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Self-Mastery is Not Just for Girls – a Response to FYI (if you're a teenage girl)

Male Self-MasteryMy life as a mom began in 1987, first with four girls who were followed later by two boys. It was June 25, 2000, when I finally understood the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law thing.

Although it was only after 13 years of parenting, all it took was about 30 seconds of having a son when — immediately after he was placed in my arms — I became belligerent toward all the girls who may some day have designs on my boy.

Boyfriends of daughters are bad enough. But girlfriends of sons? Evil incarnate. Because eventually they will replace momma. And I don’t think I’ll ever be ready for that.

[If you are a girl reading this in the future (my boys are now only 13 and 9) who recognizes the brilliance, charm, and absolutely undeniable awesomeness of either of my sons, beware. Although I will try to remain civil, it will be a constant challenge.]

Today I read FYI (if you’re a teenage girl) with a great deal of sympathy and understanding. Yes, the sexualization girls impose on themselves in social media is incredibly disturbing. The endless hours some spend taking “selfies” is, at very least, vain. (And, really people, how great do you look in an image you took in the bathroom mirror with your toilet in the background?)

Girls and women (both!) need to stop presenting themselves as things to be ogled and, rather, as human beings with valuable ideas and contributions.

But Kim Hall, the mother of four who authored the piece — and who, interestingly enough, augmented the post with photos of her boys flexing their muscles in swimming suits — went beyond the mark. She says she hopes “to raise men with a strong moral compass” while at the same time absolving them for their own thoughts and responses.

Did you know that once a male sees you in a state of undress, he can’t ever un-see it?  You don’t want the Hall boys to only think of you in this sexual way, do you?

No repentance or forgiveness for the girls. No self-mastery for the boys.

Heaven forbid her sons witness an actual “wardrobe malfunction” or accidentally walk into the wrong dressing room or — horrors! — become doctors, and are forced to walk around for the rest of their lives sexualizing all their friends and/or cast mates and/or patients. (I knew there was a reason I feel awkward socializing with my OB/Gyn!)

For the sake of the women involved, let’s all pray her sons never have any sexual contact with their future wives. Egad, they will never see them as anything but pieces of raw meat again!

For years (decades, actually) I’ve said that if we want to teach girls modesty and decorum, we simply teach the boys to respond positively to those who display these qualities. I applaud such efforts. But teaching boys (and the culture at large) that girls are responsible for what boys think and do — and the boys just can’t control themselves — is just plain foolish.

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Marie Hamilton September 4, 2013, 8:03 pm

    Yeah, I see your point. People shouldn’t freak out either way.

    Ideally everyone should use common sense. It’s possible to be in the world and not of the world. I mean, lifting others up and helping them does more good than joining in a mud fight where the only one who is happy about it is the hog.

    I think you will eventually get over the in-law thing, though. Although maybe since my son is 14 now, after the divorce anything else could pale in comparison as severe stuff. Being as my mom has been a mother-in-law to two dils and did/does ok with it, it seems if she can do it I guess I should be able to when the time comes, which is still in the seemingly way unforeseeable future still, for now.

  • Jennifer Beckstrand September 4, 2013, 10:30 pm

    Thanks for the voice of reason. I didn’t remember that you had four girls and then two boys. Just like me. And yes, I get way more hostile about girlfriends than I ever did about boyfriends.

  • Carmen September 5, 2013, 8:17 am

    I shared that article all over the place before I read your post. I didn’t even see the sexism in it. We are so easy to condemn girls and let boys off the hook. Makes me so mad.

    And look at HER boys flexing in their swimsuits. That’s nuts.

  • Stephanie September 5, 2013, 8:49 am

    This is one of the best, most logical, responses I’ve seen to that article so far. I love your point about if they become doctors.
    Stephanie recently posted…Building the Dream: Getting Closer!My Profile

  • Jalee September 5, 2013, 9:23 am

    I posted something similar and got a lot of flack for it. Thanks for letting me know I am not alone in my thoughts.

  • Kathleen September 5, 2013, 11:25 am

    My son is 21 and while I like his girlfriend a lot, I totally get your point about the dil taking him away. I spend a lot less time with him than I used to. It makes me sad sometimes.

    I think that as mothers we need to teach our daughters to respect themselves enough that they shouldn’t sexualize themselves. You can look beautiful without it all hanging out and in fact, you look more beautiful that way. We also need to teach our sons to respect themselves and the girls and that they can control themselves, even around someone who is putting it all out there. We should all be responsible for what we put out there, both in thought and deed. Just because you see someone who is not appropriate in dress doesn’t mean you should disrespect them.
    Kathleen recently posted…Birthday OnesieMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith September 5, 2013, 10:30 am


    Yeah, I see your point. People shouldn’t freak out either way.

    I don’t even care if people freak out. I just want a bit of parity and responsibility in the chaos. 🙂

    I think you will eventually get over the in-law thing, though.

    I DO NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS! We shall see.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Best Toys RoundupMy Profile

  • Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms September 5, 2013, 11:47 am

    Thank you! This line sums up my feelings – “But teaching boys (and the culture at large) that girls are responsible for what boys think and do — and the boys just can’t control themselves — is just plain foolish.”
    I hated the tone of her article that suggested that girls should moderate their images so that they were acceptable to “the Hall Boys.” Her lack of irony was a little disturbing too. She posted pictures of her sons flexing, with board shorts pulled down to show tan lines, AND with the infamous duck lips — all hallmarks of the male selfie–while scolding girls for their selfies. Sigh.
    Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms recently posted…Finding the Funny With a Swimming Pool RevealMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith September 5, 2013, 11:36 am

    Thanks, Jennifer. Twinner families. 🙂

    Carmen, it was pretty odd. At first I thought it was a joke how she was talking about braless FB posts alongside her boys beach flexing. No joke.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Artificial GroomingMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith September 5, 2013, 4:48 pm

    Stephanie, thank you so much. How nice.

    Jalee, you are definitely NOT alone. Hang in there!
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…60 Fun Things to Do on a Friday Night When You Don’t Have PlansMy Profile

  • Lori Hart September 5, 2013, 6:48 pm

    Well said. I know a lot of folks who need to read this.
    Lori Hart recently posted…Complete Grilled DinnerMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith September 6, 2013, 9:46 am

    Kathleen, beautifully said! Of course girls are responsible for their own actions. We should never teach them differently. And, equally obvious, boys are responsible for their actions.

    I think this sometimes gets muddied when we look at cause and effect. Truth is, if girls dress slutty or try to mimic hooker style (come on, people, they are called “stripper heels” for a reason!), they shouldn’t be surprised> if they are treated like, well, a hooker. (And if you dress like a hooker, but say you aren’t really going for the “hey, baby, you look like a hooker” reaction, well, then, you’re kind of stupid.)

    But whether or not a response is predictable, doesn’t make it appropriate or correct. So, while I might predict that some boys will ogle scantily clad girl, I won’t condone, justify, or excuse it.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Rancherito’s Awful Service vs. Olive Garden’s Stellar ServiceMy Profile

  • Jennie September 18, 2013, 11:01 pm

    Thanks for that. We need to look at everything a bit more critically and have a major overhaul in our idea of what constitutes modesty. It is about way more than hemlines and shoulders. Have you seen the article from By Common Consent called Men, Sex and Modesty? I thought it was excellent.

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