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The Hall Boys, Miley and the Moral Compass.

madonnaSo this week I watched as my feed filled up yet again with talk of modesty. The cascade of digital atta girls, also known as reposts by people I know and love were of an article by Kimberly Hall called, “FYI (if you’re a teenage girl)” (If you haven’t read it yet, go check it out. I will wait right here).

These reposts were prefaced by statements like,

“parenting win”
“it’s about time”
and
“as a mother of sons, thank you”

I was also encouraged by a number of response articles. Some grace filled, some snarky; some from other christians and some from non or former christians. Posts such as Seeing a Woman by Nate Pyle, which said in part:

Unfortunately, much of how the sexes interact with each is rooted in fear.  Fear of rejection, fear of abuse, fear of being out of control.  In some ways, the church has added to this.  We fear each other because we have been taught the other is dangerous.  We’ve been taught a woman’s body will cause men to sin.  We’re told that if a woman shows too much of her body men will do stupid things.  Let’s be clear: a woman’s body is not dangerous to you.  Her body will not cause you harm.  It will not make you do stupid things.  If you do stupid things it is because you chose to do stupid things.  So don’t contribute to the fear that exists between men and women.

A woman’s body is beautiful and wonderful and mysterious.  Respect it by respecting her as an individual with hopes and dreams and experiences and emotions and longings.  Let her be confident.  Encourage her confidence.  But don’t do all this because she is weaker.  That’s the biggest bunch of crap out there.  Women are not weaker than men.  They are not the weaker sex.  They are the other sex.

I’m not telling you to not look at women.  Just the opposite.  I’m telling you to see women.  Really see them.  Not just with your eyes, but with your heart.  Don’t look to see something that tickles your senses, but see a human being.  

My hope is that changing how you see women will change how you are around them.  Don’t just be around women.  Be with women.

Or this gem from Renegade Mothering (Language warning): FYI (If you’re a Hall boy)

In other words, it places the responsibility of YOUR morality on the shoulders of others, and that is wholeheartedly idiotic. I mean, how could anybody ever be a decent person if circumstances beyond our control determined what we think and how we behave? It also, incidentally, fuels what we like to call “rape culture,” wherein the girl is raped by the boy because she was a “slut” and therefore “asking for it.” The boy was the real victim because he was rendered powerless by her unprotected vagina and lack of bra. Your mother’s idea that GIRLS need to cover themselves so YOU can behave like a gentleman is the exact same mentality that fuels rape culture, and results in things like Steubenville or 30-day sentences for pedophile rapists.

And this one. THIS ONE. I want to post it in its entirety because it is just that good. But I trust you, go read this one yourself. It is called An “FYI” to My Daughters by The Lippy Lactator. Here is a small taste of the greatness:

Don’t get caught up in it all, my darlings.  Don’t wear that mini skirt because you want the attention of that guy.  If that guy is worth your time, he will like you regardless of what you wear.  Sex obviously sells, which is a sad thing.  You see it everywhere, I know you do.  Remember that you are MORE than just sex to the world.  You deserve to be treated that way, and the way you dress doesn’t make you any less deserving of that.  However, if you love how confident you feel in that mini skirt, or that bathing suit is *just* your style…by all means…rock it, sister.  Wear the clothes you love for you.  But be sure to take the time to get to know you.  Take the time to learn to love you.

Parents need stop with the gender stereotyping.  They are doing much, much more harm than good.  They teach their boys that girls who dress a way they don’t find appropriate aren’t worth the time and acceptance of their son.  They teach them that girls are just temptresses out to muddy the thoughts of their precious little boy.  They teach their children that it is OK to sit down as a family and scroll through their social media and shame anyone who doesn’t fit in the tiny little box they keep them in.  They teach them that girls who act or dress or believe differently than them have no character.  No self respect.  No right to be respected by others.  They are doing nothing but perpetuating this horrible cycle.  And trust me, no matter how much you try to be *perfect* for their son, this type of person will always find something “wrong” with you.  No girl will ever be deserving of their perfect little son.  Ever.

Now, let’s flashback to the VMA’s of a couple weeks ago when my feed was full of Miley & Robin. Well, actually if we are being honest, it was full of Miley, because frankly we all know Robin Thicke had nothing to do with what happened to him on that stage. He was the helpless male totally at the whim of Miss Cyrus and his own libido. I mean if presented with the opportunity no man alive would have the power to make another choice. Nevermind that Ms. Cyrus was nowhere to be found when he made his Blurred Lines video. But I digress.

I have been thinking about writing about “The Performance” on and off since it happened. Part of me was exhausted by just the thought of trying to organize my thoughts on the topic and part of me was just bored of it all. I mean, a shock value performance on the VMA’s? Ho Hum. Hasn’t that been happening like, forever? First there was that grandmother of all shockers, Madonna, then came her offspring… Brittney, Christina, Gaga and Miley. [Special mention to Prince and his assless pants: what you don't remember that?] I guess the girls are the ones we remember most] Its like 4 generations of powerful women shocking people all the way to the bank.

Admit it. America kind of gets off on feigning shock and outrage over these performances. And yes, I agree they don’t do much to elevate the conversation on gender equality. Except, I suppose, when they shine a bright light on our tendency (as made blatantly obvious by the general pass given to the married, 36 year old father, Robin Thicke) to throw out the boys will be boys cliché and make sure we tell the women involved to cover up and be a lady.  I mean, Mrs. Hall, back me up on this one…have the women of our generation who ran around dressed like Madonna in bustiers, crinoline and rubber bracelets forgotten that a little rebellion and a little sexuality didn’t kill us like so many thought it would? Or that most of the women who were doing that are now grown up productive members of society, some even of churches?

This morning I read a piece by Christian Piatt over at Patheos in which he discusses the Miley post fest and I couldn’t help but think of it in light of Mrs. Hall’s letter to teenage girls. He writes:

Although in some respects, women and girls have made strides toward gender parity in our culture, there is still a persistent, if sometimes subtle, subtext narrated to our girls, which is that sex is the most efficient and potent mean of access to power they have. Yes, my daughter is told now at such a young age that she can be anything she wants when she grows up. And I hope that is true, but I already hear the comments from friends, family members and teachers about her appearance and anticipated future success with boys, and how it affects her behavior. and honestly, it only gets more pronounced as girls reach puberty and beyond.

So perhaps, rather than men in power resisting the progress of women being the greatest current barrier to parity, it now is the unpleasant reality that sexualizing young women works for innumerable purposes in our world. None more so, perhaps, than the popular music industry. So it’s really a bit disingenuous of us to express shock or disgust when Miley Cyrus fondles herself or engages in orgiastic dance numbers in front of an audience of millions. After all, the culture set up the rules of the game long ago and, in spite of our assertions to the contrary, the economies of power, money and fame depend heavily on appealing to our baser instincts.

So judge Miley if you must, but in doing so, realize that she is only a speck that is part of a much larger log in our collective cultural eye.

Do you see lovelies? When Miley states that she told people her performance was going to make history and then it becomes one of the most tweeted events ever we expose our morbid fascination with the perceived sins of others. We are all stuck with Miley on a merry-go-round that is very hard to get off. The cycle goes something like this:

  1. Women/Girls are slut-shamed and told they are responsible for the sins of men and protecting their morality –>
  2. Women/Girls act out in an attempt to grasp power not afforded to them in equal measure by other means –>
  3. People say “see, Women/Girls really are sluts at heart and must be told to cover up before they corrupt men who are just being who God/nature made them (visual creatures who are compelled to spread their seed and are slaves to their anatomy)” –>
  4. Society believes and perpetuates through feigned shock and shame that women/girls are responsible for the sins of men and protecting their morality.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4.

And around and around we go.

side note: I actually read one article today posted by a friend that made many good points. But then he lost me. He kept saying that the reason the church is obsessed with modesty is because of get this, “the church has become feminized”! Once again, it is made the fault of women. The reason women are told to be more modest is because we have believed the lie that we have power over men. He says,  

“I believe the Church has become feminized in this: we talk about the Woman as being in control over the Man.  She can dress one way to seduce him, or dress another way to leave him free to choose.  This is not so.  The Man chooses to be seduced or not seduced.”  

While I agree that the man is free to choose, I emphatically disagree that this is the result of the feminization (the shift in gender roles and sex roles in a society, group, or organization towards a focus upon the feminine) of the church. This idea that women are responsible for all sexual sin including having the power over a man’s impure thoughts comes not from women or feminism but from the church fathers. Look it up. John Wesley, Tertullian, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Saint Augustine and many more including scads of popular pastors even today espouse this very doctrine.

Honestly it is hard for me to blame Miley (as uncomfortable as her performance made me). She has followed the script and played a role played by many before her. She has taken the reins of power away from the people who have held them in her life and is attempting to chart her own course. Yes, IMHO she is making the mistake of confusing notoriety for respect and fame for admiration. But it is a mistake I have seen over and over. People who were given little or no freedom or autonomy to make decisions, and yes even mistakes (PKs, Quiverfulls, Ultra Conservatives, Child Stars and kids with over protective helicopter parents and yes, perhaps even the Hall boys) sometimes, when they finally get an opportunity to taste freedom, make some pretty destructive choices before they figure out how to lead a balanced life and what course they want to follow. For child stars, children of politicians or mega church pastors they have the unenviable lot of having to do it in the public eye. Their mistakes and missteps while trying to figure out how to live a life of freedom that doesn’t lead to destruction can be very difficult and some sadly won’t live through it. [Here is a question, how could we actually increase the odds that they do live through it? Perhaps a little grace or maybe even just a little less judgement?]

For me lovelies, it comes down to this: Growing up is hard. Raising kids is hard. Stopping the cycle mentioned above is hard. I certainly don’t have all the answers. I empathize with Mrs. Hall in that she really thinks she is helping by joining in the chorus of voices telling girls to cover up and blocking people we deem unworthy by virtue of their perceived shortcomings. But here is the thing: We do not learn to make good choices by turning over our moral compass to someone else to police and we cannot teach our kids to find their moral true north on their own by never letting them hold their own compass. We do not do them any favors when we tell them that an entire gender, a preacher or even we can read the compass for them and that if they follow the bearing of our denomination, gender philosophy or political party they will be safe. Sooner or later they grow up, and they must navigate the often choppy waters of this life for themselves. Hopefully by then the compass we give them has a needle that points them straight to the true north of love, grace and mercy for others and for themselves. And hopefully they know how to read it for themselves.

In the end, it is for me like this song…and I pray that what we have taught both our daughter and our son is enough. That they use the love of Christ as their compass. Love that covers a multitude of mistakes. Love that forgives and keeps no record of wrongs. Love that sees past twerking and selfies and awkward teenage hormones. Love that speaks truth and healing. Love that gives second, third and ninety-fifth chances. Love that says we are all valuable and equal and bear the image of the living God.

The Boat
Billy Falcon

I built this boat
The best I could
With hands of love
From the finest wood
I braced the bow
I stitched the sail
I blessed every brass screw and nail

Lord, go with her when the sea is angry
Lord, go with her in the raging storm
Lord, go with her when the days are cruel
Lord, go with her when the night’s too long

Studied the stars, searchin’ to find
The safest course, and the kindest tide
Lifted her down the stony trail
I set her in the water, and raised her sail

Lord, go with her when the sea is angry
Lord, go with her in the raging storm
Lord, go with her when the days are cruel
Lord, go with her when the night’s too long

Worrying from the watchtower
As the red sky fades
My heart drops to my stomach
As she tumbles through the waves
She slips past the horizon
That’s when I realize
She was always yours
Never really mine

Lord go with her when the sun is golden
Lord go with her when way is clear
Lord go with her when the whole world loves her
Lord go with her When I’m. no longer..

Lord go with her when the sea is angry
Lord go with her in the raging storm
Lord go with her when the days are cruel
Lord go with her when the night’s too long

P.P.P.P.S. This is a thought provoking article called The Moving Target of Morality. I couldn’t figure out how to fit it in so I am just tagging it on as a value added bonus.

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About word of a woman

Woman Wife Mother Partner Daughter Equal Friend Designer Speaker Thinker...Writer

5 responses »

  1. This post is full of win. Nicely done.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Slut-shaming & Parenting: What Not to Do | Scribblegurl

  3. Pingback: The Ugly Truth About Political Women | The Ugly "Truth" Site

  4. Pingback: The Daughters of Women. | Roll to Disbelieve

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