Today's Feminism in the Workplace: Reacting to Mrs. HallKathleen Celmins
This was published yesterday, and it immediately went viral. It was written by the mother of three teenage boys, and it was an open letter to the teenage girls in their social sphere.
Specifically, their social media sphere.
The author, previously content with a small readership, found herself under fire. Her post told teenage girls that if they post suggestive pictures on Instagram or Facebook, and they are friends with her sons, they will be blocked.
The criticism she received had to do with the pictures she chose to include in her post. They were pictures of her sons, scantily clad, horsing around on the beach.
I read the post (shared by multiple Facebook friends) and it left me feeling sad, and a little ashamed myself. Are teenage girls really responsible for the way teenage boys think?
The author posted the same story again today, but this time she switched out the pictures.
Now, in my mind, it wasn’t the pictures that concerned me so much, but the whole tone of the post. It seemed to me to be a nail in the coffin of feminism.
Who is Responsible for Feminism Today?
I remember being a teenage woman. Those curves came out of nowhere! And they were awesome! And amazing! And I probably dressed inappropriately simply because it was a novelty. I recall rolling my shorts at the waistband to get just a few more inches of leg to show. I’m certain I didn’t understand what I was doing, other than trying to get attention from a specific boy. I am thankful that I went through my teen years before social media was a thing, but teenage girls have to navigate difficult waters as it is. To have a friend’s mom publicly shame you for living in and responding to an oversexed culture? That could destroy anybody’s self esteem.
The Slippery Slope
The author wrote:
“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?”
Which is to say, that somehow, were it not for these Instagrammed bed-time glamour shots, her sons would still be pure of heart. That it’s somehow the girls’ faults.
Do you see where this is going?
It’s terrifying. Let’s fast forward a few years. These same girls, the author’s same boys, are starting to get physical. If the girl (now a young woman) is dressed provocatively, but does not welcome the advances of the boys, what happens then? Is it still her fault because she made them think this way?
How This Thinking Translates to the Workplace
Women are still treated differently than men in the workplace. That’s no surprise. Men are allowed to act “as boys do” and women have to toe the line between assertive and aggressive, between professional and modest, between their brains and their bodies.
The Message We Should Be Sending
To the teenage girls mentioned in Mrs. Hall’s post (and the millions of others who are guilty by association),
Listen up, kid. You are a wonderful, smart, caring, amazing, and yes, as you’re finding out, sexy girl who is on her way to womanhood. Tread carefully. Social media isn’t always friendly, and we’re coming to find out, sometimes you don’t get to control who gets to see the pictures you upload to various sharing sites. You have a cute little body, or a lovely curvaceous one, but it’s only part of who you are. You do not have to apologize for the way you are. You don’t even have to get rid of your string bikini! Heaven knows, if teens can’t wear bikinis, then who can? If you’re posting provocative pictures on the internet, there’s something I need you to know. There are creeps on the internet. Monsters. Jerks who can find out way too much about you. Please be careful. I want to meet you when you get through the teen years. When you laugh about putting pictures of your cute self out there for the world to see.
Life is going to throw you a thousand punches. Be the kind of strong woman who can punch back.