Maybe I just don’t care if you imagine me naked.
Here’s the thing. Yesterday, there was a blog post circulating around the interwebs. Usually, those things are a dime a dozen (which, given this economy, should tell you a hell of a lot). But this particular post stuck in my craw like bad sushi.
In case you’re interesting in raising your blood pressure, it’s here.
So, the tl; dr version is that a woman, with teenage sons, wrote a letter to teenage girls on the internet. Basically, it was a fire-and-brimstone bit of professed morality, wherein the responsibility for shielding the teenage male persuasion from bare shoulders and selfies rested on the shoulders of the female population. The thesis, generally speaking, is that it is a girl’s duty to protect the boys from themselves, by bundling up and being as unassuming as possible. Because, clearly, there’s something squicky about being proud of your femininity. Because, clearly, the male sex should have absolutely NO responsibility for themselves. Because temptation, thy name is woman. (And, you know, there’s a sexual orientation bias, here. No mention of gay or bisexuality. I suppose there’s also a ban on shellfish, then.)
Today, the internet opens up the world in a way that I only experienced in a limited manner, as a teen. It was before Facebook and Twitter, but after AOL and chat rooms. Yes, I’m old. And in other news, kids: get off my lawn. But, seriously, the internet and social media tends to pull down the communication fourth way, ripping away the limits of geography. Social media opens up new avenues. But it also opens the door to a lot of bullying, too. And that post? It feels like bullying, in a soft tone, so that maybe don’t smell the bullshit.
On that post, I call bullshit.
So, it’s been a while since I was a teenage girl. I always wore a tank top when it was hot out. And, when I was brave enough, I’d even wear a bikini on the beach or by the pool. There are family photos, somewhere, of me at a BBQ wearing a bikini with freakin’ tweetie bird on it, folks. I never considered any of these things offensive, because…they aren’t.
And yet, that post body-shames teenage girls for posting selfies of themselves in tank tops and bathing suits. Even, in one instance, in a bathing suit. LE GASP. Because, clearly, bikinis are the gateway clothing item to Satan. And, clearly, no boy will EVER see a girl on a bikini at, say, the beach or the pool. But, um, wait – the post happens to include family pictures at the beach, where they (boys) are wearing bathing suits. Um, hello pot. This is kettle. What up?
Now, I’m not a parent, but I don’t think you have to be a parent to know a double-standard (or shaming tactics) when you see it. The blogger isn’t telling her boys to put a t-shirt on at the beach, is she? Personally, I think hiding behind the idea of a moral compass and trumped up integrity is somewhat…limiting. For one thing, there’s nothing morally bankrupt about anyone who is proud of her body. And, last time I checked, every person is entitled to his/her sexuality – but unless a girl is wearing lingerie and stilettos, I’m pretty sure her selfie isn’t an outbreak monkey of moral corruption or some sort of sly trick to tempt unsuspecting men folk. To see it that way is to hypersexualize something that isn’t necessarily sexual at all. Sure, if a guy sees me in a towel, he probably won’t forget it. But that isn’t a gateway to moral questionability. (Side-note: morals, as much as folks don’t want to admit it, are relative to each person. Your mileage may vary.) Because, speaking as a woman, if someone has a problem with my selfies, or the cut of my shirt, or the fact that I wear a bikini – that’s not my problem. It belongs to the other person. But kids/teenagers cannot always make that distinct. They take things to heart and perhaps more so if that opinion is coming from an adult.
Why are we telling our daughters that they are responsible for the actions and thoughts of boys? Why are we shaming, instead of celebrating?
Entertaining the idea that it is a burden, for a moment, why is the responsibility not being shared equally? If this is such a horrifying thing (girls wearing two-piece bathing suits etc.) for the aforementioned blogger, it seem most logical that she parent her own children – not police and berate those of others. Especially considering that the overall tone of the post is one of condescension and condemnation, which isn’t really a tone/tactic an adult should employ with teenagers – again, especially other people’s.
I’m well-aware of the fact that a person’s religion shapes his/her worldview. If you’re Christian, you might be appalled by the fact that I often take the lord’s name in vain – or that I didn’t capitalize lord just then. You might find me to be a bit morally reprehensible, because I expect to dress and speak freely. I’m kind and a good person, but if you judge me by my stripper shoes or low-cut top, doesn’t that say more about your narrow view than it does about me?
Lastly, I just want to address a small bit of contradictory information. At one point, the blogger wrote, “If you try to post a sexy selfie, or an inappropriate YouTube video – even once – you’ll be booted off our on-line island.” Overlooking the hilarity of the word try (because if it’s even a thought that you were attempting to look sexy, you’re off the island, darling. The judge and jury are jumping to conclusions, and you’re out. Think about that statement. If you make ONE supposed mistake, you’re done. That’s it. One error, and that’s it. No second chances.
Except a paragraph later, there’s this: Girls, it’s not too late! If you think you’ve made an on-line mistake (we all do – don’t fret – I’ve made some doozies), RUN to your accounts and take down anything that makes it easy for your male friends to imagine you naked in your bedroom.
So, wait. Which is it: mistakes are unforgivable OR quick, fix it, and all will be alright. Panic or don’t fret? Condemn or forgive?
Like I said, I’m not a parent. But I am a person. And I am a girl. I remember what it was like to be a teenager. I’ve grown since then, and I care less about what people think. I won’t be held back by the hobgoblin of a small mind (thanks for the phrasing, Emerson). I won’t let you dictate me.
And maybe I just don’t care if you imagine me naked.
…but it’s still not an invitation for you to harass me or do anything non-consensual. SO DON’T BE A FUCKING JERK. (line courtesy of C. Finlay)