Both yesterday and today, I have come upon an ever-growing stream of responses to the viral blog post, FYI (if you’re a teenage girl). Some of them were so good I just couldn’t leave them be without sharing them. So here, in this post, I’m going to offer a roundup of responses of sorts. Feel free to post additional responses you’ve come across in the comments, and I may add them here.
First, of course, is my own post, FYI (A letter to my daughter Sally):
I saw something today that made me think of you. It was a blog post addressed to teenage girls. Oh I know, you’re only four, but in ten years you’ll be fourteen. It was that fourteen-year-old you I couldn’t help but think of when I read this post, and inside, my heart broke for you.
Next is Dianna Anderson, articulate as ever, writing about What Boys Become: Modesty Culture and Learned Irresponsibility:
This is the primary sin of modesty culture – it teaches irresponsibility and blaming others, but masks it as sexual purity. It teaches men to dispose of women who don’t fit their mold, under the guise of “keeping themselves pure.” It teaches men that women exist on a spectrum of worth determined by their clothing and that it is their right as men to determine which women are worth more – and yet, modesty culture masks it as “keeping away from sexual sin.” It teaches men irresponsibility and plays it off as “integrity.”
Modesty doctrine, at its rancid core, teaches men that sitting around judging women, treating them as objects because they’re immodest, is appropriate.
And I really have to follow this with the most laughter-inducing post I have seen on the topic so far, which simply turns the words of the first post around, with some added snark—FYI (if you’re a teenage boy):
I have some information that might interest you. Last night, as we sometimes do, our family sat around the dining-room table and looked through your social media photos. Because we’re creepy like that.
We have a teenage daughter, and so naturally there are quite a few pictures of you handsome boys to wade through. Wow – you sure took a bunch of selfies in your pajamas this summer! Your bedrooms are so dirty! Don’t you know how to clean your rooms? Our nine-year-old son brought this to our attention, because with one older sister who has a room that smells like an old dead hamster, he notices boyish details like that.
I think the girls notice other things. For one, it appears that you are not wearing a shirt.
I get it – you’re in your room, so you’re heading to bed, right? But then I can’t help but notice the big muscles pose, the extra-arched back to show off your rock-hard abs, and the smirky grin. What’s up? None of these positions is one I naturally assume before sleep, this I know. Because I’m a woman. And rock hard abs left me four children ago. And I like to judge others based on my own standard behavior.
So, here’s the bit that I think is important for you to realize. If you are friends with a daughter of mine on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, then you are friends with the whole fam-dam-ly.
Please understand this, also: we genuinely like keeping up with you. We enjoy seeing life through your unique and colorful lens – which is what makes your latest self-portrait so extremely unfortunate. You just aren’t good enough. We’re the Joneses. Now keep up with us.
Those posts don’t reflect who you are! We think you are handsome and probably interesting, and, if I’m being generous, very smart. But, we had to cringe and wonder what you were trying to do? Who are you trying to reach? What are you trying to say? Because we literally have nothing better to do than judge and examine the lives of teenage boys.
And now – big bummer – we have to block your posts. Because, the reason we have these (sometimes awkward) family conversations around the table is that we care about our daughter, just as we know your parents care about you. But not as much as we care about our kids because we’re totes better parents than your parents.
I know your family would not be thrilled at the thought of my teenage daughter seeing you only in your towel. Did you know that once a female sees you in a state of undress, she can’t ever un-see it? You don’t want my daughter to only think of you in this sexual way, do you? Because if she does, it will be YOUR fault. Our daughter does not have free agency. She is incapable of controlling her thoughts and actions so you must do it for her. Seriously, she can’t. It’s some sort of chromosome condition that only occurs with the XX.
Seriously, read the whole thing.
Similarly sarcastic is FYI (if you’re a mom of teenage boys):
I have some information that might interest you. Last night, as I sometimes do, I sat on my couch and looked at social media on my phone.
I’ve been on vacation, so naturally there are quite a few blog posts and news articles to wade through. Wow – the Internet sure has been busy with the slut-shaming this summer! Some of my friends brought this to my attention, because as Christians and/or feminists, we notice shit like that.
I noticed other things, too. For one, it appears that I’ve been on the wrong path when it comes to raising my own son.
. . . I can’t help thinking that maybe I’ve failed by trying to raise a son who respects women regardless of how they’re dressed. Clearly, I should have been protecting his eyes. I should remedy that.
And then there is FYI: A Letter To Teenage Girls Who Don’t Always Wear a Bra, which I may take issue with on a few points but is also worth reading.
Girls, adults are afraid of your sexuality. The moms who are teaching their boys that you’re nothing but a seductress if you dare go braless or post a selfie where your [gasp] shoulders are exposed are terrified. I’m not sure what makes them afraid. It’s possible that they think their sons will burn in eternal hell, that they’re worried you’ll knock on their door pregnant one day soon or something that’s less easy to identify. Just know that adult women who are concerned about teenage girls not wearing bras are fearful women. Know that women (and men) who are operating out of fear have no advice to give that’s of any value.
I also especially liked A Response to Mrs. Hall: Teaching Our Boys Respect and Self Control:
I suspect that Hall’s post has gone viral because so many people are concerned with teenage girls’ self-presentation on facebook. We’ve all seen it: teenage girls trying to mimic the scantily-clad celebrities and models plastered on billboards and magazine covers. And naturally, people want to do something about it. After all, the implications of our media culture’s sexualization of girls is serious: As the American Psychological Association has noted, when girls learn that our culture values their appearances above all else about them, they may in turn learn to sexualize themselves–and the impact of self-sexualization on girls’ self-esteem and self-image is devastating. The damage of thinking of oneself first and foremost as an object can take a lifetime to undo.
Furthermore, once a photograph is online, it’s essentially impossible to remove it from the internet. So when girls place sexually provocative “selfies” of themselves to facebook, it’s a huge issue. For example, the photos can be used by bullies to shame the girls–and they can resurface years later, too, causing myriad problems in their lives.
But these are not problems that would affect Mrs. Hall’s sons. They would affect the girls themselves. Furthermore, the sexual double-standard in our society is so pervasive that any “sexy” photos the boys may post of themselves are unlikely to cause them similar harm.
And the icing on the hypocrisy cake? These are the actual photos of her sons that she posts in her blog post that is all about how teenage girls need to cover their bodies so her sons don’t feel lust and so that her sons can still respect these girls. This is real. I am not making this shit up:
So while it’s very, very, veeerrrryyyyyy important for teen girls to not just stay covered up, but also wear a bra under their clothes so that her sons cannot even see the defined outline of their breasts, she will post pictures of her sons in their bathing suits, posing and flexing their muscles. Because, after all, she is perpetuating rape culture, and furthering the myth that the female body is only a sexual thing and that the male body is exempt from this burden, this desirability.
Mrs. Hall, some girls and boys in your sons peer groups are looking at those pictures and feeling arousal. And I think it might be time to consider why it is that you find it so much more important for girls to cover themselves up to not tempt your boys and why you do not, in equal measure, cover up your boys to not tempt other girls and boys. It’s a double standard.
Next is this truly beautiful post, FYI (if you’re a teenage human being):
Girls, you beautiful, wild, wonderful creatures; there are oceans inside you, waves crashing against the shore of every new curve. Some of you sirens, some of you as steady and certain as an ancient shoreline, some of you still curled up in shells under the seabed, not quite ready to wander out into the wide world; but all of you, each of you, so exquisitely, perfectly, fearfully made.
Own your body, your body, this body that so beautifully holds your soul and your spirit. Explore it with reverence, let it be explored reverentially; it was made to give and receive pleasure, to give and receive pain, to give and receive life; live in it, fully, forcefully, have fun and get hurt and be healed and be made whole again.
Wear tight jeans and long skirts and short shorts and bikini tops and turtlenecks and find what makes you comfortable, find the things that make you feel good; your lives are not a fashion show, an exotic dance, a striptease, and the essence of you doesn’t dance around a pole for the enjoyment of others.
. . .
Boys, you beautiful, bold, unwieldy boys; there are seas inside of you. Some days are nothing but sunshine, and you lie warm and full and content, sparkling under stars you can’t see in the daytime. Some days are full of storms, and you rage and toss, thunder under your skin. There are those of you who rarely see the sun, and those of you who have rarely touched the rain, but all of you, each of you, are so exquisitely, perfectly, fearfully made.
Own your bodies; the way you grow like oaks, your limbs strong and long and reaching into the earth and into the sky. Send your roots down deep and taste the sweet soil beneath you; stretch into the sound of the wind, and feel the kiss of the clouds as they pass through you. Let yourself be climbed. Let someone build a haphazard house in the strongest parts of you. Let yourself be inhabited.
Read a book; read lots of books. Go fishing or go dancing. Wear khakis or Levis or sweatpants or fancy trousers that cost you your first paycheck. Do the things that make the best parts of you sing, and don’t be embarrassed by how your voice sounds.
And then there’s I Was a 15 Year Old Slut:
Before you judge the girls in outfits you feel are outrageous, pictures you think are too revealing and behavior that you deem risque . . . remember that they won’t stay girls forever. That they’ll grow into women who will become your daughters-in-law. The mothers of your grandchildren. The wives of your sons. They’ll be doctors, teachers, homemakers, and they have the chance to make the world a better place.
And to you girls out there who feel you are being attacked by the mothers of the world . . . you’ll be okay. Just remember that your body belongs to you and shouldn’t be controlled by a boy . . . or his mother. Love yourself. Respect yourself and others. And don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re not good enough.
A Former Slut Who Refuses to Let You Children Be Shamed
Finally, this one was written last month, but seems applicable and is also worth reading—Seeing a Woman: A Conversation between Father and Son:
Hey, come here. Let me talk to you. I saw you look at her. I’m not judging you or shaming you. I know why you did. I get it. But we have to talk about it because how you look at a woman matters.
A lot of people will try and tell you that a woman should watch how she dresses so she doesn’t tempt you to look at her wrongly. Here is what I will tell you. It is a woman’s responsibility to dress herself in the morning. It is your responsibility to look at her like a human being regardless of what she is wearing. You will feel the temptation to blame her for your wandering eyes because of what she is wearing – or not wearing. But don’t. Don’t play the victim. You are not a helpless victim when it comes to your eyes. You have full control over them. Exercise that control. Train them to look her in the eyes. Discipline yourself to see her, not her clothes or her body. The moment you play the victim you fall into the lie that you are simply embodied reaction to external stimuli unable to determine right from wrong, human from flesh.
Look right at me. That is a ridiculous lie.
So how about it? What other responses have you seen?