There has been much discussion following the recent blog post by Kim Hall, Director of Women’s ministry at All Saints PCA in Austin, TX.
In it she discusses how she sits with her teenage boys and they look at social media posts together. I think being able to share family time and social media is a great thing, and something that I advocate. It is important that we demonstrate transparency and openness and being able to share our social media together is like sharing the photo album of old. (Provided of course we are mindful about what we are sharing).
The post has gone viral and that is a good thing, as it is hopefully ensuring lots of good conversation and debate around the content. Unfortunately for Kim Hall, it hasn’t all been positive. Although there were some comments regarding the photos she posted of her boys on the same blog (since replaced with more happy family shots), the issue that was setting off alarms for me was around the way she seemed to be encouraging her boys to look at women as sexual objects and to judge them. “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?” she states.
Don’t we all put a towel around ourselves when getting out of the ocean or pool? A towel usually covers more than the bathers underneath surely? Of this poor girl who has been banished from the “Halls” social media and is now forever in the minds of Mrs Hall’s sons pictured in a sexual way – perhaps she is just an innocent copying what she sees all around her online, on television and in videos? Why assume she is trying to seduce?
There are all kinds of warning bells going off. This is akin to saying a girl ‘asks’ for assault by the way she dresses, yet our fashions dictate much to our youth – they are just following trend (even although some of those trends might make us shudder – but hey – many of us lived through the 80s!).
I have written this post because I would like to ensure that we are encouraging discussion and deliberation around these issues, to ensure we examine and explore solutions to a modern problem. What we are posting online is reflecting upon our reputations, but unfortunately much misinformation and prejudice seems to also be rife.
Is it possible that we could see someone in a towel and NOT make a sexual judgment – whose prejudice are we placing in the minds of our children – it’s our own. Don’t get me wrong, I am fearful of the pornographic poses which seem to be so popular, mainly because I fear that our girls are not appreciating their own true inner beauty and intelligence and base their self esteem on mirroring the images they are bombarded with. This is all superficial, and this brings me back to Kim Hall encouraging her boys to only determine friends through such superficial means.
One of the things I have been blessed with, which in all honesty it took me a long time to understand, was to appreciate the diversity of our world. Thanks to life and in part to my own extremely talented children I have discovered that things such as the fact that long hair or really short hair, tattoos, holes in their earlobes, beards or loud music don’t mean that the people who don’t necessarily share my own tastes in haircuts, music or fashion are not highly intelligent valuable people for our society. Every one of us has something we can add to the world in a positive way. You don’t have to have been an A grade student or a graduate with high distinctions to bring amazing things to the world – what you need is belief in yourself and your message. Our children have the ability to change the world in a way never before seen. Neither of my children were straight A students, but both possess passion and belief in their chosen professions, and they put their whole heart into the things they love doing. All of our children have such amazing opportunity. The power of connection and communication is literally at our fingertips, the ability to explore ideas and research vast amounts of information means we don’t really have an excuse to be ignorant anymore.
The zero tolerance policy that Kim Hall has in her own home I understand when it comes to what her children have placed online and their own behaviours, but as a person who is obviously of Christian orientation, I do feel she should encourage tolerance and understanding. There is also a risk that this “banning” will actually arouse more curiosity in her boys.
She states that she “prays 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”. I hope that she is not sitting with her boys, looking at a picture of perhaps a 14 year old girl who has taken a silly photograph of herself (assuming this is a pose in PJ’s as described) and then state that this girl could never bring happiness and joy to anyone? This is the kind of statement which leads our youth to feel disengaged and desperate. I am saddened by such a view.
Those of you with daughters, how does this resonate with you? Would you want your daughter’s condemned for a photo and more so should she be the one who is responsible for ensuring she is not judged sexually by a male? Is she responsible for the fashion of the day? We have surely moved beyond such judgment.
This brings me to the core of my post, the belief that we as parents MUST be the models for our children. If we were more involved perhaps we could curtail some of these youthful mistakes which now rather than being confined to a household are shared with the world. It is our responsibility foremost we must teach our children the values of respect. SELF respect is I believe one the key traits that we must endeavour to encourage in our youth. Perhaps this is the message that has become lost in Kim Hall’s post, but there are other messages she is teaching her children which are not positive traits. I certainly feel that our own prejudice such as passing judgment upon others, particularly children, is NOT something we should be teaching our children. Helping them to identify dangerous behaviours certainly is. The message I believe Kim Hall is trying to convey is that girls have the opportunity to stop, clean up their social media pages and demonstrate their true colours, but she forgets that boys also need to do this. One does not want to accidently encourage self righteous misogynistic views to be developed, and sexual objectification and denigration can be manifestations of such views.
Kim Halls original post has since been removed.
Fiona Lucas is the founder of iRespectOnline. She is passionate about helping small businesses to grow, thrive and build reputation online. Fiona is an ethical marketer providing bespoke online marketing strategies to enable businesses to leverage social media for growth. Underpinning everything she does, as Australia’s first online reputation evangelist she is passionate about driving social change towards a more respectful online environment.
She was named in Mamamia’s Top 50 women to watch online 2013, Finalist Geelong Small Business Awards 2017 – Social Media Influencer and is a virtual community manager for Social Media Marketing World. Fiona presents on digital futures, cybersafety and digital marketing.
Fiona is the author of Futureproof Your Kids – a parents guide to the social media playground.