By now you’ve probably heard about the Is-She-Serious? blog post written by a Christian mother of three sons and one daughter addressed to the teenaged girls her kids are friends with on social media. In the post, “FYI, If You’re A Teenage Girl,” Kim Hall — who is director of a women’s ministry for All Saint’s church in Austin, Texas — wrote about looking on her sons’ social media pages and seeing girls’ “selfies” in which they’re not wearing a bra.
I think the boys notice other things. For one, it appears that you are not wearing a bra.
I get it – you’re in your room, so you’re heading to bed, right? But then I can’t help but notice the red carpet pose, the extra-arched back, and the sultry pout. What’s up? None of these positions is one I naturally assume before sleep, this I know.
So, here’s the bit that I think is important for you to realize. If you are friends with a Hall boy on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, then you are friends with the whole Hall family.
Please understand this, also: we genuinely like keeping up with you. We enjoy seeing life through your unique and colorful lens – which is what makes your latest self-portrait so extremely unfortunate.
Those posts don’t reflect who you are! We think you are lovely and interesting, and usually very smart. But, we had to cringe and wonder what you were trying to do? Who are you trying to reach? What are you trying to say?
And now – big bummer – we have to block your posts. Because, the reason we have these (sometimes awkward) family conversations around the table is that we care about our sons, just as we know your parents care about you.
There’s plenty to say about Hall’s judgmental slut shaming of these young women, particularly this part:
I know your family would not be thrilled at the thought of my teenage boys seeing you only in your towel. 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?
Neither do we. … We hope to raise men with a strong moral compass, and men of integrity don’t linger over pictures of scantily clad high-school girls.
Blogger Jessica Gottlieb wrote everything in her post, “An Open Letter To Teenage Girls Who Don’t Always Wear A Bra,” that I would have wanted to say. Though I’ll add Hall seems unconcerned with teaching her four sons to treat women with respect, whether it’s women they sleep with someday or women whose nipples they incidentally see on Facebook. Their nakedness will blind her sons eyes! They will never recover! She cluelessly flatters herself by thinking her sons are too good to associate with those hussies … when in reality, she’s teaching her sons not to treat women with respect.
But what I want to address is don’t these parents have any fucking boundaries?!?!
Let’s agree on this: the Hall children are on social media web sites and any responsible parent would want to keep an eye on that. There are scary people out there in the world. (Read Emily McCombs’ essay on xoJane about having sex with older men she met online as a 13-year-old for more than you want to know about pedophiles on the Internet.) I have three nieces and a nephew. I get the gist of Hall’s concern. I believe there’s a big difference between fearing your sons will be exposed “tits” and fearing that they’ll be victimized by “scary people” on the Internet, but I guess that’s why Hall is an evangelical Christian and I am not. Alas, on general principle, I share her concern about monitoring her kids’ social media lives.
But the Hall parents aren’t just two pairs of watchful eyes — they’re authoritatively breathing down their kids ‘necks based on the well-intentioned but grossly misguided belief they’re protecting them from sin. First of all, their sons are not yet “men” who are lingering over pictures of scantily clad high school girls; they’re teen boys. And the Halls aren’t imposing an all-over ban on Internet porn or skin flick channels on TV; they’re crossing a boundary into their kids’ personal lives by trying to force how they experience sexuality with their peers through the kids’ own social media channels. Let me be clear, I understand Kim Hall believes she is well-intentioned: she believes parents can cage sexual temptation through parental restriction. But teaching sexual morals of any shade (and I think it’s clear I don’t agree with their idea of “morals”) is not as simple as warning against, say, underage drinking. Parents can make sure they don’t leave opened bottles of booze in unlocked cabinets. Parents can’t stop biology and hormones. Get a clue, Hall family — sexuality isn’t something anyone can control in anyone else. I know this may not be something Kim Hall wants to hear, given how elsewhere on her blog she reviews a book called Counseling The Homosexual. Kim Hall and her husband are kidding themselves if they can control “impure” actions, let alone thoughts, especially in teenagers. What’s more, don’t you want to teach your children to learn self-control anyway?
The way the Halls police their sons is the creepiest part: not only are they forcing their own judgments (which Kim Hall packages as the value of purity) about good girls versus bad girls onto their sons, but they are making the nip pic banning a family affair. The Halls personally cherrypick which girls’ Facebook posts to block while the family sits together around the dinner table. It’s not the Hall boys impurely jerking off to cute girls that should be worrying people here. Why is Kim Hall talking about it at the dinner table? She’s the one who is the creep here! Family policing of sexuality is more than just awkward — it’s deeply uncomfortable for the sons (and I imagine their youngest child, a daughter). Although I suppose if any of these young boys are gay (closeted, obvi), they’re happy for Mom and Dad to block away.
I feel sorry for the Hall children. No snark here — that’s 100 percent honesty. Her three sons and daughter are sexually maturing with their parents hovering too close to them. That can’t go on forever; they need to be equipped with real world skills, which include the reality that sometimes women don’t wear bras in public and in photos. (And men go shirtless in public and in photos — Kim Hall actually, unironically, included one photograph of her three sons, shirtless in swim trunks, in her blog post. ) The Hall kids will grow into adults who won’t have Mommy and Daddy blocking Instagram pics and Facebook posts for them any longer and I sincerely wonder how they’ll cope. They can’t be shielded from their own sexuality forever. Like all of us, these kids will become grownups who have to face various sexual/ethical issues pretty much alone. How are they going to know how to decide for themselves what they want to do and who they want to do it with?
Meaning well isn’t good enough, Kim Hall.
UPDATE: This response post to the Hall family on the blog Iron Daisy is ah-maz-ing. Seriously, drop what you’re doing now and read it.
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[Photos via Given Breath]