On June 23rd, the lives of my husband and I changed forever: We became parents to a handsome baby boy. Suddenly, every article I read linked to Facebook, every news item I see on tv, has become that much more real to me. I view these items through the knowing lens that one day, my son may come face to face with ordeals much like the ones I see in front of me. Dilemmas that are not simple, and can change a person’s life.
One such dilemma was a post that has become viral on many of my facebook friends’ walls. It is an open letter, originally addressed to the female friends of the author’s son, and later posted as an FYI (if you’re a teenage girl.)
I believe I went through most of the stages of grieving in reading this post. Initially, I wanted to deny the uncomfortable, crawly feeling it gave me. I wanted to deny the very existence of such an attitude, that this mother was blaming these girls if her sons objectified them. I wanted to deny that we live in a world where mothers direct their lectures, not at the sons of whom they are charged with the responsibility of raising, but the young, naive girls who are simply making poor and uninformed decisions. This is an attitude I see all too often in the world, in Steubenville High School, for example, but do we really have this attitude in church? Well, sadly, from personal experience, I can say yes. The reality of this both saddens, and angers me.
From a Biblical standpoint, men are charged with the duty to shelter and protect women. The very name, husband, comes from husbandry, which is the tending and caring for plants or animals. I am by no means saying that women are limited and can’t be like men in this regard…just look at the term “mother bear,” for example. I am, however, saying that the very definition of being a married male is one of looking after their partner. Are we not, then, sending a very backwards message, by telling women that it is THEIR job solely to make sure the men aren’t looking at them with the wrong intentions? If men are given this job by God, which most christians would agree that they are, then why are we to believe that these very same men have such weak willpower, that a woman is to blame if men linger too long on the site of a miniskirt, or a strapless t-shirt? Or, dare I say, a profile picture that may possibly indicate a state of undress?
I am not saying that as women, we should not consider how we dress. I think it is healthy to implore girls to have self respect, and to realize that they are worth far more than a sexual object. I do not think that the mother who wrote that letter was attempting to hurt those girls, and I’m sure she is coming from a place of good intentions. Yet, why is there no indication that her sons are being admonished, and instead, there is an appearance of choosing to build a protective wall around her sons, rather than choosing the opportunity to teach her sons HOW to behave when faced with these images of women everyday?
I realize I am raising my son in a world where he will be surrounded by images of women that are derogatory, sexualized and demeaning. I realize that he will have to make tough choices, and that sometimes he may stumble. As his parents, I believe it is my husband and I’s job to help pick him back up and lovingly show him, by example, how to treat those women he encounters. Rather than expect the world, which we can not control, to change to make him more comfortable, we must teach him grace, and how to turn away from temptation. How to show his future partner love and respect, so she will know that she doesn’t need to be wearing a skimpy negligee to have his attention. To behave towards her like a big brother, who wouldn’t want ANY man messing around with his little sister. With God’s help, we will do this job as best we possibly can. I hope that, when he goes to school, and some young lady walks past him wearing a tube top and short shorts, he does not write her off, or objectify her with his gaze. Instead, I hope he looks her in the eyes and learns her name, her favorite colour, and holds the classroom door open for her…not because he wants to score brownie points so she might go on a date with him, but because it is the right thing to do.