The other day I read a blog post that I found interesting and refreshing. It’s called “To the Middle School Girls at the Pool Who Told My son He Was Hot.” (Go on over and read it real quick.)
I saw it as a reasonable commentary on the way that young girls sometimes act inappropriately, and as an appeal to them to stop and/or to their parents to guide them away from this way of acting. The post isn’t hateful, or judge-y, or hurtful.
I didn’t have a super strong reaction to it, and would have just filed it away in my mind as a nice thing I had read and then moved on, except that I saw at the bottom of the post that the author decided to close the comments because some commenters attacked her personally, even going so far as to call her shameful and disgusting. Wait, what?
Naturally, that piqued my curiosity so I scrolled down to see just what had been so “offensive” about the post.
The main problem commenters seemed to have with the post was that they thought that the mom’s words were shaming young girls and contributing to the “rape culture.”
Hmmm. I did not see that coming. The take home message of the post seemed to be this, “I’m trying to teach my son to respect girls/women. And girls, you should also respect yourselves.”
In my opinion, the author was not shaming girls, nor was she contributing to the rape culture at all.
However, the post comments made me think about the concept of “rape culture” in general and how it seems to get thrown around a lot on social media, perhaps without a clear understanding of what it actually is. So, I Googled it. Here’s a definition:
Rape culture is a culture in which dominant cultural ideologies, media images, social practices, and societal institutions support and condone sexual abuse by normalizing, trivializing and eroticizing male violence against women and blaming victims for their own abuse (Huffington Post)
Rape culture is making jokes about sexual assault.
It is not a mom pleading with young girls to stop throwing themselves at young boys.
Rape culture is blaming a rape victim because of what she was wearing.
It is not telling girls that they should have respect for themselves.
Rape culture is Fifty Shade of Grey, for pete’s sake.
It is not teaching girls that they can and should be responsible for their own behavior and make good choices for themselves.
It seems to me that our society has become so hypersensitive to never, ever offending anyone, that we have made it inappropriate and often offensive to tell people to make good choices and take responsibility for themselves. If we dare to suggest that someone might be doing something that isn’t in her best interest, we can attacked as being judgmental and hateful. Just like the mom in the above-linked post, who simply said in essence, “Come on girls, you’re better than that,” and was then chastised for “blaming the victim” (except that there was no victim).
This doesn’t help anyone, and I find it really disturbing as I think ahead to what I want my own daughters to know as they get older.
As a mom of three girls, I think it does much more harm than good to send the message to girls that they can do whatever they want, wear whatever they want, and say whatever they want, no matter how sexually suggestive it may be, and no one should ever say anything to them about it, because correcting them perpetuates rape culture, or is misogynistic, or sexist, or whatever.
I want to teach my daughters to have respect for themselves and for others in all situations. And that means (when they get older) not posting duck-lipped scantily-clad selfies all over the place, or making suggestive comments to boys, or being sexually aggressive and pushy, and so on. I aim to teach them this stuff not because if they behave this way they’ll be attacked and it will then be their fault. Of course not. But because:
- Behaving in a sexually aggressive way could actually put them in a situation where they are at risk for assault, and
- Acting in a suggestive way and throwing themselves at boys will make them feel terribly about themselves, and
- I want them to know that getting a boy to notice them is not the most important thing and is not what gives them value, and
- They need to understand that if a boy does notice them, it should not be because their bodies are barely covered but because of the other many, many wonderful qualities they possess.
I could go on and on with many more reasons, but you get the picture.
Trying to help young girls understand why they should have self respect and stop throwing themselves at boys is not shaming them. It’s empowering them in a real way. Not a fake, “you’re a woman, you can do whatever you want, sleep with whomever you want” sexual-revolution kind of way. That’s not empowerment. That’s crap.
Teaching girls that they shouldn’t always just do whatever the heck they feel like doing and dress in a provocative way and say suggestive things to boys does not contribute to the rape culture. It contributes to their healthy development.
I’m not trying to diminish the reality of rape culture with this post. I despise the attitudes that lead to this type of mindset. However, I think in some ways, as a society, we’re missing the mark in efforts to get rid of the rape culture. We should be crying out against the magazines and ads that portray women falsely and place an overemphasis on their bodies and appearance and sexy poses. We should be voicing opposition when the media publishes stories, like the recent one about the Duggar family, purely for the sake of sensationalizing and getting ratings, without any regard for the poor victims and their privacy. We should be turning away from books and shows and movies that positively portray sexual violence instead of turning them into bestsellers and major hit movies (ahem, Fifty Shades of Grey!!).
I know my daughters will not be this innocent forever. It breaks my heart and scares the daylights out of me to know that they will be exposed more and more to the smut that is the “entertainment” industry in our country as they get older. I can only encourage them to try to seek out things that promote truth and beauty and love, and to always have respect and love for themselves and others. There’s no shame in that.
The world doesn’t need what women have, it needs what women are. – Edith Stein (AKA St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross)