FYI: (bras are not the protectors of virtue, among other things)

This is a rebuttal to the article posted yesterday by Kimberly Hall.

Dear Mrs. Hall,

I have some information that might interest you.

Oh, parenting. Must be hard, right? I can only imagine, mind you, because I haven’t bothered procreating yet. Not so long ago, I was still a teenage girl. I can barely keep a plant alive. So far the cactus has made the best bid for continued survival under my care. I’ve got a long way to go before I can provide for another human being.

Anyway, my point is: it’s gotta be hard to figure out where to draw the line, right? It’s gotta be hard to figure out what you should and shouldn’t tell your sons about how they interact with girls–about how they view them.

As a parent, it’s totally within your rights to restrict who your children interact with. As much as you can, anyway. If you’re internet-savvy then you betcha: you can make judgment calls about a teenage girl’s integrity by checking up on her selfies and then ensure that your sons will never look at her again. On Facebook, anyway. They’ll probably still run into each other at school, but what can you do?

I don’t take issue with you limiting who your child interacts with. That’s up to you. What I do take issue with, though, is the lesson you’re teaching your sons.

Here’s what you said, about random girl so-and-so’s selfie in her bedroom:

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.

You’re a woman yourself, Mrs. Hall, so it probably comes as no surprise to you that bras are one of the most uncomfortable articles of clothing women have to wear. Did you know how many health problems bras can cause? And not just bad bras. Any bras. It’s no wonder that the instant I set foot in my own apartment, I take that thing off.

Regardless of medical details, bras are just one of those things enforced by societal norms. There’s nothing inherently sexual about wearing or not wearing a bra. Maybe you can see the shape of a nipple through the shirt, but since nipples are nothing more than run-of-the-mill body parts and their poking up doesn’t necessarily indicate anything involving arousal (she could just be cold, you know), it’s really not a big deal.

Moving on to your issues with the girl’s posing: I’ll take you at your word and believe you’re not exaggerating. Let’s say she really is striking a pose.

(I will say, though, as an aside–your sons are striking a pose on the beach, too, in your own original post. Flexing their muscles, baring their abs. That’s stuff straight out of sexy male photoshoots. The setting doesn’t matter. Why’s it okay for them to do that, but when a girl doesn’t wear a bra and strikes a pose, it riles you up? Think about the implications. Every pose can be misinterpreted.)

If she is really striking a blatantly sexual pose: yep, depending on her age, it’s probably not appropriate. (It’s not appropriate for your sons, either.) But you should also assume that, depending on her age, she doesn’t know what she’s doing. She’s imitating female models, her friends, etcetera–if she’s too young for you to think about in a consensual sexual context, she’s too young for you to think about sexually, period. She’s too young for your sons to think about sexually, too. Tell them so. It’s pretty easy to say, “You are under the age of consent, and so is she.”

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?

I’m not trying to put words in your mouth, Mrs. Hall, but this is what I inferred from your statement: posting “sexy” photos of yourself, as a girl, is not smart. Because the girl is “usually” very smart, but not when she posts selfies that you have interpreted in a sexual manner.

What was the girl trying to do? Get attention–that’s what all teenagers are trying to do. Who was she trying to reach? Her friends, who will tell her she’s pretty; and yes, even boys, who will also find her pretty, and probably desirable, and maybe want to date her. What was she trying to say? Hey, look at me–I’m relaxed and cute and sexy. Praise me.

Do you know why the girl does that? Probably because she was raised in a society that has, for a long time, only praised women based on their appearances. It’s in the water when we grow up, scout’s honor. We learn that only the pretty girls can be loved. That only pretty girls are worth the boys’ time. That only pretty girls succeed. So what the girl did was actually very smart, given the conditions our culture has raised us in. She’s advertising what makes her worthwhile. It’s not her fault that our culture taught her that her only value is between her legs.

Someone should probably have a talk with the girl. Probably her parents. (Not you. It’s not your child. You might want to have this conversation with your daughter, though.) Someone should probably reinforce, again and again, that she doesn’t have to be beautiful to be worth something. She doesn’t have to be a sexual object to be worth something.

Someone should also tell her that if she wants to be sexy, when she’s of legal age and out of their house, she can–and that men should still respect her, because being sexy is not the same as asking to be objectified and seen only as a sexual being. Removing your clothes does not mean that everyone who sees you without clothes gets to take potshots at your integrity. Your integrity as a human being is literally not at all related to your sexual habits, your choice of dress, your number of piercings or tattoos–the list goes on.

Finally, we come to this.

I know that sounds harsh and old-school, but that’s just the way it is under this roof for a while. 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.

You’re right and you’re wrong, Mrs. Hall. Grown men of integrity don’t linger over pictures of scantily clad high-school girls, because it’s sort of the equivalent of child pornography, and that kind of thing is frowned upon (not to mention, illegal).

But you know what men of integrity really don’t do? What they really, really don’t do? They don’t judge a girl based on a sexy selfie she posted on Facebook. They don’t look at that picture (or pictures) and decide that she is without worth, without integrity, just because she dared to be sexy in a society that has taught us that our sex appeal is the only thing we have that’s valuable. They don’t look at that picture and cease to see the person beneath the skimpy outfit.

If they’re a real man–and I hope your sons learn this–they will see that picture and still see that person, not an object for their sexual gratification.

Perhaps you should teach your sons to see women as people with viable thoughts, feelings, and opinions–none of which are tied to how skimpily they dress–instead of teaching them that scantily-clad women are without integrity, without intelligence, and ultimately worthless.


A woman who used to be a teenager

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10 responses to “FYI: (bras are not the protectors of virtue, among other things)”

  1. Emmie Mears says :

    Fabulous post. It’s funny, I blog in a bunch of different places, and yesterday my first post was about how we interact with young girls about their looks. How the first words out of our mouths are so often, “What a beautiful little girl! You’re so pretty! What a pretty dress!” We teach them from a very, very early age that it’s not their sense of humor, it’s not their intelligence, it’s not their behavior that inspires our regard: it’s their looks. We fill the pool with these expectations and later drown them in it for trying to swim.

    After I read Mrs. Hall’s post yesterday, I wrote my own piece about it because I had smoke coming out of my ears, and I thought that was the best way to extinguish it. I am very heartened that so many people are coming out of the woodwork and speaking out against it. Though I don’t think she’s really listening, except to repost the original with photos of her clothed sons in a second post.

    Here’s a link to mine if you want to read it.

    • krystlebartholomew says :

      Thank you! (: I, too, am so glad there are so many posts speaking out against her–though she appears to be really, really missing the point with that repost. The hypocrisy of those photos barely scratches the surface of what was going on in her original post. Alas.

      • Emmie Mears says :

        Yeah, the photos were kind of the phenotype in the genetic equation of that post. The expression of her coding issues with gender. :/

  2. Bill C says :

    “It’s gotta be hard to figure out what you should and shouldn’t tell your sons about how they interact with girls–about how they view them.”

    You can’t tell either gender how they think about the opposite sex because we are hardwired with certain views. 1) Men avoid promiscuous women for long term relationships. 2) Women are attracted to men with experience. Across cultures men marry younger women and sluts are viewed with contempt by men and women.

    “Why’s it okay for them to do that, but when a girl doesn’t wear a bra and strikes a pose, it riles you up?”

    For the same reason that being a stud is a good thing and being a slut is a bad thing.

    “Someone should also tell her that if she wants to be sexy, when she’s of legal age and out of their house, she can–and that men should still respect her, because being sexy is not the same as asking to be objectified and seen only as a sexual being.”

    Men should still respect her? You can tell men what to think but you can’t make them think it. It’s a waste of your time and really annoying to us.

    “But you know what men of integrity really don’t do? What they really, really don’t do? They don’t judge a girl based on a sexy selfie she posted on Facebook.”

    But we do. All men. Even the good Christian men who attempt to shame still cannot help but look at a woman’s body and have a reaction.

    Think about what you are saying, you are asking men to conform our thoughts to what you think is right. Do you think that is right? Do you think that is even possible? Just like you can’t tell girls that the overweight nerd who plays WoW all day is as attractive as a football player you can’t tell boys what to think about girls who behave like sluts. It’s not something we are socialized into. It’s our nature.

    • Krystle Bartholomew says :

      1) Can you give me any scientific data–any at all–that proves we are hardwired with those views you stated first off? Because if we’re just throwing around ideas based on personal experience I’ve got plenty to oppose you.

      2) Let me repeat this just to make sure I understand you, because I’m a little slow–men who bare their skin are studs (positive) but women who don’t wear bras are sluts (negative). Seems like the only difference there is the gender. That’s base inequality, my friend.

      3) Yep, they should still respect her. Obviously, some men (and women) won’t. But I foolishly believe in a world where people are non-judgmental about the sexual behavior and dress habits of others, because those things are actually not at all related to being able to respect another human being. Alas.

      4) Whether or not you have a reaction is your nature. Whether or not you decide to channel that reaction into an attitude like yours is fully within your grasp. I believe (again, foolishly) that men are capable of controlling their nature. You are indeed capable of mastering your baser impulses. What you think in the privacy of your own head is between you and your brain, but what you put out there in the world is another matter. You can choose to act respectfully toward all people despite their behaviors, even if you privately disagree with them.

      5) I do, in fact, think that being more open-minded and respectful of other people happens to be the right choice. Again, I say: it’s impossible to regulate what goes on in your head. What you put out there in speech, on paper, etcetera–that’s in your control. Believe it or not, after a while of treating people with differing lifestyles than you with respect, you start to think of them respectfully, too. It’s a nice trickle-down effect.

      As a closing note: women do not exist to gain your approval. If you don’t like the way a particular woman is, it’s not your place to tell her to be more modest, less like this and more like that. It is, in fact, possible to let her just keep on keepin’ on without remarking on her behavior at all. Trying to regulate her, however, is a gross overstep of your authority–which is the exact thing I’m pushing back against. Personal barometers for attractiveness are not at all the same as systematically dehumanizing people who act, speak, or dress a certain way.

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