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Mom's sexy 'selfies' ban: Is there a different standard for girls?

Posted by on Sep. 11, 2013 at 11:00 AM
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1 mom liked this

Mom's sexy 'selfies' ban: Is there a different standard for girls?

By Kelly Wallace, CNN
updated 10:05 AM EDT, Wed September 11, 2013
A Texas mom warned her sons' female friends in a blog post that risqué social media pictures wouldn't be tolerated in her home.
A Texas mom warned her sons' female friends in a blog post that risqué social media pictures wouldn't be tolerated in her home.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A blog post by a mom planning to block sexy selfies from girls goes viral
  • Critics accuse the mom of a double standard for what girls and boys do online
  • The mom at center of controversy isn't talking
  • Experts say parents should empower girls and teach boys respect

Editor's note: Kelly Wallace is CNN's digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. She's a mom of two girls and lives in Manhattan. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter.

(CNN) -- A couple of summers ago, as I played on the beach with my little girls, a scene unfolded, which is undoubtedly repeated countless times every second of every day in our 24/7 social media world.

Three girls, who looked no more than 14 or 15, were in their bathing suits, taking turns striking the most seductive poses possible, pushing up whatever breasts they had, while one of them snapped a photo on her phone.

My husband and I looked at each other and knew that photo was probably just posted to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, name your social network.

I thought of that scene after a blog post went viral last week by a mom of teenage boys, who said she would block any sexy "selfie" photos girls sent to her sons. What sent the blogosphere into overdrive wasn't necessarily that she was going to block the girls who post these photos; it was the apparent blame she seemed to place on the girls in sexualizing her sons.

"I know your family would not be thrilled at the thought of my teenage boys seeing you only in your towel," wrote Kim Hall, who is a director of a women's ministry in Austin, Texas, on her blog, Given Breath. "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 in this sexual way, do you?"

Before the comments come pouring in, I want to make it clear that I didn't think of the story of the teens on the beach because I support Kim Hall's position. I thought of it because of the double standard, which this controversy seems to demonstrate, in how we view what girls and boys do online.

Would I have cared -- or worried -- or paid much attention to a group of 14- and 15-year-old boys posing in their bathing suit bottoms for all the world to see? Probably not. And that speaks to how we're socialized to place the onus on girls to police sexuality while giving boys free rein. (Ironically, Hall's original post included photos of her sons flexing in their bathing suits. She has since updated the post with more family-friendly photos of her boys and has declined to talk to CNN.)

Stephanie Dulli, a mom of two young boys, who blogs at Stephanie Says, says Hall, like any mother of sons, has a responsibility to teach her boys that girls, even those sending sexy photos, deserve respect.

"It's our job as mothers of boys to raise our children, our sons, to see more than just boobs, to see more than just a scantily clad female, to be able to say, 'Well that's one part of this person, but what's the rest?'" said Dulli.

"And it's our job as mothers of boys to make sure they don't easily categorize those girls or write them off simply because they posted something stupid on Instagram."

Laurie Marshall, whose kids are 8, 19 and 21, believes Hall is encouraging her sons to pass judgment and shun people deemed to be inappropriate, which she feels is the "worst kind of message to give teenagers," who are already doing that to each other.

"What I would want my son to do is not turn those people away but understand where they are coming from and what motivates the kids to do things like that and then form their judgments based on what they really know about that person, not the photo," she said.

Andi Zeisler is founder and editorial director of Bitch Media, a nonprofit feminist media company, which publishes the magazine, "Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture." Zeisler believes Hall's post is indicative of a larger problem in how we, as a society, often view girls vs. boys especially after incidents of sexting, sexual assault and even rape.

"It is so much easier to put the onus on girls, to blame them for how they dress and how they act, than it is to just teach boys and men not to sexualize women, not to think it's OK to take advantage of or rape them," said Zeisler during an interview.

A Montana judge's recent decision to sentence a teacher to 30 days in custody for raping a teenage student put a national spotlight on this attitude, after the judge cited the girl's maturity and complicity in the situation. The judge faced an immediate backlash, but his words highlight a tendency among some to blame young women for their own victimization.

"I realize it may seem like a stretch to connect rape to (Hall's) blog post but I do think it's part of a series of pieces that are all connected to the way we think about girls versus boys in terms of sexuality."

But on the other side are many parents who think Hall is 100% right.

"These young girls showing their 'goods' have no idea how this could come back to haunt them," said Shasta Gift, a mom of two, in response to a request for comment on CNN's Facebook page. "It naturally causes hormonal boys to go crazy."

Outraged parents: Why Miley Cyrus' performance sets girls, women back

Celia Crecy, who has a 20-year-old son, says some of his friends wear clothing that makes them look like "little hookers."

"I worry not only about the girls but the message the boys get that it is OK to dress like that so it must be OK to treat them as objects of desire instead (of) as a human being. It is very confusing for some boys," she said.

Said Darrell Andrews, on CNN's Facebook page, "Stop this foolishness and let parents parent. She obviously loves her kids and (is) trying to protect them from this sick and out of control nation we have become."

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Maybe that last point is one place where those of us who take issue with Hall's post and the dangerous double standard we feel exists in society, and those who don't, can find a place to agree -- that we, as parents, can and should do more to empower women, like those girls I saw on the beach a few years ago, and educate men, like Mrs. Hall's sons.

"Boys and girls are getting the message that sexy is valued from a very early age," said Dr. Jennifer Hartstein, a New York City-based child, adolescent and family psychologist and author of the book, "Princess Recovery: A How-to Guide to Raising Strong, Empowered Girls Who Can Create Their Own Happily Ever Afters."

Let's not let Robin Thicke off the hook

Parents of girls need to encourage their daughters to believe that they are worth much more that what they look like, despite the messaging they get in the media.

"The more we can empower girls to believe in themselves and what they have to offer without falling into the 'appearance trap,' the better prepared they will be to handle being asked to send sexy photos, or to post them looking for positive feedback," she said.

And as for boys, Hartstein says they are "bombarded" with the same images, leading them to think it's perfectly fine to view girls solely based on their outward appearance.

"Young men need to be taught that respect is the primary thing to consider when seeing a young woman," said Hartstein. "It's important to try to teach boys, from an early age, that girls are more than the clothes they wear and to help boys see the person underneath."

I hope Mrs. Hall's sons, and those girls on the beach, are listening.

Follow Kelly Wallace on Twitter and like CNN Living on Facebook.

National Woman's Party


by on Sep. 11, 2013 at 11:00 AM
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Replies (1-10):
mom011598
by on Sep. 11, 2013 at 11:07 AM
1 mom liked this

I'm torn on the idea. I don't consider myself conservative in most aspects but I think we need to work on both ends of the spectrum. While men and boys do need to be taught respect, their brains work differently than ours. Men are more likely to use possessive and objective terms when speaking about women with little clothing on compared to women with more modest dress. Is this inherent? I don't know. The point is that changing a society takes time, more than likely much more than the lifetimes of our young girls. I'm not sure that it's fair, to anyone, to present yourself as an object and then be insulted when you are treated as one.

prommy
by Silver Member on Sep. 11, 2013 at 11:10 AM
5 moms liked this

 I hope this doesn't sound ignorant...I have 2 sons, whenever I see a tantalizing picture of one of their  female friends on facebook or on their cell phones I ask myself if those girls understand the fact that male hormones are going crazy just like female hormones do at this age. I ask myself if those girls know that when my sons and probably many, many more sons see those photo's they aren't looking and saying, 'Oh, isn't she pretty and did you know she got a 4.0 GPA last semester?" They are almost certainly staring at her boobs or her butt. It isn't fair, but if a girl wants to be seen as more than her body she should consider that reality when posting racy photos. It is unfortunate that a boy can pose for a photo without a shirt and not get judged as harshly as a girl, but the judging is still going to be there. How many times has a girl looked at a photo of a guy and noticed his 6 pack but not cared about how kind or smart he is?

prommy
by Silver Member on Sep. 11, 2013 at 11:11 AM
4 moms liked this

 

Quoting mom011598:

I'm torn on the idea. I don't consider myself conservative in most aspects but I think we need to work on both ends of the spectrum. While men and boys do need to be taught respect, their brains work differently than ours. Men are more likely to use possessive and objective terms when speaking about women with little clothing on compared to women with more modest dress. Is this inherent? I don't know. The point is that changing a society takes time, more than likely much more than the lifetimes of our young girls. I'm not sure that it's fair, to anyone, to present yourself as an object and then be insulted when you are treated as one.

 THIS:

                      I'm not sure that it's fair, to anyone, to present yourself as an object and then be insulted when you are treated as one.

Wicked.Jester
by on Sep. 11, 2013 at 11:15 AM
5 moms liked this

I am not understanding why this is being called a double standard.  If a girl puts herself out there as a whore, that is how she is going to be perceived.  If the boys were sending out scantically clad pics of themselves and the mom was ok with that, then it would be a double standard.

But having three teenage boys and a teenage girl myself,  I do label girls who take half naked selfies of themselves tramps.  I would not want my sons to bring one home and I don't want my daughter to be one.

And I am not a prude, at all.   But I do believe in self respect and dignity.

katy_kay08
by on Sep. 11, 2013 at 11:16 AM
4 moms liked this

there is part of me that can understand why.  Teen boys are being held criminally liable when teen girls send them half dressed photos of themselves.  I would not want my boys to even tread the line of trouble because they comment/had access to these types of photos.  

When the laws start treating the girls that distribute what the law sees as child pornography then we can talk about the double standard of expecting girls to not pose with their boobs hanging out.  

lifeforchrist
by on Sep. 11, 2013 at 11:26 AM
8 moms liked this

 what you're saying is that its impossible for men to view women with respect. That is how it comes off as. This is purely cultural. And has nothing to do with 'how men work' of men really are only capable of objectifying women when they have no clothes then what is marriage? And women should then never trust any man they sleep with because its 'impossible' for them to seperate the two. But men are in committed relationships and respect wives so its clearly not the case. Its purely a choice. Clothing or not a man can control his thoughts. Not to mention there are many people around the world who live naked with women and have zero of these problems. Europe and nude beaches being a big one. This is purely a problem of social and cultural upbringing not a "men are made this way so women need to watch themselves " issue

Quoting mom011598:

I'm torn on the idea. I don't consider myself conservative in most aspects but I think we need to work on both ends of the spectrum. While men and boys do need to be taught respect, their brains work differently than ours. Men are more likely to use possessive and objective terms when speaking about women with little clothing on compared to women with more modest dress. Is this inherent? I don't know. The point is that changing a society takes time, more than likely much more than the lifetimes of our young girls. I'm not sure that it's fair, to anyone, to present yourself as an object and then be insulted when you are treated as one.

 

Wicked.Jester
by on Sep. 11, 2013 at 11:35 AM
1 mom liked this

I am sorry, I have to disagree. There is not a way for ME, as a WOMAN, to look at a woman posed like the below with a lot of respect.   Why should I expect a man to do what even I cannot?  And I am not attracted to women.


Quoting lifeforchrist:

 what you're saying is that its impossible for men to view women with respect. That is how it comes off as. This is purely cultural. And has nothing to do with 'how men work' of men really are only capable of objectifying women when they have no clothes then what is marriage? And women should then never trust any man they sleep with because its 'impossible' for them to seperate the two. But men are in committed relationships and respect wives so its clearly not the case. Its purely a choice. Clothing or not a man can control his thoughts. Not to mention there are many people around the world who live naked with women and have zero of these problems. Europe and nude beaches being a big one. This is purely a problem of social and cultural upbringing not a "men are made this way so women need to watch themselves " issue

Quoting mom011598:

I'm torn on the idea. I don't consider myself conservative in most aspects but I think we need to work on both ends of the spectrum. While men and boys do need to be taught respect, their brains work differently than ours. Men are more likely to use possessive and objective terms when speaking about women with little clothing on compared to women with more modest dress. Is this inherent? I don't know. The point is that changing a society takes time, more than likely much more than the lifetimes of our young girls. I'm not sure that it's fair, to anyone, to present yourself as an object and then be insulted when you are treated as one.

 


jessilin0113
by Platinum Member on Sep. 11, 2013 at 11:37 AM
8 moms liked this
But see, why do you automatically jump to whore? Is there something inherently wrong with wanting people to think you're sexy or attractive, or thinking that of yourself?


Quoting Wicked.Jester:

I am not understanding why this is being called a double standard.  If a girl puts herself out there as a whore, that is how she is going to be perceived.  If the boys were sending out scantically clad pics of themselves and the mom was ok with that, then it would be a double standard.

But having three teenage boys and a teenage girl myself,  I do label girls who take half naked selfies of themselves tramps.  I would not want my sons to bring one home and I don't want my daughter to be one.

And I am not a prude, at all.   But I do believe in self respect and dignity.


Wicked.Jester
by on Sep. 11, 2013 at 11:40 AM

I will post my example pic again, sorry this has WHORE written all over it.  If it is a pic that looks like this, and yes there are teens taking these (they are all over google and facebook but I will not repost a pic like this of a teen girl), I am going to jump STRAIGHT to whore and never look back.


Quoting jessilin0113:

But see, why do you automatically jump to whore? Is there something inherently wrong with wanting people to think you're sexy or attractive, or thinking that of yourself?


Quoting Wicked.Jester:

I am not understanding why this is being called a double standard.  If a girl puts herself out there as a whore, that is how she is going to be perceived.  If the boys were sending out scantically clad pics of themselves and the mom was ok with that, then it would be a double standard.

But having three teenage boys and a teenage girl myself,  I do label girls who take half naked selfies of themselves tramps.  I would not want my sons to bring one home and I don't want my daughter to be one.

And I am not a prude, at all.   But I do believe in self respect and dignity.



mom011598
by on Sep. 11, 2013 at 11:41 AM
2 moms liked this

As I stated, it takes a long time to change a society. In the meantime these girls aren't walking around minding their own business at a nude beach. They are also playing in to the societal role. They are trying to be objectified because it gives them worth. The problem is on both sides.


Quoting lifeforchrist:

 what you're saying is that its impossible for men to view women with respect. That is how it comes off as. This is purely cultural. And has nothing to do with 'how men work' of men really are only capable of objectifying women when they have no clothes then what is marriage? And women should then never trust any man they sleep with because its 'impossible' for them to seperate the two. But men are in committed relationships and respect wives so its clearly not the case. Its purely a choice. Clothing or not a man can control his thoughts. Not to mention there are many people around the world who live naked with women and have zero of these problems. Europe and nude beaches being a big one. This is purely a problem of social and cultural upbringing not a "men are made this way so women need to watch themselves " issue

Quoting mom011598:

I'm torn on the idea. I don't consider myself conservative in most aspects but I think we need to work on both ends of the spectrum. While men and boys do need to be taught respect, their brains work differently than ours. Men are more likely to use possessive and objective terms when speaking about women with little clothing on compared to women with more modest dress. Is this inherent? I don't know. The point is that changing a society takes time, more than likely much more than the lifetimes of our young girls. I'm not sure that it's fair, to anyone, to present yourself as an object and then be insulted when you are treated as one.

 



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