I’m reading up on some fascinating conversation on the blogosphere, which leaked into the FB feed, regarding boys, moms, girls and how those girls dress. Can I first say “Bravo! We’re talking! Not just complaining!” Hoo-ray! My years at the church yielded a lot of disgusted comments about “how girls dress these days” without anyone really doing something to make change, thus leaving us all – as KLR would say – part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
So we have Mrs. Hall
speaking out to teenage girls, letting them know they’re not invisible. In fact, they’re more visible to more people than they imagine. And then Mrs. Hall got more attention than she imagined – just google “Mrs. Hall girls attention” and you get a million and a half “Dear Mrs. Hall” posts. Of the responses, I’ve appreciated a few, such as the one
that my cousin E referenced (btw, who names their blog something about urinal cake? Or am I reading it wrong and it’s one of those poorly thought out, run-together web names?) and then Momestary linked up to this guy
. I appreciated both of these authors’ tones, not condescending or even fully contradicting, but adding to what Mrs. Hall had to say. Nicely done, friends!
The whole thing returned me to conversation I began with friends several months ago related to how girls dress and that whole “one piece swimsuit” debacle. On the one hand, the expectations exist for girls to dress in a way that honors their bodies and helps young (and old) men from being tempted into lusty thoughts. I can agree, when girls dress with less cleavage and less skin it can benefit numerous parties.
The other hand doesn’t like young (and old) women left holding the responsibility for so many. Boys aren’t the product of their situation and have full capability to keep their eyes from leading them into thoughts of lust. It’s not fair to hold girls responsible for the sin of boys.
So, if we don’t want to blame the girls, yet the boys could really use the help, whose job is it to make sure these kids have a shot at living in a way that honors everyone?
I’m trying to teach my kids to be kind to others and be aware of how others feel, rather than having only their own interests to guide them. I must say: this is difficult. It turns out that empathy and compassion live in there somewhere, but often require some coaching before they emerge. We almost have to learn them and practice them. Similarly, I’m trying to allow each child to grow into the she or he that God has made them.
In the midst of teaching H Boy how to think about others, he’ll take it too far. He begins to police the girls, announcing to everyone when Miss M gets one more carrot than everybody else or giving a play-by-play of Lady C’s latest infraction of the rules. Now he’s not just considering everyone else, he’s using everyone else as leverage. How do you teach kids, and teenagers, and even adults, that we need to consider one another and think about one another – protect one another – without patrolling and controlling them?
I frequently ask H Boy to watch out for the girls while they play outside. But if Miss M attempts something and falls and gets hurt, I cannot blame H for his sister’s shortcomings. He can only do so much. Personal responsibility reigns supreme. But that doesn’t mean that H can’t coach, advise, encourage, warn and assist. He can do everything possible to provide the best possible outcome. But when the buck stops, it’s not in his hand.
A friend wisely told me, “Are we our brother’s keeper? Absolutely.” That stuck. We are. In the struggle of living in a culture filled with overt sexuality and confusing messages, everyone pitches in. Moms who write blogs and bring awareness to the issue. Dads who treat moms and other women with love and respect. Neighbors who give attention to kids and blossoming adults for making wise choices – about the way they dress and the character they embody. Church families who pray over the kids and the parents as everyone navigates the rocky waters.
I wonder if the best approach is to avoid the blame game altogether. Instead of pointing fingers, start holding hands. Ladies, if we don’t want boobies to be objectified, don’t put them out as objects to be oggled. Gentlemen, if we don’t want girls to lure you into a trap of temptation, then (while practicing that challenging skill of self-control) begin honoring the girls who live up to your virtuous, flesh-under-clothing standards. Such pictures get posted because the end goal is achieved: attention. If you start paying attention to that which you value, in this case modesty, then the girls who want to catch your eye will begin taking that route.
And parents (*looks at self*) be careful not to put the weight of the sins of society onto the shoulders of a single child. We’re talking culture shift here: Wading through the muck of decades of cultural commentary on sexuality and the body where both “the media” and the Church have piped up in unhealthy ways. Let’s own that.
Now, I’d love to know: in what ways are you practically working to instill these values of modesty and treating all people with respect (no matter what their attire)? How do you bring up the conversation? As always, what does this look like when lived out well?