls should be judged by their appearance, and that if they leer at a girl, it’s her fault instead of theirs. These are the same dangerous messages that we have been teaching boys for millennia, messages that lead to the prevalence of rape culture in our society. A girl must adhere to society’s definitions of decency, and if she doesn’t, then she will be objectified and disrespected by men, and it will be her own fault.

Instead, maybe you should remind your sons that their female friends are experimenting with self-expression, and have as much right as their male friends to do so. It is up to them to respond appropriately and respectfully to whatever their friends choose to post. Teach them that it isn’t their place to pass judgment on others, male or female, and that it is important to treat EVERYONE with equal respect, no matter their gender, wardrobe, or selfie pose. Tell them that women are people, and their worth does NOT come down to whether they’d make good wives or girlfriends. Teach them that they don’t actually get to tell girls what to do and how to dress. And most importantly, teach them that if they find themselves having inappropriate thoughts, that those thoughts are their own responsibility, and NEVER the girl’s fault.
These girls are not slutty little Jezebels just waiting to corrupt your innocent sons’ virtue. They are teenagers experimenting with their image and social media. The last thing they need is disapproval, bullying, and judgment. Please afford them the same understanding and benefit of the doubt that you afford your sons. It would be nice to know that the upcoming generation could be capable of taking the next steps toward gender equality.

(Keep an eye out for Kyle David Greenberg’s response in the comments section. That’s a dude who gets it).

PS- Rebecca Hains offers a wonderful response here, containing nuggets of wisdom like, “Contrary to popular opinion, boys are not animals. They can practice self-control. And yes, it takes practice. But if we focus on raising our sons, rather than chastising other people’s daughters, it’s possible..” Go read it!

And it wouldn’t be even be a conversation if Jezebel didn’t chime in.

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