I have noticed an alarming trend this week on my Facebook page. I am not at all sure of how much my page does or does not represent a typical online sampling, but nonetheless this is really starting to bother me, so I’m going to run with it.
It began with one of my friends posting a link to some random mother’s blog. I won’t post the link here; either you’ve seen it or you haven’t. Since the thing seems to have gone viral, I’m sure the woman in question has had enough. Normally her audience is much smaller, but this particular post seems to have struck a nerve. I’ve seen it reposted twice on my Facebook page alone. She wrote an open letter to teenage girls, asking them to reconsider before they post “provocative” selfies. She describes these as photos taken by girls sitting on their beds, wearing shirts without bras, or wearing “sultry pouts.” She has teenage boys, you see, and since she sees everything on her sons’ pages, she warns these girls that her sons will be forced to unfriend them. They have a “zero tolerance policy on sexy selfies.” She also adds that “You don’t want our boys to only see you in this sexual way, do you?” Good grief.
Young girls sometimes post regrettably stupid pictures of themselves online. Shocking, isn’t it? Teenage girls want to be seen as sexy by their teenage male counterparts; alert the media! The blogger goes on to say that once boys have seen pictures like that, they can’t easily unsee them. Really? Huh. She specifically mentioned a girl posed in only a towel, but then goes on to post pictures of her sons in board shorts on the beach. Shirtless and shown posed flexing their muscles in that way that young men often do to attract the attention of teenage girls. They’re all tan, well-built… if I were a teenage girl, I would almost certainly be drawn to these pictures in a way very similar to what this well-meaning mom is describing. Because – here’s a shock – teenage girls think about sex too. Ultimately the blogger agreed with the hundreds of comments about double standards she received and took the photo down. Which is fine, but doesn’t change her outlook, and it’s the outlook that bothers me. She’s definitely blaming the girls here, and not allowing for mistakes or lapses in judgment. I don’t know about the rest of you, but my teenage years (and probably part of my 20s) could easily be viewed as one giant lapse in judgment. Bottom line, I screwed up a lot. To me, this seems normal, all part of the process. But I have other questions here, such as why a teenage girl sitting in her bedroom wearing a sultry pout is viewed as a photo necessary to ban? And the girl in the towel… well, not the best choice she could have made, but it probably covered more territory than the blogger’s sons’ board shorts. Again, double standards. It seems ridiculous to me. Why are the teenage girls always the ones blamed?
Teenage girls are more readily viewed as sex objects, and therein lies the real issue. Picture a teenage boy, sitting on his bed, wearing a sultry pout. More comical than sexy, right? Cultural bias, and the teenage girls aren’t responsible for that. I find the lack of forgiveness particularly disturbing. The mom is so gung-ho to protect her sons’ virtue, she seems to be blaming the teenage girls for acting like teenage girls… a little naive, maybe sometimes stupid. Deliberately provocative, even. Has she never been a teenage girl? Did she skip that stage? In my opinion if her sons are unable to “unsee” one of these selfies and from that point forward only think of the girls in question in a sexual way, then the fault lies with the boys. Period. Also, both teenage boys and teenage girls think of each other in a sexual way, selfies or no selfies. Acceptance of this as fact might be a good first step. The second step might be to relax. Most of us come out okay in the end, regardless of regrettable teenage mistakes. Thank God I didn’t live my teenage years in a world where the internet existed. I would not have fared well.
Tonight I saw a post that slammed teenage girls for “twerking.” Yes, I’ve seen the video. It’s a move I won’t be attempting, ever. But it’s still just a dance move, not the road to prostitution. In my day (yes, I just said “my day” – help!), there was freaking, and I did my share in clubs. Freaking is also a dance move, and to be blunt it pretty much resembles dry humping. It looks sexual, and it’s meant to look sexual. I certainly wanted to look sexy doing it. It doesn’t mean I wasn’t a “good girl” or that I didn’t turn out okay. I’m a wife and a mom, a good friend and a decent human being. A dance move, however overtly sexual, changes none of that. Someone suggested she would instruct her sons to avoid girls who danced this way. Again, good grief.
So much judgment. And of teenage girls, a group who need our support and understanding the most. Those years can be rough. Why are we villifying these girls just for going through their own processes? To me, it seems little different than my own. I made mistakes, and regrettable, embarrassing choices. I assume most of us did. I certainly wouldn’t want to have been singled out as someone to avoid, or “unfriend.” I seriously doubt that the shame of that would have turned me into a better person, or caused me to make wiser choices. I really, really hate judgment. As women, shouldn’t we be concentrating on supporting each other, not turning on each other? Less blaming and shaming, more love and support. How’s that for a concept?