FYI: (if you’re a teenage girl being slut-shamed by Mrs. Hall)

September 5, 2013 | 27 Comments

selfie of Shannon Fisher

I broke the cardinal rule and read the comments. This is how I know your teachers and moms in favour of Mrs. Hall’s letter are making it part of family discussions and lessons on digital citizenship.

I could cry knowing this.

It’s not your job to cover up and stop men from objectifying you. It is not a man’s right to be pleased by you. And Mrs. Hall needs to consider having some very different conversations with her sons.

Listen! All that essay does is feed female body shame. And you m’lady have zero to be ashamed of. Even if you’re one of the girls in a towel or (gasp) not wearing a bra. I promise you—you’ve done nothing wrong. You’ve done what society has groomed you to do. Or, even better, what you want to do.

Hopefully you’re talking about this stuff with your parents and checking in about the kinds of pictures you’re posting. The internet is full of fantastic people, but it’s also riddled with creeps. You won’t always have control over who sees what you choose to share. So be mindful of that. But don’t be ashamed of your desire to feel pretty.

Your whole life you’ll be indirectly (and sometimes not-so-indirectly) taught that the most important thing you can be is pretty. The most important thing you can do is please men. You will get this message from TV shows, movies, song lyrics, commercials, your uncle Bob and sometimes your parents. Parents grew up on earth which resulted in internalized sexist beliefs. Even if we fight it, we are all, to some degree, brainwashed by the beauty myth (that to be beautiful and have worth we must look and act a certain way).

My own mother used to tell me I didn’t look as pretty when I wore my hair up and suggested I try makeup in the years I went without. And I’ve talked to my daughter about her appearance in ways I’m not proud of, motivated by the desire for her to be attractive. Because being attractive equals success, right? No! But that’s the default belief we must to work so hard fight.

The media has great interest in making sure we all buy into the beauty myth. It keeps us throwing our money at magazines, face creams, diet programs, hair removal products and salon visits. It keeps us believing that we are not and never will be enough.

Instead of writing a letter to you, Mrs. Hall could talk to her boys about their very natural sexual desires and how women’s bodies may or may not make them feel. She could urge her sons to see women as people and not objects, and to treat women with respect. She could explore the ways our world will groom them to believe that they deserve more as men, that worthwhile women are pure and modest, that women who dress in revealing clothing/flirt/have sex are slutty and block-worthy.

You can bet your braless boobies Mrs. Hall has not escaped the desire to be beautiful. She has well-manicured hair, pierced ears and painted eyelashes. She has no business shaming you for feeling the same pressures.

What if Mrs. Hall instead taught her boys what it’s like to grow up female and bombarded with these toxic messages? Imagine the potential for compassion and understanding to take root in her sons’ hearts and minds! Imagine how empowered they would be to effect change in their corner of the world! Imagine how motivated they might be to respect women, to be allies, and to demand equality!

Instead, Mrs. Hall wastes energy and precious formative years teaching her boys that it’s the responsibility of young women they encounter to not sexually stimulate her sons. She is teaching them they have no agency over their sexual desires and that their only recourse is to be shielded from female skin. She is teaching her sons to alienate girls with normal desires and to join in on slut-shaming. Hellooo rape-culture!

Ladies, if you look at my Instagram feed, you’ll find oodles of similar selfies. Like you, I try to prove to myself and the world that I’m pretty enough, skinny enough, smooth enough, modestly-sexy enough to belong and be successful. I have also bought into the message that my success is directly tied to my appearance. It’s normal! Almost inescapable! Maybe completely inescapable?

You and I? We have worth because we breathe. We have worth because we are human and take up space and have much to offer, the least of which being our appearance.

No matter how hard we work to dismantle the beauty myth, we likely won’t ever completely relax. And the moment we do, someone will look us up and down, pause at our choice in comfy shoes/unplucked brows/flawed skin just long enough to remind us of expected norms.

So don’t feel bad about your devotion to beauty, friend—be aware of it. Be aware of its presence and and power. Be aware that when you give way to the pressures of trying to become the perfect woman, you have no less worth. You don’t need to “RUN to your accounts and take down anything that makes it easy for your male friends to imagine you naked in your bedroom.”

There will be days that you feel stronger. And then, on those days—fuck the pressure. Spit in the face of patriarchy! Let your moustache grow, post that picture showcasing your double chin and your relaxed gut, use the Instagram filter that doesn’t hide your pock-marked skin, and wear those comfy shoes. On the days you feel strong enough, reflect on the value you’ve been taught to place on being beautiful. Reflect on the power you give that ideal. And on those days, give beauty a little less power.

Maybe by the time you’re 38 like me, the muscles you use to fight sexism and the beauty myth will be so defined you’ll no longer post sultry selfies because you need to. You’ll post those bad boys because you fucking want to.

And because we booted Mrs. Hall off our self-love island that day she tried to make us feel like dirty sluts.


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  • http://thatthingshesaid.wordpress.com/ jennie

    Brava, Lady!

    • Shannon

      Thanks, Jennieface. xo

  • http://stopdropandro.com/ Rochele

    THIS is amazing. Thank you for putting the onus on Mrs. Hall to teach her sons about self-worth and integrity. Is it just me, or is slut shaming mostly proliferated by females? What are we so scared of?

    • Shannon

      I do see a lot of women shaming women, but again, I think it’s in response to the pressure of beauty. It’s understandable. We gotta dig down to the root.

      • Rebecca

        Oh no it’s not about beauty. It’s about safety. Sex in an unhealthy situation is dangerous, even more so for teens who have a harder time to–physiologically speaking, because their brains are not done developing–assess danger. On the other side of the coin, sex is also often extremely important for committed mates to strengthen their relationships through the inevitable struggles they will have, usually as parents.

        I think this is the problem: sex is dangerous and teens have these very capable bodies but not-so-capable brains. Historically, society has resorted to taboos and criminalization to promote certain sexual norms. Yet within the last 100 years there’s been a whole lot more of propaganda and attitudes minimalizing risk.

        We’ve got purity movements operating on a poverty of sexual education and we’ve got classes claiming to teach “safe sex” when none exists. Both sides are wrong-headed.

        IMO humanity will never be rid of this paradox…it’s just one of the many things we have to carefully deal with. Teach our kids that sex is part of who we are, that in all likelihood they will feel its allure, and that feeling is completely normal. Also that it is risky on many levels, but also can be beautiful and fun, also an extremely helpful experience for committed mates.

        Teens have a tendency to think in black and white: sex education has to be taught enough at different stages in order to eliminate the black/white thinking surrounding it and teach kids the nuances:

        IMO :)

        • Shannon

          They’re posting pictures, not having sex. And they’re posting pictures in search of physical validation, not sex.

          Safe sex doesn’t exist? Pardon?

  • http://authenticexperience.org/ nikkiana

    Thank you! Love this!

    • Shannon

      Thank YOU! I’m thankful you read it.

  • http://www.runningnekkid.com/ Celeste

    So impressed with this post. I haven’t been able to share it enough, and I feel so excited every time it pops up in my FB feed. Much love.

    • Shannon

      Thanks Celeste! I haven’t seen it in my feed much, so it’s nice to hear you have! xo

  • shelley Pelletier

    I must admitt I was surprised to see Mrs. Halls son with his shirt off in her modest is hottest post. But I always block people who swear or post stuff I dont want to see. I like it clean. I also dont agree with shaming but I am a strong believer in Second chances. Selfies are kind of irriitating, And me in my pj’s would not help me feel pretty. Good points, Your a pretty good writer. Surprised an elementary teacher married to a minister would swear. LOVE. Shelley

  • http://www.mydirt.ca Tiffany @ MyDirt

    You nailed it right on the head. I felt shame reading Mrs.Halls words about blocking her and no second chances myself. Doesn’t her god believe in forgiveness? And trust me, her boys don’t need to see sexy half naked selfies to imagine a girl in a sexual way. Jeans and a sweatshirt will do it too. I’m totally sharing this. You’re a brilliant writer! Congrats girl.

    • Shannon

      I saw one woman comment on Mrs Hall’s post: “The day I was raped I was wearing a turtle neck.”

      Thanks for being here, Tiffany!

  • Lynne

    I found myself cringing and then getting very VERY angry as I read Mrs. Hall’s post, so this response makes me very VERY happy. I agree: If we are at all curious where rape culture comes from, she is a prime example. I really don’t understand how women can shame others in this way. The mindset is baffling.

    In any case: Thank you for writing this, lovely Shan. A wonderful, extremely important message.

    • Shannon

      Her letter was definitely tough to read. What bothered me even more was all the support she got. Sad face.

      Thanks, Lynnie!

  • Cate

    Thank you so much for posting this! It shocked me to see how many people supported Mrs. Hall’s essay. Her hypocrisy, her attempts and shaming/blaming, and complete denial of her sons’ responsibility – why do people agree with her points? It’s wonderful to see such a well-written counter-point that illustrates just how pervasive the 1950’s patriarchal attitude is.
    thanks!!

    • Shannon

      I’m not sure why so many people agree with her. I guess because it’s easier to go into panic mode and shut things down than have the tough conversations and get to the root of issues? Maybe because we don’t always have people in our lives challenging our thinking in the right ways?

      So many factors. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  • Linds (@feedmehappy)

    Beautiful post, Shannon. Beautiful.

    • Shannon

      Thanks, Linds. xo

  • Aubrey

    This is fucking beautiful.

    • Shannon

      Thanks Aubrey!

  • http://www.michellelongo.blogspot.com Michelle Longo

    This was great – very thoughtful. I only have a son and he is only 6, so I’m not the target audience for Mrs. Hall’s post, but it got me thinking just the same. I imagine that if I had a daughter I’d likely discourage her from putting certain types of pictures out there for the world to see, particularly if she’s young. But then I recalled that I took pictures like that too. The difference was that someone had to hold a camera and I had to get film developed and the actual picture and negative that are most cringe-worthy are in my attic.

    I want to teach my son to respect women, period. Regardless of what they’re wearing, how they look and all of that. I hope I do a good job of that.

  • Bill

    Gee, are her boys responsible for anything? Is it not their responsibility what pics are on their computer? I really can’t figure out what some peoples obsession with boobs is. How is it different than a shirtless man?

  • http://www.changethetopic.com Birdman

    I was going to leave a comment on her post, but figured I’d leave it here instead.

    I get horny a lot. It’s what I do. My forté, if you will. Do I like looking at scantily clad pictures of pretty women? I surely do, and I take advantage of it all the time. I don’t take the photos, but if there is one offered up, I will admire it.

    That being said, I know not to force myself onto a woman because she is attractive. I know that women can wear all of the sexy clothing that they want to, and it doesn’t give me the right to even touch them, but on the other hand, they have to understand that these pictures often make me want to. I’m not saying it’s right, but it is definitely a fact. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t fantasize about all kinds of filthy things, but that’s all they are. Fantasies.

    Now for the shitty part. Not all men have as much restraint or discernment as I do. As much as I’d like to have all kinds of sex with all kinds of women, I understand that this would cause them pain, therefore I know it’s wrong. Sadly not all men have the ability to feel or even care about what girls want or need, but feel that they are some sort of meat toy for them to play with and then throw away. Girls need to keep this in mind. Always.

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