I read something today that gave me pause and really forced me to stop and think. This blog post by http://givenbreath.com/2013/09/03/fyi-if-youre-a-teenage-girl/
My first thought is that I am so glad that I am not growing up today, when everything is posted online for anyone and everyone to see. Because I did some seriously stupid things as a teenager, things that I’m quite happy not to have memorialized for eternity.
My second thought is that I have to raise my son in this world, and I don’t know if I am ready for that. A world where someone thought that the blog post I linked to, in its entirety, was an appropriate way to reach out to young women and try to convince them to respect themselves. A world where Steubenville occurred, and a judge in Montana described a fourteen-year-old girl as “just as responsible” for her statutory rape by her teacher as he was. A world where it remains as popular now to slut shame and make women responsible for every man’s sexual urges as it ever has been. A world where we’ve made so little progress in teaching our children to respect their sexuality and everyone else’s.
What do I want to teach my son?
I want to teach him that men and women are, first and foremost, human beings. That it’s insulting to tell someone that you’ve lost respect for them “as a man/woman and as a person” because there is no separation between someone’s humanity and their gender. We are all just people, living in this world together. Our reproductive organs and whether we identify as male or female don’t define our worth in life.
I want to teach him that human beings are sexual creatures. That it’s far healthier to embrace that and celebrate it responsibly than to suppress it. That he is responsible for handling his emotional and physical responses to the people around him — if he finds someone attractive, that’s his deal, not the other person’s. The friend zone doesn’t exist, because people he’s attracted to don’t exist just to date him; they’re people first, and friendship with them should be its own goal, not a step toward a sexual or romantic relationship.
I want to teach him to be responsible for his words and actions. That just because you can say something online doesn’t mean you should. That if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, it’s time to walk away from the computer before you say something you can’t take back. That not every picture needs to be for public consumption, so be careful what pictures you and your friends take, even in jest.
I want to teach him about the value of second chances. That one mistake does not necessarily define you as a person. Because if you are going to play by those rules, you have to remember that you make mistakes of your own, and you’re going to want to have a do-over at some point yourself.
If I had a daughter, I would teach her the same things. But I would also teach her that it’s pretty damn cool to be a woman. That breasts and all (okay, most of) the physical aspects of the female body are fun and made to be enjoyed, not to be ashamed of. Don’t let anyone try to tell you that not wearing a bra is necessarily some horribly inappropriate thing to do or that you must hide your nipples’ existence at all costs. Oh, and I promise, your body is in better shape than you think it is when you look in the mirror, so embrace the hell out of that. You are beautiful. That is something that is so easy to say in retrospect but so very difficult to do. I know.
Boys and girls alike, have fun getting to know yourselves and growing into yourselves. You only live once, so love and respect yourself.
But seriously, kids, not every picture and every thought needs to go on the Internet. If it’s something that you’d be embarrassed to see a parent posting about himself or herself, it’s probably not something you want to post about yourself. Because that shit is out there forever, and either your parents will find it or your worst enemy will, and nobody wants that.