Act #249: Judge less, mentor more.
This week, a blog post written by a mom of teenage sons went viral. Author, Kim Hall is also the Director of Women’s ministry at All Saints in Austin, TX. While I admire Ms. Hall for her convictions to protect her boys from sultry, sexy teenage girl selfies that make her blush, I can't help but question the effectiveness of her approach. In her blog, titled, FYI, If You're a Teenage Girl, Hall sends a stern warning to all the girls in skimpy pjs, the ones not wearing bras, who arch their backs, and have sultry pouts - that she is blocking their posts and banning them from her sons' on-line social life. She prays that her sons will be drawn to "real beauties, the kind of women who will leave them better people in the end." She prays that her sons will be "worthy of this kind of woman, that they will be patient – and act honorably – while they wait for her."
Rather than blocking them, why not reach out to them?
Ms. Hall, I know you've been there. You were a teen once. You know what it's like to grow up in a world where girls are valued less than their male counterparts. Where girls are supposed to be perfect little princesses. Where girls are judged by their capacity to look pretty and attract attention. You know how brutal high school can be - how much girls struggle with the pressures of attaining the media-imposed perfect body, how difficult it is to come to terms with your sexuality, the high rates of dating and sexual violence they experience from boys and bullying from other girls. Do you ever wonder what might be going on in the home life of that pouty girl in the sexy pajamas? Did you know that 44 percent of all sexual assault victims are under the age of 18? That 50% of reported date rapes occur among teenagers? That 95% of the 8 million Americans with eating disorders are girls and women ages 12 to 25? That 51% of teens are afraid to talk to their parents about their problems and 40% are afraid of not fitting in? That 1 in 3 girls who have been in a serious relationship say they've been concerned about being physically hurt by their partner? That 75% of teenage girls felt depressed, guilty and shameful after spending just three minutes leafing through a fashion magazine? Rather than blocking her, why not invite her over for dinner? Rather than condemn her, why not show her by example, how she might grow up to love herself, to value her body, and to believe that people like you exist - people who accept her for who she is, regardless of what she is wearing?
Rather than hoping for the kind of woman who will leave your sons better people, why not invest in raising boys who are already good people?
Ms. Hall, that's a whole lot of pressure you are placing on someone you have absolutely no control over. I trust that you are also placing the same amount of time and energy in teaching your boys to value and respect women REGARDLESS of what they are wearing, whether they have a bra on or not. By blocking these girls from your sons' newsfeed, you are sending a powerful message to your boys about the value of women. That some women are not worthy of them, especially if they dress and act a certain way. I too, have a son and I will always, ALWAYS teach him to look beyond the surface and value every human - enough to really get to know them. I learned quickly in college that some of the most conservatively-dressed, church-going girls, who were saving themselves for marriage, faced the same pressures that other girls faced - and many were engaging in oral sex behind closed doors, and succumbing to abusive relationships just to please the kind of boys who grew up with permission to devalue the kind of girl not good enough to bring home to mom.
You tell teenage girls around you that they are growing into "a real beauty", inside and out. You tell them to act like her, speak like her, post like her. I challenge you to act like someone who once used to be a teenage girl. To judge less and mentor more. To raise your sons to value all women, not just the ones who are "worthy" in your eyes.
To read Ms. Hall's full article: http://givenbreath.com/2013/09/03/fyi-if-youre-a-teenage-girl/.