Here’s a repost of my reaction to Kim Hall’s viral blog post about braless teenaged girls in towels or pajamas. I’m sharing it to go with today’s partial repost. It was written for my original blog on September 5, 2013, when I was living in Texas. I’m mostly leaving it “as/is”. I think it’s a pretty good post.
Yesterday, my Facebook feed was positively littered with links to a certain blog post written by a Texas mother of four who wrote an open letter to all the slutty girls out there not wearing bras and taking selfies before they go to bed. I could link to that post, but I don’t see the point of doing that. It’s all over the Internet.
To be honest, I’m of a mixed mind about this woman’s post. I am generally not a fan of people taking slutty looking selfies. If they are teenaged girls, I figure it’s because they are caving to some kind of external message that they need to be “sexy” in order to be desirable. I think that’s sad, but I sort of understand it. Growing up is hard. Still, if I were a mother, that would not be something I’d want to encourage. On the other hand, I don’t think “slut shaming” is good, either. I think it’s best to encourage common sense.
Of course “Mrs. Hall” immediately made her post the subject of scorn when she included photos of her handsome sons in their bathing suits at the beach. Her daughter was wearing a modest one piece tank suit and it looked like they were just having clean family fun. But if you’re going to be complaining about “scantily clad teenaged girls” who might give your sons boners, you ought not post photos of your boys dressed in a similarly scantily clad fashion. Yes, I know that on the beach, it’s perfectly acceptable to be wearing a bathing suit, while most people don’t think of pajamas or nighties as clothes you’d see in public. But the fact is, we still see a lot of skin on those boys… and if your point is that girls need to cover up, you’d best take care with your own photos.
Apparently, Mrs. Hall then thought better of it and posted another version of her post with photos of the kids covered up. But the damage had already been done and lots of folks began posting rebuttals. These days, America is pretty polarized when it comes to morality. We have a lot of really religious folks out there who are trying to take back the country, as it were, and at least by my observations, seem to be taking things to extremes. We also have a lot of folks who are proudly atheist and are also taking things to extremes. The people in these two groups may not be as many strong as those of us in between, but they are very loud, and some of them are very articulate. Consequently, the Internet becomes inundated with viral posts that both speak to and repel people who identify with these two groups.
I have friends on both sides of the spectrum, so I’ve seen the FYI post for girls a number of times already. I have also seen rebuttals and parodies. I found the initial blog post hypocritical, smug, and ill-conceived… but I also understood where the mom was coming from, even if she came off as quite sanctimonious.
You know, the one thing that I really came away with is that I’m sort of glad I didn’t have kids. I wanted them, but raising kids is so complicated. Even without the FYI blog post, there was an article about how overweight kids are having “fat letters” sent home. Childhood obesity is no doubt a big problem, but shaming people is rarely the way to get them to reform. And there are just so many reasons why people get fat. Could be a simple issue of too many calories, not enough exercise. Could be because the kid is lonely and eats to soothe emotional pain. Could be because the kid is being bullied or abused by other kids, their parents, or someone else.
I just don’t see how sending home a letter about the kid’s BMI is the school’s role. Unless the school’s staff is going to help the parents do something about the problem, I don’t see why they are more qualified to “diagnose” obesity more than a medical professional is. Medical professionals also have the added ability to determine how obesity is affecting the children in question. Moreover, kids whose parents don’t care aren’t likely to care if they get a letter, though the kid probably will.
Of course, if the school sent home a letter about my BMI, my parents would have been embarrassed and would have taken it out on me. I remember being in 9th grade and weighing about 115 pounds. I was weighed in front of everyone and the coach made some comment about how I must have had a big lunch. I was humiliated, even though now I realize that I was nowhere near fat at that point of my life. I would love to be that weight today. Maybe after I’ve been dead a few months…
I got a lot of “fat shaming” from my parents even when I wasn’t overweight and struggled with fucked up eating habits for years. I’ve reached a point at which I don’t care as much as I used to, but the memories still hurt… and probably had a lot to do with why I was so old when I finally had a real relationship with a man. Fortunately for me, he turned out to be a great guy who treats me like gold. It could have easily gone the other way, though.
Anyway, I guess the point of this post is that there are an awful lot of people self-righteously sticking their noses where they don’t belong. Mrs. Hall’s open letter may have resonated with a lot of people, but she probably should have addressed boys and girls, not just girls. And she should have practiced her own counsel. And the fat shaming asshats are not doing anything but making childhood more miserable with their letters home. Adolescents are vulnerable, especially when it comes to matters pertaining to their self image. Eating disorders are serious problems that can wreak havoc on those who have them and those who love them.
Childhood obesity is a problem. Teen sex, especially when it leads to consequences like pregnancy or diseases, is a problem. Something does need to be done about these issues. I just don’t think shaming is the way to go about it. Growing up is tough enough.