Sunday, 15 September 2013

The problem is not the teenage girls. The problem is your attitude about the teenage girls. Do you understand?

So, the latest blog to go viral is a missive from Kimberly Hall, a director of women’s ministry in Texas. She's written a helpful guide for teenage girls who have been taking "selfies" in their bedrooms: RUN to take down those doozies! The Halls won't be friends with you if you don't!

She begins by explaining "Last night, as we sometimes do, our family sat around the dining-room table and looked through the summer’s social media photos." (Wow. That doesn't sound creepy at all. We all stalk people we know on Facebook, but we don't TELL them about it. It's like, the first rule of the internet.) She then points out that an awful lot of teenage girls are posting pics of themselves in their "skimpy pj’s" (sic) and worse, they're adopting an unnatural "red carpet pose" with "extra-arched back, and the sultry pout".

Well, yes. Teenage (and older) girls are still labouring under the bizarre belief that it looks super-attractive to "duckface" in a series of self-obsessed pictures (occasionally with the added bonus of a toilet in the background). It's what they do. None of us like it, and we all kind of wish that these girls could really see what they look like and how much they're going to regret the shots in the future. (Except some of the girls doing it are 35, so I think the ship might have sailed on the "older and wiser" theory.) They have no idea how contrived those "spontaneous" shots look: 

However, we all have autonomy when it comes to the images we choose to represent us online: if girls want to look trashy rather than classy, it's up to them. What irks me about the blog (apart from the somewhat arrogant view that being blocked by the Hall family will be a "big bummer" for these unlucky girls) is the totally unchristian sentiment behind it. Yep, you heard me right. UNCHRISTIAN.

Why? Well, Hall claims "we are hoping to raise men with a strong moral compass, and men of integrity don’t linger over pictures of scantily clad high-school girls." (Except when they're reviewing them for judgement purposes, obviously).

You know what else men of integrity do? They don't say "Hey, YOU need to change your behaviour so that I won't have any problems with it." Have a browse through the teachings of Jesus and you'll find an astonishing lack of instruction about how to control other people so they stop tempting you to sin. 

Matthew 5:27-28: "You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

Wait, where's the part where he says it was her fault anyway for flaunting herself in front of you?

Yeah, remember the way Jesus treated prostitutes and adulterous women? 
He was really into slut-shaming! Oh...

Imagine if we all applied the sex rules to any other aspect of life. "It wasn't my fault I stole those cakes! The baker shouldn't have made them look so delicious and then displayed them in the window if he didn't expect people to just take them!"

If we're going to live with Christian values, we have no choice but to take responsibility for ourselves. The Hall boys are going to be seeing scantily-clad women everywhere from bars to billboards; the onus is on them to control their "impure" urges. As Al Franken said, “It's easier to put on slippers than to carpet the whole world.” 

Matthew 7: 1-4: “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 

Well, yes. It probably wasn't the best idea for Mrs Hall to accompany her entire blog with lots of topless pictures of her sons and to describe how she fell for her husband when she spotted him half-naked. Unfortunately she took her own advice and deleted that post (which had pictures!) so we can't point and laugh at it anymore.

One commenter says "I see you have had some bashing here for the pics of your sons in swim trunks. I think we need to consider the different circumstances. They are playing at the beach. The poses are not provocative (arched back, pouty lips……we have all seen those teen girls and the pose I am refering to)... If the boys were posed in speedos on their beds with a come hither pouty bad boy look – then there would be something to throw rocks over"

Um yeah, you've kind of missed the point here haven't you? For boys, showing off their muscles IS the provocative pose. It may not be super-sexy to be snapped frolicking on the beach with your brothers when it's your mum taking the pictures, but they clearly revel in the bare-skinned freedom that only men can enjoy. After all, if they made the same kind of "sexy" poses girls do, they'd look stupid:

But this picture is fine, of course. They're totally not posing in a way that they hope will be sexually appealing:
Luckily, no teenage girls will ever see these pictures on the
 internet and be tempted to think lustful thoughts.

These poor kids are subject to their parents' mixed messages: as well as having their own poses recorded for posterity in a public blog, they have to deal with the madonna / whore complex that is apparently de rigueur in Texan churches this summer. As Mrs Hall puts it, "Did you know that once a male sees you in a state of undress, he can’t quickly un-see it?  You don’t want our boys to only think of you only in this sexual way, do you?" Yep, once he's seen you in skimpy attire, he can never go back to seeing you as the intelligent, thoughtful, well-rounded character that you were when you were covered up! Bad luck, Hall kids' future wives...

The Given Breath blog has done teenage girls a huge favour if nothing else, they've learned that keeping your online profile set to "private" means nothing you still don't know who might have access to your pictures. The second lesson is that there will be men out there who do see you as nothing more than an empty shell of sexuality if you so much as take one picture in your pyjamas; they have learned to see you this way because it's what their momma taught them.

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