by Samantha Field cross posted from her blog Defeating The Dragons
[this post is in response to Kristen Welch’s “To the Middle School Girls at the Pool who Told my Son He was Hot“]
Listen, moms, I get it.
You live in a culture where anything goes. Where the public shaming of girls is acceptable. We sacrifice their education on the altar of “not distracting boys,” and we joke about how their “Instagram feed has more duck faces than a pond.” As mean and petty as those jokes are, our culture says they’re hilarious. You live in a time when we’ve figured out another way to shame women, and this time it’s not for reading “sentimental nonsense” like Jane Austen, it’s for having a twitter handle.
What our culture decides to use to control women changes so often, I know it can be confusing to handle all the messages the media throws at you– about “hook-up culture” and how young we are when we loose our virginity (hint: for most of us, it’s after highschool).
Maybe you can’t see how girls are explicitly told every day that the only thing that matters about them is their bodies. Whether it’s being sent home when you’re in kindergarten for wearing a spaghetti-strap sundress or the fact that I had an insanely hard time finding a picture of “middle-school girls” that wasn’t actually of 18-year-olds for this post, we’ve been taught practically since the day we were born that the only thing anyone cares about– even moms like you– is whether or not we’re wearing a bikini. Culture says we have to or no one will love us, and moms says we’re disgusting slutty whores when we do.
I know, moms– I know it’s hard to train your sons to be respectful and decent human beings who don’t mutter the insulting “like I care” under his breath when a girl gives him a compliment. It’s so much more convenient to expect middle-school girls to be invisible and silent, and since that plays right into what culture says, too, that makes your job a lot easier. You shouldn’t have to bother teaching your sons how to communicate to a girl respectfully; a sincere “thank you, but I’d like to spend time with just my family today”– after all, any middle-school girl who makes her presence known is obviously just “aggressive” and “tempting,” and you should be able to make fun of her on the internet as much as you want.
Maybe no one has told you these things, so I thought I would:
Honey, it’s not okay to act this way. It’s not becoming. It’s immature and contributes to a world where middle-school girls are the butt of all our jokes, when in reality middle-school girls are people.
See, I can look past your snide remarks and your sense of superiority because you think you are raising your family so much better than whoever is raising that little slut in the bikini. I can ignore that you decided to take a little girl’s moment of vulnerability and exploration to see someone who is craving hits and clicks and views. I can see that you’re just a mommy blogger trying to figure out where you fit in this dog-eat-dog World Wide Web.
But it’s not ok to humiliate little girls on the internet. It’s not ok to send the message that any girl’s existence around your son isn’t to be tolerated. It won’t make you feel better about yourself. And while it might get you page views, it’ll only be from other arrogant people who think they have the right to judge a little girl for having an opinion and being a person in a public place.
I’m trying to teach women and girls that they have the right to exist, to be people, and you aren’t making it easy for any of us. I’m trying to show us that we don’t have to hide who we are just to make a judgmental mom at the pool happy, that we should be allowed to see something we like and go for it– and if he doesn’t like us back, it’s not the end of the world. I’m trying to make it possible for all of us to live in a world where a girl can say “I like you,” and she isn’t humiliated by a mommy blogger with an agenda.
I’m cautioning them not to let moms like you determine their self-worth.
I’m trying to teach them to respect themselves. I’m trying to teach them that they have the same rights as anyone else.
[note: obviously, I didn’t see the incident Kristen described in her post. If she is describing what happened accurately, then it’s possible the girl involved was either oblivious to or ignoring signals from her son. That’s not ok– learning to understand and respond to social cues, while difficult for many, is a part of growing up, and I think our culture needs a lot more “just respect people’s boundaries, ok? OK.”However, it’s also likely that Kristen did not see what happened accurately. She described the girl involved as “aggressive,” and while she might have been, it’s possible this girl simply violated social conventions about the meekness and quietness and voicelessness of women by being open and honest. We, as a culture, tend to overestimate or exaggerate the behavior of women.]
Read Samantha’s detailed review of Mark and Grace Driscoll’s book “Real Marriage”