Selfies: The danger of blaming girls

I had to take a day to calm down from my rage tower after reading the now-infamous “FYI (if you’re a teenage girl)” post written by a conservative Texas mother of boys who thinks the girls in her son’s Facebook feed should cover up – all while posting shirtless, flexing photos of her sons. (There’s a camp of moms who feel she should be forgiven for this lapse in judgement of posting half-naked pictures and instead be taken seriously for her ideas. Irony, no?) I’m sure you’ve read the post, so I’ll spare you the link. Instead, I’d like to talk about the sexxy selfies girls are taking these days and why placing the burden of male thoughts on the girls themselves is dangerous territory.

First, this is how my daughters dress:

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By American standards, they are the picture of “purity” and “modesty” – two words that don’t sit right with me, by the way. I dress them this way because it covers their body parts, is weather-appropriate and we were apple-picking last Sunday so I was in the mood for fall colors. Compared to duck face selfies from teenagers, my kids look downright puritanical. To be honest, I hope it never changes. I’m not writing this to advocate freedom for tween girls to post pictures of their crotches on the internets. That’s a whole different conversation about self-esteem and common sense.

Before you high five me, realize that in many parts of the world, this picture of my daughters shows immodesty. Their hair is loose, the skin on their arms is visible, their necks are on display. Their ankles are bare. Anyone can make eye contact with them. In the country where my father-in-law was born, there has been a shift in just one generation from women in jeans and miniskirts to burkas. There are places on Earth today where a woman will be stoned to death for her own rape. Things can go backwards so quickly that it’s imperative we talk about the danger of blaming girls for the thoughts of boys.

I understand some moms of tween and young teenage boys are upset about girls in their sons’ classes sending them explicit messages and intentionally provocative pictures. No one wants someone sending their child questionable private messages. On a case-by-case basis, a mother has every right to talk to another parent about the communications between their children. I certainly wouldn’t like it if boys were sending pee-pee pics to my girls! (Remember, as with TV shows you don’t like, there is also always the option to power down.)

The problem with the “FYI (if you’re a teenage girl)” blog post, and its multitude of supporters, is that it was not a parent evaluating behavior on a case-by-case basis. She didn’t pick up the phone and call the mother of the particular girl she usually finds so “lovely” to discuss the inappropriate behavior. No. She shamed an entire swath of delicate people. It’s called punching down. An adult in power sexualized and shamed smaller people who don’t have much voice and committed the egregious error of placing the responsibility of her son’s sexual reactions (which are not to be shamed either) on the girls he sees.

No one is responsible for your thoughts, urges, desires or reactions but you.

This is the message young boys need to hear. It was said beautifully here. As a matter of fact, little girls’ bedrooms are not inherently sexual places any more than other areas of the house. Their pajamas are not sexual outfits. The fact that young girls are pretty is not their fault. Denying any of that absolves pedophiles of their sickness. Children are simply not sexy and their sexual-seeming actions are symptoms of a larger problem in our culture. Miley Cyrus is a grown adult woman and the people who choreographed, costumed and signed off on her VMA performance are the larger culprits of why children as young as nine and ten feel the need to emulate her. Those are the victims. The young girls.

The idea that young girls feel the need to take glamour shots of themselves in the first place makes them the most vulnerable cog in the warped beauty machine. Ideally, parents of girls should be filling them up with so much love and worth that they won’t feel the need to get compete for attention by posting racy photos online. In an ideal world, it would also always be the first day of Spring and chocolate cake wouldn’t make you fat. Life isn’t always ideal. So if you are a mother of boys and you don’t like what your son is seeing on Instagram, don’t shame and ridicule a young lady. Have a conversation with your son.

Just make sure he wears a shirt if you blog it out.


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