When Super Heroes Aren’t So Super: Sluts and Whores and Other Lessons

It seems unreasonable to expect super heroes to be super every minute of every day. From Achilles to Superman to Wonder Woman, every hero has their weakness. For Hawkeye and Captain America, that weakness appears to be sexism and misogyny.

For example, during the Avengers: Age of Ultron press tour Hawkeye actor Jeremy Renner made a “joke” during a  Digital Spy interview that Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow was “a slut” (00:15) because she chose to date a man other than his character. Captain America actor Chris Evans begins laughing so hard he can barely breathe. Mostly because he was thinking the exact same witty reply. Evans decides to call Black Widow “a complete whore” instead (00:18).


Wait one minute, Friends! Let’s see our heroes in action again!

Chris Evans cannot contain himself over Jeremy Renne's "slut joke".

Chris Evans cannot contain himself over Jeremy Renne’s “slut joke”.

Do you get it, mere mortal? It is funny that she is such a “slut”. A “complete whore”. Because she is dating a different guy than either of these catches. Both these guys were thinking the SAME THING! AT THE SAME TIME! And she’ll always just be the flirtatious sidekick in any super hero film. I mean, that is just grab-your-chest-hilarity.

See how funny it is to call a woman a slut and whore?

See how funny it is to call a woman a slut and whore?

The thing is, you don’t think of the words “slut” or “whore” instantly when asked a question about a woman and her romantic life, even if fictional, because you are overtired from your hard job as a movie actor. Or because you’ve become bored being a grown up sitting in a chair at work. You don’t think those things about a woman because you are behaving in a juvenile manner. You don’t think those things because the woman is just a fictional character.

You think those things because you are misogynist. You laugh at them because you are sexist.

If you didn’t think that way about women you wouldn’t say those things about women. You wouldn’t find them funny. It wouldn’t be the first thing that comes to mind.

You make comments like that on camera, while doing your job, because it is what the industry permits of you. Maybe even expects of you. It is what you felt is permissible, professionally and culturally.

After all, before this incident the big Avengers: Age of Ultron news was how Black Widow is missing from so much of the merchandise. Of course, having girls disappear is nothing new to the super hero genre. Consumers have to rally to #IncludeTheGirls, even when those female characters are a major part of the original super hero villian-fighting force.

The lessons we take away from this week are that Chris Evans has an effective damage control team he hopefully pays well, Jeremy Renner is the master of sorry-not-sorry apologies, and female super hero fans get the choice between their female characters go completely missing, or be present/sidelined/called gender-based pejoratives.

The second choice of being present but sidelined and denigrated are experiences every girl and woman has nearly every day of her life, which is why Renner’s “well I’m sorry you were offended by my funny joke about a fictional woman, get over it” attempt at an apology is just doubling down on the offensiveness of his original remarks. Do you know a single female who has never been called a slut or whore? I don’t.

The attitudes Renner and Evans – two of the biggest stars in the super hero franchises – display are indicative of the culture that surrounds that type of media and merchandise. It is why I gave my daughter her first comic book this week, Wonder Woman, with great trepidation. Even with the announcement of DC Comics pairing up with a team of licensees including Warner Bros, Mattel, LEGO, and Random House to reboot the super heroines and villains as a cast of teens aimed at girls ages 6-12, the majority of parents I talked to were underwhelmed.

Even if you do not buy into this type of media and merchandising, millions do and millions are impacted and influenced by the messages sent. This was brilliantly outlined by Donna Dickens in her article here:

“Disney has an on-going problem when it comes to lady action figures and swag. With the exception of their Princesses and Tinkerbell, Disney tends to forget their female action stars exist when it comes to merchandising them. It happened with “Guardians of the Galaxy.” It happened with “Star Wars Rebels.” There’s even a Tumblr called But Not Black Widow dedicated to pointing out these disappearing heroines. It’s been an issue since action figures and summer blockbusters made a deal with capitalism devil.
So here are my thoughts to Disney: Between Disney Animated Studios, Pixar Animation, Marvel Studios, and Lucasfilm, you are the world’s greatest commercial influence on childhood. Don’t put up a bar to what kind of toys kids should play with, whether on purpose or due to the outdated idea that women like glitter and men like grit. To use a completely over-the-top paraphrase, “With great power, comes great merchandising responsibility.
Girls don’t want to date superheroes, they want to BE superheroes. And boys don’t need to learn to minimize the impact of women’s accomplishments from a lunchbox.”  

The behavior and words of these two men employed as actors to play super heroes was less than super and far from heroic. It wasn’t a mistake or a slip of the tongue. It was a glimpse at who they are behind the mask. It was a look at the way so many men regard women and girls. And it showcased their greatest weakness.


UPDATE 4/24/15: Cosmopolitan flips the script while interviewing Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo, sending Ruffalo the sexist questions and ScarJo the awesome movie actor ones. Take a look, it is great!

Also this post by Emily Sexton for Grounded Parents is worth the read, connecting the dots between how kids view these “heroes” and what messages they learn from sexist and casually misogynist behavior in real life.

“Have you ever watched the hordes of kids at amusement parks who think that they are really meeting their favorite character when they encounter the poor souls in badly ventilated plush suits?Kids don’t always get the distinction. So when the guy who plays Hawkeye says that the one female hero in the group is a slut, the kids who are the intended audience for the franchise don’t necessarily get that a) it’s a joke and b) that it’s Jeremy Renner saying it, not Hawkeye. They see guys they look up to casually calling women who are supposed to be respected and powerful these names like it’s no big deal, and it should be. One of the handful of women who my daughter actually identifies with was just reduced to a sexual object by her peers. Not cool.”


MAW Profile Pic

Melissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals) and Pinterest (Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies). 

Asking People To Think Is Not The Same As Asking People To Hate

Let’s redirect a thread that went off the rails last night. I asked for community members to caption a snapshot taken during a retail experience of two toys placed at eye level to young children.

The snapshot sent in by a shopper that I asked to be captioned by my community.

The snapshot sent in by a shopper that I asked to be captioned by my community.

In short time people became upset claiming that I was hating on the toy company who makes the toys and “overreaching”. If I had asked the group to evaluate the toy company based on two products from their large line, I’d agree with that criticism. Except that is not what I did. I’m not taking a holistic look at this company because I’m asking my community to simply caption a snapshot – which by definition means a still from a moment in time.

Asking people to think is not the same as asking people to hate. Asking people to think critically about what media and cultural messages a child might experience and ingest during a shopping trip isn’t an overreach. It is a necessity.

I choose all of my words very carefully here, I have to because I have such a large audience and I have to make sure every word counts and gets across the message I want delivered.

That is exactly why I chose the word “snapshot”. Because it is a moment in time, and that is what a young child would be seeing if he or she were in the store. From this snapshot a child in present time would see a boy playing with cars that do things and go out into the world and a girl at home cooking. That comprises the world a young child would know. That singular message alone reinforces ALL of the other gender stereotypes that young child will pick up and that presents our society with some very serious limitations and deficits.

It is the drip, drip, drip, drip of sexism that most grotesquely impacts our society.

It is the drip, drip, drip, drip of sexism that most silently impacts our society.

It is the drip, drip, drip, drip of sexism that most effectively impacts our society.

With several commentors making impassioned defenses of the Hape toy company I looked carefully through their 244 page catalog and while there are really darling toys, their marketing is not. Some balanced photos yes, but hugely lacking in diversity and extremely gendered. It is such a shame, because their toys look fantastic. I’ve purchased their toys before and I don’t like or dislike them, I’m simply making an observation based on data present.

I did see some photos of girls building (Yay!) and boys and girls playing together (yes!), but I lost count of the gendered toy pairings I saw. In the first 148 pages no boys were playing house, while dozens of girls are playing house or caring for babies. Ditto for kitchen scenes. Not a single girls was shown holding a vehicle or tool (at least not in the first 148 pages). Most of the girls were wearing soft, pastel colors while the boys wore bold colors like green and red. I got so annoyed on page 148 when I flipped from a girl feeding a pink baby in a pink high chair to a boy building a red, white, and bold blue rocket that I closed the link. I went back and finished it, and yes I did see some boys in kitchens (and grilling, natch!) and boys and girls playing together, I’m not left jumping up and down and clicking my heels. Here’s why….

We should be a tish more keen to educational toy companies who do indeed produce great toys that come in boxes we recycle which make us believe the boxes don’t matter…..but this company is savvy enough to market to their niche one way in their catalog and turn around to use gender stereotypes on the boxes that go in the mainstream stores for toys that get seen by thousands more children and get sold to the masses that see the gender stereotype and buy it. As progressive parents you and I probably buy one of each for our whatever-gender child….but is that what the majority of the population is doing? No.

And that becomes a REALLY big problem down the line, and THAT is what gets my condemnation.

Also, I always have to ask this: If the boxes had photos that were racist instead of sexist, would some of you still be making the “adults, leave kids alone who just want to be kids” argument? I surely hope not. Are “kids just being kids” when exposed to adult sexist attitudes? And if not, is it then okay for me to question the marketing of these sexist attitudes to children? Even if that marketing comes from natural wood, European-looking toy companies?

Asking people to think is not the same as asking people to hate.


Fancy Dresses and Hurtful Comments: A Lesson From Award-Winning Comedian Sarah Millican

A recent unfortunate event that comedian Sarah Millican experienced provides us with an important conversation starter for our kids. I’m uncomfortable raising my children in a culture where the public verbal crucifixion of successful women who appear in public looking anything less than a super model is widely accepted as the staus quo. While Sarah is certainly not the first female celeb to encounter this kind of public body scrutiny (can you imagine just for a minute how that must feel at that level of publicity?) and she won’t be the last, I think her response to the matter provides us with an important teachable moment for our children/students.

Why does it matter so much what I was wearing? Why did no one ask my husband where he got his suit from? I felt wonderful in that dress. And surely that’s all that counts. I made a decision the following day that should I ever be invited to attend the Baftas again, I will wear the same dress. To make the point that it doesn’t matter what I wear; that’s not what I’m being judged on. With the added fun of answering the red-carpet question, “Where did you get your dress?” with “Oh, it’s just last year’s, pet”.

-Sarah Millican

Read Sarah Millican’s response here — Sarah Millican: Twitter was a pin to my excitable Bafta balloon.

Also read this great piece on PolicyMic by Julianne Ross, who ties in similar responses from Cate Blanchett, Emma Stone, and Gabourey Sidibe — Comedian’s Response to Criticism of Her Red Carpet Look Deserves a Standing Ovation

Such endless emphasis on looks implies that women’s bodies are always blank slates for commentary and criticism, and it trivializes their other, more meaningful, accomplishments. Comedy in particular is not known for being the most gender equitable industry; female comedians are often held to a higher standard of presentability and expected to be both hilarious and hot in a way that male comics aren’t. This makes Millican’s refusal to put up with this type of treatment all the more satisfying.

-Julianne Ross


Gabourey shows twitter how to *drop mic*. Dang girl!


I recommend that you read both links together with your kids and discuss a few points:

1) Talk about why women and their bodies are publicly discussed and judged in our culture.

2) Then talk about the effect that has on women, famous and not famous. Also, what effect does that have on boys and men?

3) Review some comments your child could say should he/she overhear people making judging or hurtful comments about someone’s appearance. It is fun to dress up and we often feel great when we do. Is it ever acceptable to tear someone down based on what they look like or what they are wearing?

4) Discuss if you have ever been on the receiving end of comments like this, but more importantly, if you have ever been the one making comments like this. I recently did this with my 8yo daughter while resolving some mean girl behavior at school that I was horrified to discover she was a part of. While having a conversation about accountability and empathy with my daughter we talked about her involvement, which was being a silent follower of the mean girls and how I felt that was worse of all because she was letting someone else think for her. We talked about leading with kindness. I let her know that her behavior was similar to what mean girls did to me in school and how sad and lonely it had made me feel. She was devastated and it opened her eyes to the situation from all angles.

5) Talk about the importance of appearance (as far as fitting into the Beauty Myth) over the importance of accomplishment, and why one matters and one does not. Also talk about how to demonstrate confidence and class.


Learn more about Sarah Millican and her fantastic career here.

Sarah Millican

I think Sarah Millican looks beautiful here, but for the record and more importantly she is hysterical which is just how I like my award-winning, sell-out crowd comedians.

The Questions We Should Be Asking After Reading What Mrs. Hall Had To Say

What would you say to Mrs. Hall?

Dear Mrs. Hall,
When I was seventeen years old my girlfriends and I were allowed to get a hotel room and followed our boys basketball team to Madison to cheer them on for a state tournament. After finishing checking in we went up to our room, realized it had a giant atrium window and promptly flashed the lobby. The looks on the faces of our classmate below was hilarious. I was a wild child at that age, yet I guarantee you my mom (who was very involved in my life and was a great parent) is going to be pissed when she reads this but I am 35 years old now so I’m hoping her statute of limitations has expired. At seventeen I didn’t need women like you shaming me. I needed women like you mentoring me, caring about me, not throwing me away. I needed women to wink at me at my youthful indiscretions, and then show me how to be a grown up. The only difference between me and the girls you shame is that when I was seventeen, there was no Instagram or facebook. At seventeen, I didn’t flash the lobby because of low self-esteem or to tempt boys or men who linger and lust after high school girls, I flashed the lobby because it was my world and everyone else was just a guest in it.

I wanted to tell you this for two reasons. Oh, I should mention, my friends and I also went skinny dipping. A lot. I wanted to tell you this for two reasons, the first being, I wanted to level the playing field for all of the girls who have to live their adolescence on social media and every mistake is forever captured. I went through those years free of that burden. Second, I wanted to tell you this because my girlfriends and I all grew up to marry nice guys, have cute kids, and balance successful careers. The other two girls who flashed the lobby with me? One is a high school teacher and the other is a director at a communications firm in Washington DC. And me? Well I run a global business and just finished writing a book about how to raise empowered girls. Ironic, no? We didn’t turn out okay because we eventually found nice boys like Hall boys to marry, we turned out okay because there was nothing wrong with us to begin with.

I simply wanted you to know that teenage girls who make mistakes can grow up to be women who do amazing things. I want to share my approach with you, and you may take it or leave it: I don’t believe in shaming people. I believe in teaching and in growth. You write a ton about Christ on your blog and while not a Christian I find many of your posts beautiful. I believe Christ’s approach was teaching, too. Teaching and growth. So I ask you to look into your heart where I can clearly see that you love your children, and look to the children of others with that same love. In love there is not room for shame.

Teach girls, mentor them, show them by your own example what kind of women they can be. And for goodness sake, allow them to make some mistakes. I am also concerned about teen girls, media, messages, and sexualization. The difference between you and I is that I would not kick them off my on-line island and consider them devalued, I would open my arms and say, “Come here, Baby, you and I need to chat.” And then we would talk about school, and goals, and sports or whatever her activities are, who she thinks is cute, and then I would cleverly segue way into the importance of having a personal brand, the value I see in her, and that because she is a teen and perhaps not thinking long range, I would gently explain to her that some of her online behavior doesn’t mesh with the personal brand I see her building in other areas of her life. And we would talk about what messages she might be sending that she might regret, if what she is doing is smart, and if what she is doing is safe. I would leave her with information she can chew on and implement, but most importantly, I would leave her knowing she has someone in her corner. Someone who sees her worth simply because she lives and breaths, no other qualifiers necessary.

Thank you for sparking such a fascinating national conversation. I have learned, and I hope you have too.


Two days ago the internet exploded when a mom of four, Mrs. Hall, shared a letter on her blog to teenage girls who use social media in a way that she does not approve. In that time the woman has received support, mixed feelings from readers, and she has been flamed. Some people tried to give her the benefit of the doubt and saw that her words were coming from a place, the execution was just very off.  If you read a little bit into her blog and her bio, Kim Hall comes from a conservative religious background so it is possible that may be the source of her view point for the shaming of female sexuality and professing virtue and purity as the highest form of morality. Those are not values I hold, but the woman is allowed to have her faith and her opinions.

I felt it important to discuss this article with the facebook community, because it brings up so many good points for parents of tweens (and kids of all ages, really). Whether your kids are using social media or not, and whether you are talking to them about sex or not yet, this is a good read to get you thinking ahead. Mostly because it is so misguided.

I want to frame our conversation carefully, because I don’t want this to turn into us piling on the author of this post. I find myself agreeing and disagreeing with various parts of the post, and I think it came from a good place, it just didn’t get to where it was going. Namely, boys can control their urges and girls are not responsible for boy’s behavior. Second to this is, girls are allowed to express their sexuality, even if we feel it is in a way that may not be the best thought out demonstration.

You may agree or disagree with Mrs. Hall’s sentiments, but what I’d like you to think about while reading and then discuss are:

1. Can slut-shaming be a two-way street? Can boys be on the receiving end?

2. Is nudity/partial nudity the same as sexualized self-objectification? Is that the point Mrs. Hall is trying to make with the shirtless photos of her sons in a post that slut-shames girls? Or is she being simultaneously obtuse and preachy? Would it bother you if the Hall boys were posting shirtless pics that your daughter was exposed to?

3. Does one (or 80) sexy selfies ruin a girl, so that no “good man” will want her? Did you experiment with your sexuality in ways that you are grateful are not forever captured on social media?

4. Is Mrs. Hall doing the right thing by openly discussing sex with her children, and their use of social media?

5. How do you feel about the comment, “If you are friends with a Hall boy, you are friends with the Hall family”? Should tweens/teens be allowed some privacy online, or is it all an open book?

6. If you were the parent of one of these girls Mrs. Hall is talking about, how would you feel after reading this? Is there more to your daughter than one sexy facebook towel pose?

7. How does the line about “once a male sees you naked he can never unsee it” grab you? Are their bigger implications at play there on how we validate male sexuality/desire but invalidate female sexuality?

8. And finally, is Mrs. Hall onto something? Why are so many young girls and women posting sexy, duck lipped photos of themselves? Are boys doing the same thing and we aren’t paying attention because our culture loves to be hyper-vigilant over the sexuality of young girls?

As always, the PPBB facebook community delivered with a conversation thread that reached just over 10,600 people. The comments were thoughtful and productive. Not everyone agree with each other (those are the best conversations, yes?) but everyone did a great job of expressing concern for their children, concern for the self worth of girls they do not know, and concern at a macro level on what messages girls are getting from society and how this impacts their behavior and thinking. These sentiments were echoed in posts that popped up during the day in reply to Mrs. Hall, my three favorites will be linked at the end of this post.

Here are my favorite replies from PPBB community members to the questions I asked above:

Ashley Chenard: Nice to see this opened for discussion here. I’ve seen friends sharing this like crazy and while I can agree with parts of it, I also found it to be rather focused on blaming the female. And her ironic photo choice of her sons. Just didn’t settle entirely right with me. Sounded like the kind of moms I have dealt with in person that you just grit your teeth and can’t wait to be done with. I commend the effort, but could be better executed. I trust both my son and daughter to make decisions for themselves and that they’ll either embrace the morals I impart on them or they’ll mess up regardless because that is what humans do. It is my job to be there for them, but not to helicopter over them. The way this came across to me is that boys are animals but its the girls job to prevent them from being pigs. My son is not an animal, and its not my daughters job to keep your sons from being pigs.

Tanya Roe: I think that what bothers me the most here is that she focuses on what girls should be doing to snag a decent man. I would rather talk about having respect for our own bodies and characters, how focusing so much on what boys think of them needs to be changed. I want my daughters to grow up and find loving healthy relationships with people of integrity–with themselves first and then a partner if they so choose. I want my daughters posting pictures of all the cool EXPERIENCES they are having rather than focusing only on how their bodies look to boys/peers.

Amanda Elisabeth: What she is falling to address is WHY so many teenage girls feel the need to have pictures like that. Media and society teaches our girls that their only value is their sexuality, and then we condemn them for acting out the way our society wants? I don’t like this article. She is using the same logic people use for rape victims: I.e. her skirt was too short. Why not have a discussion with your son regarding the pressures his female peers feel from society and the possible reasons they post those pictures? Why not talk about an appropriate action your sons can take while interacting with their female friends instead of just blocking the young girls.

Elaine Fleschner: I certainly don’t want my daughter, once she’s old enough to think of such things, to post those sexy poses/photos online. But I think this article is obnoxious. How about instead of posting this blanket “We like you, but we won’t be your friend if you do blank”, she have a frank discussion with the specific girls she’s concerned about–if in fact they are family friends. I think it’s good that the family talk about sex and social media together, but a real nuanced understanding would also require them to note the social pressures girls are under, which do not face them as boys. Mrs. Hall comes across as sanctimonious and obnoxious.

Florence Vaccaro Michel: Thank you for posting these questions! Two fb friends have already posted this thing, and while I think it’s a good place to START a conversation about social media, it is far from the whole conversation. I think reducing a girl to a few poorly-thought-out instagram posts does that girl a disservice. I also think the idea put forth here reduces ALL girls to “sacred vessels”- their modesty becomes their biggest virtue (which naturally leads into their purity being the most important thing about them). It frames all girls as madonna/whore- either you post modest, wholesome pictures of yourself (and you’re a good girl) or you post duck face, arched back pictures in a towel (and you’re a bad girl). So now we’re teaching boys that all girls fall into one category or the other.

That being said, I think that every parent needs to help their kids manage social media in their own way. The fact that this mom is having open conversations with her boys about the items posted on social media is commendable. And she is, in some respects, encouraging her boys to see and recognize that girls are more than just their image (even if it’s done in a clumsy and somewhat reductive way).

Tanya Burns: “We hope to raise men with a strong moral compass, and men of integrity don’t linger over pictures of scantily clad high-school girls.” Then teach your boys not to do so. I am not arguing that I want my daughter posting pics like she speaks of. She is 12, shy, and not a selfie kind of gal. But when she is 16, and has all these years of media literacy under her belt, I’d like to hope she still has better things to do in life. In this post, Mrs. Hall speaks of no second chances, and puts the onus on girls not to show her boys things they should not linger over. I can promise you that out of all the kids mine knows on instagram, there are just as many 12 year old boys doing the “pull your shirt up and try to contort your little body to look like you have abs” pose as there are girls with duck face. But everyone does seem to focus on the girls. Why does a 12 year old boy think he needs to “look ripped”? Are hormones not flowing on both sides of the equation in puberty? As one friend pointed out, what if it’s not the “sexy, duck lipped girls” that a young man is checking out on instagram, but your son and his abs? Sadly, this is not just teenagers now. The “tweens” are in on it too. I’ve seen girls as young as 9 on youtube posing and pouting because they’ve seen others do it. Do we not come back full circle to the oversexualization of childhood we talk about every day?

Mandy McManus Emedi: I applaud the intent of this post, but I do not think it was fully thought-out. The group picture of the author’s boys at the beach just makes me sad. I don’t have any issue with kids in swimsuits if they’re running and jumping and playing at the beach…but the poses of the two older boys, in particular, seem meant (by them) to show off their bodies. Sadly, by using this photo, I think the article illustrates the double standard for boys versus girls. The author is talking about the responsible use of social media (among other, larger topics), but she doesn’t seem to realize she’s violating the same ideas she’s presenting.

Marisa Winegar: Where’s the empathy for the girls who are growing up in a culture that says they have to compete to be the hottest to have value? There’s no acknowledgment that girls don’t post sexy selfies in a vaccum. I don’t want my daughter doing that, but I can see why girls feel that way. It’s a societal problem, not a “bad girl” problem. And the solution has to acknowledge that girls are judged on their sex appeal everyday, perhaps even by the sons referenced in this post. Is she hot or not? That’s what FB was invented for! I don’t like it, but it’s not the girls who created this climate. They are the victims, not the perpetrators.

Lisa Mohl Kaplin: It’s very difficult for me to find the good in this article because it is so sanctimonious and judgmental. The idea of a family sitting down to view and judge the pictures of other children makes me sad and discouraged. Also, if we want our children to dress more appropriately, shaming them will never be the right answer. Helping them feel good about themselves so they don’t feel the need to get attention through their physical appearance will work far better. I also worry for the young girl in this family who has now observed her brothers and parents critiquing girls based on very limited information. Thank goodness we didn’t have the internet when I was a teen, I’m pretty sure Mrs. Hall wouldn’t have been too pleased with me.

Lucinda Robbins: While I think it’s important for girls to understand the image they are portraying on social media, I also think the idea that she would teach her boys that one suggestive selfie makes a girl unworthy to talk with is troublesome to me. (especially when her boys are posing half nude throughout the post). I think there’s an overemphasis on girls’ purity, which also bothers me. Girls need to be careful, but boys also need to recognize that both girls and boys are sexual being and both girls and boys are responsible for their thoughts and behavior. Girls do not bear responsibility for boys’ behavior, and this seems to be what she’s implying. I would think she would think better of her boys than to think they cannot be friends with or control themselves around a girl who (OMG!) posts pics of herself in her jammies.

Jennifer Wade Shewmaker: I read this yesterday and had so many of these same questions! My first thought is that these girls aren’t taking selfies in a vacuum, there is a culture of Sexualization that promotes it. They aren’t “bad or unsafe girls.” They’re girls who are feeling two things: 1.) their own developing sexual desires and feelings and 2.) the pressure to gain power through it.

Since I’m the mother of 3 daughters, I would tell Mrs. Hall that I am teaching my girls to think about how they dress and what they post in terms of the message they want to send to the world about themselves. I want them to focus on their own agency in that scenario. It is not their job to account for every sexual thought a boy may have. It is their job to make respectful, thoughtful choices about who they are and what they want to share about that with the world. And, their developing sexuality shouldn’t be any more threatening than a boys developing sexuality. These are natural, normal feelings and parents need to help kids learn how to process them in safe, healthy, respectful ways rather then through shaming them.

Kelsey’s N Reilleys Mommy: And so begins the subtle underpinnings of rape culture.


In support of what Mrs. Hall had to say:

Melissa Vaclavicek Murray: I don’t know. I didn’t see this as a “bad girl” issue, so much as a stupid girl issue. When my kids are older (both girls under the age of 6), I intend to point out potential red flags and encourage them to look for positive attributes when considering someone to date/marry. A person who posts multiple selfies a day and sexually suggestive pics gives off red flags. While those red flags don’t necessarily point to “slut” (the author never said that), they do point to lack of self-esteem, self-respect, and self-control. Not great attributes for a significant other. That’s not slut shaming. That’s just being smart. That’s a mother who cares about her sons imparting wisdom that they don’t have in their hormone-filled teenage bodies. She’s helping them look past the bedroom eyes and glossy duck lips, and find a person with substance. The author may have been clumsy in her execution (ridiculous picture to go with the article), but I think this is advice that most involved parents give to their kids.

Kathy Onufer Krapf: I didn’t take it negatively like many here did. I took it as a reminder that social media is public and that what is posted “can’t be unseen”. We are all leaving digital imprints that we don’t realize and we ALL need to be more accountable for ourselves and our children. I think she was coming from the right place, regardless of whether or not we agree with how she framed it.

Lisa Hollander Parente: I’m torn on this one. While I do agree that tweens and teens need to be more aware of what they are posting and putting into cyberspace, this feels a bit like slut shaming to me. The author posts pictures of her sons posing in what can be considered provocative ways and yet that is okay? Why because they are boys and don’t have boobs? And this part trouble me the most: ” Did you know that once a male sees you in a state of undress, he can’t ever un-see it? You don’t want the Hall boys to only think of you in this sexual way, do you?” Why not instead of chastising the girl she teaches the “Hall Boys” to respect a woman regardless of what she is or is not wearing? How about teaching those boys that a woman is not an object for them to gawk at? Like I said, there are parts of this that I do agree with, but I don’t think she’s thought it through completely.


Other blog posts I loved on this subject:








Oy Does Toyland Give Me a Headache

Despite the fact that Halloween is still three weeks away, a store based in my home state of Wisconsin had their much anticipated holiday toy catalog out in the paper today. I got my hopes up when I opened it and there was a 10 year old boy holding a baby and showing the baby a toy. The first several pages were mostly gender neutral toys labeled “Preschool”….

Then I came to page 18, the first in the “Girls” section. I was immediately knocked over by the pink, pink, and more pink splashed across a two page spread of kitchen and housecleaning tools all gender coded because domestic duties are a woman’s work, don’t you know. Turn the page to Monster Glam dress up kids, tiaras, high heels, and princess dresses. Then we move into the pet care play, fairies and scary-skinny sexy fashion dolls. The background on all of these pages is pink, natch.

The first page of the “Boys” section shows two boy models blasting something into smithereens with giant sized automatic guns, and seven more boys on packages taking aim with their guns. Because what five year old boy doesn’t need a Howitzer and endless rounds of ammo, right? Another page of guns, some power tools, space fantasy play, vehicles and rescue squads, and then farm equipment. The background for these pages is blue or green.

There is a somewhat gender neutral “Crafts and Entertainment”, but most of the craft kits feature girls on the box or are activities like “Princess Mosaic Tiara Activity Kit” or “Princess Glitter Domes”. In the “Books and Games” section most of the books and games are character-branded and therefore gendered. The “Sporting Goods” section is dominated by boys.

The only thing keeping me from losing my mind is that the science kits all look super awesome and are gender neutral (no Spa Science or Lipstick Lab kits, thank goodness). That is what I will be buying my children. From a different store, most likely, if I can find one that respectfully advertises to children.

In a 71 page catalog there are 9 images of boys and girls playing together. On the pages advertising the toys never once is a boy shown doing something caring or tender, nor is a girl shown doing something more adventurous than sledding. The predominant theme for girls was keeping up the house and looking pretty. The predominant theme for boys was killing and taking care of the farm. My we’ve come a long way since the 19th century.

These issues are not specific to this store. We know all too well every catalog we get is going to look like this unless we live in Sweden. This kind of marketing is everywhere, so much so that people believe these manufactured differences to be biological truth. I say: When we limit our children, we limit our children.

“Watch commercials that are targeted at little girls. A commercial for a toy or a game for a little girl always seems like it came from another world where feminism NEVER happened.” -Jared Logan

This video nails it, via Princess Free Zone.