A Christian mommyblogger from Austin, TX named Kimberly Hall has gotten the attention of the Internet with a hypocritical blog post titled, FYI (if you’re a teenage girl). In the post, Hall body-shames teenage girls for taking selfies in their pajamas (WITHOUT A BRA ON!) throughout several paragraphs that are ironically accompanied by photos of her sons flexing their muscles shirtless on the beach.
Hundreds of commenters pointed this ridiculous juxtaposition out to Hall, who republished the post a second time, but using photos where her boys are fully clothed to please those critics who suggested that teens of any gender respect Jesus by being modest. Fair enough a mea culpa, as long as you don’t mind your puritanical messages coming with a healthy dose of passive-aggression. Because that’s what got me most about Hall’s post. Her insinuation that she — to use church rhetoric — hates the sin of braless selfies but still loves the slutty teenage sinners, if she has to, as long as they stay far, far away from her teenage sons who don’t deserve to be tempted by these trampy, 12-year-old PINK-clad whores!
Here’s Hall in her own words:
I have some information that might interest you. Last night, as we sometimes do, our family sat around the dining-room table and looked through your social media photos.
We have teenage sons, and so naturally there are quite a few pictures of you lovely ladies to wade through. Wow – you sure took a bunch of selfies in your pajamas this summer! …. 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 ….
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?
And now – big bummer – we have to block your posts. Because, the reason we have these (sometimes awkward) family conversations around the table is that we care about our sons, just as we know your parents care about you.
I know your family would not be thrilled at the thought of my teenage boys seeing you only in your towel. Did you know that once a male sees you in a state of undress, he can’t ever un-see it? You don’t want the Hall boys to only think of you in this sexual way, do you?
If that “he can’t ever un-see it” line isn’t enough to terrify you (“It’s not his fault he raped her, officer … it’s because he saw that braless selfie that one time AND IT WAS LITERALLY ALL HE COULD SEE FOR THE REST OF HIS DAYS, every time she talked, just a teenage B-cup boob flopping without the support of a bra”), Hall’s passive-aggressive contradictions about her willingness to punish/forgive these slutty girls will.
… in our house, there are no second chances, ladies. If you want to stay friendly with the Hall men, you’ll have to keep your clothes on, and your posts decent. If you try to post a sexy selfie, or an inappropriate YouTube video – even once – you’ll be booted off our on-line island.
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.
Every day I pray for the women my boys will love. I hope they will be drawn to real beauties, the kind of women who will leave them better people in the end. I also pray that my sons will be worthy of this kind of woman, that they will be patient – and act honorably – while they wait for her.
Girls, it’s not too late! If you think you’ve made an on-line mistake (we all do – don’t fret – I’ve made some doozies), RUN to your accounts and take down anything that makes it easy for your male friends to imagine you naked in your bedroom.
Will you trust me? There are boys out there waiting and hoping for women of character. Some young men are fighting the daily uphill battle to keep their minds pure, and their thoughts praiseworthy.
You are growing into a real beauty, inside and out.
Act like her, speak like her, post like her.
I’m glad we’re friends.
Let’s break this section down, shall we? If you screw up once, you’re booted from our lives. That’s just how it is around here in this godly house where the teenage boys I’m raising are fighting their rapey urges to be able to control themselves in the face of photos of girls in tank tops. JK! If you take your PJ pictures down we’re cool. I’m human, too, and I’ve done stuff like post pictures of my sons SHIRTLESS (also not wearing bras!) and flexing their muscles in a way that is meant to make them look virile/sexually desirable, so I get it. You’re a teen and you’re filled with hormones and you live in a weird culture that is both obsessed with and reviles sex, so no worries. Wait, let me take that back — stop being a slut. Just had to say that one more time. I’m glad we’re friends. (Okay, “friends.” Online. Sort of.) See you at church!
That’s the part of Hall’s approach that bothers me most. It’s not that she believes women are responsible for not tempting men that drives me the most bonkers. Of course she believes that. She works at a church, she believes in the Bible, and this is the story of Adam and Eve. I don’t agree with her there, but even if I was going to take her biblical culture into account and say to myself, “You know, I’d like to see young girls feel confident enough in what they have to offer of themselves outside of their burgeoning sexuality that I’m gonna get behind the ‘no sexy selfies’ message for a minute,” what I can’t stand is the way “Mrs. Hall” is lying to these young girls, pretending to be a friend, when her internalized shame and self-loathing about her own temptressy, sinnerly nature is being projected onto these girls and coming out in the same loving/loathing dynamic we see in men who view women as dual-natured virgin-whores. And I have had enough of that.
No, Mrs. Hall, you are not a “friend” to any young people as it stands now, and you don’t seem to understand how to help any of them grow up without confusion and shame about sex and maturing bodies, either. So let me help you out here; it’s what Jesus would do.
1. If you want to encourage teen girls not to take provocative selfies (and let’s be clear: PJ pics would be considered TAME in most parts of the country, Mrs. Hall!), try using genuine, heartfelt, understanding, non-passive-aggressive praise toward them. Say something like, “I know your body is changing and you have these wonderful boobs now. They’re great! Enjoy them as I’m sure your future husband will. But also know that you don’t have to pose in a way that makes your boobs the center of attention, because you are worth so much as the whole, complete beautiful person that you are.” See? I said husband because I get that you don’t believe in sex before marriage! Here’s another tip about that: one way to make sex less interesting to kids, therefore encouraging them to wait longer to have it, is to not make it the forbidden fruit. Right? If Eve could have had as many apples as she wanted, she might not have wanted that one so damn badly.
2. This is the really important one: It is not the responsibility of women to keep your sons from lusting after them. Oh sure, you can try to control the young women around your family and in your church community, but there are plenty of proud-of-it sexy sluts out in the world beyond your control, and your sons are going to have to be able to deal with their feelings about those women at some point. I’d start by teaching your sons the same thing that I suggested you try to teach their girl friends, above. That women are whole people and not objects or a cut up series of body parts that can’t be “un-seen.”
3. Work on your own hang-ups, Mrs. Hall. Sex really isn’t that big of a deal, I promise you. I mean, it’s scary and it’s emotional and there are diseases you can get from it and all that jazz (I was raised Catholic, can you tell?), but it only seems so overwhelming because we don’t talk about it enough, and because we program people to have gendered feelings about it that have to do with male dominance and female submission and oh man, we have to change that. Sex should be something nice that happens between two consenting and informed partners. So inform your kids about it. I’d start with, “So those are Emily’s boobs without a bra in that picture. Just because Emily is feeling insecure — or maybe a bit cocky, even — about her boobs and has decided to take a picture featuring them doesn’t mean that Emily is a bad person. It just means Emily has decided for whatever reason to take a picture of her boobs while they’re still perky and cute, because eventually they’ll be old and saggy and at some point Emily will be dead. The fact that she is showing off her boobs does not mean that you can touch her boobs. The fact that you want to touch her boobs does not make you a freak. It makes you a normal teenage boy. Enjoy whatever feelings you have as a result of all the hormones rushing through your body, but please don’t have sex until you really feel you’re emotionally and physically ready. If you have more questions about bodies or sex, come talk to me. I’m not afraid of bodies or sex or being a good mom, so you can ask me anything, anytime.”
For more on what to tell your boys about sex, check this out.
And one more thing, Mrs. Hall. Since we, the readers, can’t see these horribly slutty PJ pics that you’re talking about, it might be entirely possible that you are reading all kinds of things into these photos that aren’t actually there because you have been taught not to project your own sexuality onto the world of men lest you tempt them and wind up used, something you’d then feel responsible for. For that, I’m sorry. It’s too bad you don’t feel in greater ownership of your own body, but I know how you feel. Maybe you can work to change that.
Good luck, Mrs. Hall. I hope you can figure this out. If you have any questions, come talk to me. I’m not afraid of bodies or sex or being a good mom, so you can ask me anything, anytime.