FYI Mrs. Hall

A few days ago this post by Mrs. Kimberly Hall, Director of Women’s ministry at All Saints PCA in Austin, TX, went flitting about the InterWebs.

It stirred up quite a response.

Many people applauded Mrs. Hall.

Many more voiced responses that ranged in the negative all the way from polite murmurs of disagreement to verbal b-slaps that landed so hard they could be felt halfway across the continent.

This is the kind of post that gives Christians and Christianity a bad rep.  To many it reflects the worst kind of judgmentalism & hoity-toity holier-than-thou attitude.

It makes non-Christians want to find a Christian so they can kick his teeth down his throat.

It makes other Christians roll their eyes, and serves like a great big target painted on Mrs. Hall’s posterior for rebuttals.

All Capp's Kigmy never achieved the same level of multi-media marketing frenzy as his Shmoo did, but it was still a popular recurring character in the Li'l Abner comic strip.

Truth be told, my initial instinct was to load up for mama grizzly bear and let her have it.

…but then I got to thinking about her sons.

They’ve doubtlessly already had to endure a ton of red-assing from friends, classmates, and total strangers on this.

I can imagine what it must be like to be her sons.  I have no doubt she loves them and cares for them and wants nothing but the best for them and is trying to guide them to grow up to be just, trustworthy, dependable, compassionate men.

…but you only have to glance at her article to know there’s also gotta be a whole lotta, “Mommmmmmmm!” moments in that family.

So to spare her sons more of that, I’m going to tackle her post as dispassionately and as courteously as possible.

First, props to her and her hubby for maintaining an open line of communication with her sons, and for knowing what they are up to when they’re online.

Far too many parents simply wash their hands of direct involvement with their kids once they hit their teen years.

It is possible to go too far in the other direction, and be a hovering / controlling parent who doesn’t trust their kids one iota, but I don’t think Mrs. Hall falls in that category (tho she may cast the occasional longing glance in that direction).

And I think it’s valid to raise with her children certain questions of discernment: Does this person seem trustworthy? Does that person seem like they are craving attention at any cost?

This sort of thing helps her children evaluate not only the actions and motives of others, but their own actions and motives as well.

And she certainly raises a 100% valid point that anything on the InterWebs is there forever.  Websites may come, websites may go, galleries and Instagram and Facebook and Flickr and Tumblr and Pintrest accounts may be deleted, but somebody somewhere has downloaded a copy of whatever it is you posted and sooner or later it will come back to visit you.[1]

As I’ve posted on the matter of copyright and piracy, if you want to control dissemination of something you’ve created, don’t make a copy of it.  The moment something exists in concrete form you are giving the world tacit approval to share it.

And if it’s in a digital format, sharing is mandatory.

So to caution teens and tweens (and for that matter, even adults and seniors) to think twice before posting anything is not an invalid exercise.

And if she had made it more of a blanket warning for all teens of all genders & orientations -- Don’t reveal things that should be kept private, don’t post pictures of yourself doing things that others may misinterpret and / or twist around against you[2] -- then she wouldn’t have stirred up the shitte-storm that followed.

But she didn’t, and she did, and that’s why we’re here.

“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 quickly un-see it?   You don’t want our boys to only think of you in this sexual way, do you?”

This, Mrs. Hall, is what is known as slut-shaming.  I’ve seen lots of images of lots of people in their towels.  Some may have been trying for a provocative look, but the standard armpit-to-upper-thigh towel wrap is about as sexy as a muu-muu and reveals less than a modest one piece bathing suit.

Not having seen every picture you refer to, but knowing full well teens will be teens and some of them will try to show off, I’ll grant that there were doubtlessly some who were trying to get a =ahem!= rise out of their viewers.

So what?

Are you checking all your media for underwear and bathing suit ads?[3]  I’ve seen commercials on TV aimed at women that are far more sensual and enticing that some teen shooting an iPhone snap of herself in her messy bathroom; are you taking the time to block those as well?

Now, to be fair, I understand full well why you would not want to run the risk of your teenage sons striking up friendships with teen girls who may not share your views on personal & public boundaries:  Nobody wants to become a grandmother while their kids are still in high school.

But I would hope you would express similar concerns over any teen FB friend who posts pictures of themselves flashing gang signs[4] or brandishing weapons recklessly or posting inflammatory memes.

Again, if you had done that, you wouldn’t have gotten all the attention you’ve received so far.[5]

“[W]e are hoping to raise men with a strong moral compass, and men of integrity don’t linger over pictures of scantily clad high-school girls.”

Men of integrity don’t linger over pictures of scantily clad high-school girls?  I call shenanigans on that, Mrs. Hall.

“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, even today!), RUN to your accounts and take down the closed-door bedroom selfies that makes it too easy for friends to see you in only one dimension.”

Yeah, I know that would convince any teen girl I’ve ever encountered: Some anonymous old stick-in-the-mud telling them what to do to make themselves worthy sacrifices brides for her sons.

FYI Mrs Hall Brier-Wolf-and-Brier-Rabbit-500x429

“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 – just like you.”

This is where I think you do your own sons a disservice, Mrs. Hall.  Like it or not, you have elevated them to a level of purity that few people are able to obtain.

Now, for all I know, maybe one or more of your sons is asexual, and if so, hey, nothing wrong with that, he can have friends of any gender or orientation without having sexual tension complicating matters.

But if your sons are more typical teenage boys, well, that horse is so far out of the barn it’s already been through the glue factory and is now sitting on your desk in the form of a roll of Scotch tape.

You are ladling unnecessary guilt and anxiety on them by taking their (presumably) natural God-given instincts, inclination, and proclivities and making them feel dirty and unclean and sinful and evil for feeling those feelings.

You have, in effect, slut-shamed your own kids.  On the one hand, it shows even handedness on your part, tarring teen girls and your teen sons with the same sticky brush.  On the other, just as it is not your place to slut-shame the child of another, it really isn’t your place, even as a mom who is Director of Women’s ministry at All Saints PCA in Austin, TX, to slut-shame any kids, especially your own.[6]

In closing, again let me applaud you for devoting the time and energy to being involved in your children’s lives, even the online part, and for openly discussing with them the way anyone’s media postings can be interpreted or misinterpreted, and the importance of not just presenting a good face to the outside world but of actually being a good person so the face they present is never a false one.

Best, Buzz Dixon

P.S.  Knowing God’s divine sense of humor, be prepared for at least one of your kids to bring home a heavily tattooed / pierced / transgendered / same-sex mate.

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[1]  Indeed, some of us are counting on that very fact.

[2]  Trayvon Martin

[3]  If so, how do you find time to do anything else?

[4]  Tho I gotta admit, suburban white kids trying to play “ghetto” are among the funniest things on the InterWebs.

[5]  And who does anything on the InterWebs except for attention, hmm?  I know I don’t.

[6]  I trust this was an accidental by-product, and not a deliberate parenting strategy on your part, because if this was indeed your intended goal, your sons have got far worse problems than FB friends in towels.

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