Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Be the Parent, Not the BFF

I try to keep my blog light and somewhat humorous, but when something really gets to me, I can't hold it in sometimes.

As a mother of a daughter who is coming of age (which I am just "thrilled" about, by the way. Ack!), and a high school teacher, this recent story out of Colorado has had me seeing RED in so many ways.

I am trying to put my thoughts together, but it's difficult with so many angry feelings flying around about this.

18 year old Sydney Spies is a senior at Durango High School. She has submitted a senior photo to her high school's yearbook that was rejected because it was inappropriate. (I'm not going to give these photos more publicity by posting them. Just click on the link if you want to see them) 

So they were rejected. End of story, right? Of course not. Sydney, like any teenager who doesn't get their way, is upset. 

Sidney is one of those teenage girls who clearly does not have it all together yet regarding the difference between "beautiful" and "cheap".  She hasn't been appropriately taught the concept that there is "conquering the world and being pretty while doing it" verses "using a misguided sense of what is beautiful and conveying cheap sexual messages."  Anne Kingson, a Canadian writer put it best in her 2010 article, "Outraged mom, trashy daughters": How did those steeped in the women’s lib movement produce girls who think being a sex object is powerful?

Sure, that happens. The world is full of sexually explicit images and it's easy for teens (whose frontal lobe of their brain hasn't fully formed yet) to deal with confusion. THAT IS WHAT PARENTS AND DECENT ROLE MODELS ARE FOR. We are to lead and direct our children. Please read "The Teen Brain: It's Just Not Grown Up Yet."  The frontal lobe "is the part of the brain that says: 'Is this a good idea? What is the consequence of this action?' It's not that they don't have a frontal lobe. And they can use it. But they're going to access it more slowly." (from the article) This is all the more reason we as parents need to be role models and leaders - NOT their BFFs! Too many parents out there have missed that concept along the way.

In this case, Sydney's mother, Micki Spies, has dropped the ball in that regard.  Her mother is assisting Sydney in the fight! THAT is what has this story taking me to new levels of anger and frustration.  Sydney could still use some growing up with her frontal lobe, but Ms. Spies, but what's your excuse? 

When Sydney's inappropriate photos (to quote Star Jones, the photos looks as if she's "20 minutes off the pole") were denied by the high school yearbook community, it didn't end with a typical teenager venting, whining and complaining that she didn't get her way. Nope. Not only is Sydney's mother clearly not doing her job, but she is leading the fight with Sydney to hire a lawyer and run to news outlets with their misguided outrage, which I suspect is their attempt to have the pictures seen by many and obtain the publicity. Yep. Great parenting there, Miss Spies!

Mom has used excuses such as "she is covered" and "read the law" to defend her daughter's desire to treat the high school yearbook like it is Cosmo, Playboy or Maxim. Being a high school art teacher (thank goodness for the breather I'm taking by staying at home with X-man), I've dealt with parents like these in different ways, and it's a sad state of affairs. But I digress.

The yearbook is not a fashion magazine, Miss Micki Mom. Different venue - different publication - different OBJECTIVE of its publication. There is a time and place. The yearbook is a not the place. Teenagers try to push the envelope all the time. That's what we as parents, teachers and administrators are for to give them freedom of expression to become who they are, but also know when to draw the line and provide and ENFORCE BOUNDARIES. Have you not heard of boundaries, Micki Spies?

The yearbook committee did the job her mother failed to do. Mom calls it an "abuse of power." I almost feel sorry for Ms. Spies' misguided logic. If Sydney wants to go pose for a publication like Playboy or Hustler, she can have at it. Sadly, the world glorifies all kinds of portrayals of Boobs and Booty Without Brains. 

No wonder Sydney is confused! With examples like Kim Kardashian and Jersey Shore's "Snooki" all over the place, and the money these subspecies of women make for doing....well....nothing, it's easy to scratch our heads sometimes.

The argument about Sydney being covered? Weak argument, at best. There is more to covering all the "goods" to justify the image as appropriate. I can be wearing a turtleneck (but I don't - yuck), but if I'm licking an ice cream cone as if it's something else and making orgasmic noises while doing it, clearly it doesn't matter if I'm wearing a turtleneck and nun's habit! The message has become cheap and sexual. The way Sydney is posing in the photos with that "come do me" look on her face negates the argument that "everything is covered".

That is NOT for a high school yearbook.

Another argument - law of free speech of free publication. Mommy said, (in her comments below the Colorado News story out of Denver), "Read the law. She has the right to publish. I did not want this photo chosen but since it was I support my daughter 100%"  

Mom and Sydney do not understand the law. The law isn't to give Sydney rights to publish. It gives the PUBLICATION (in this case, a high school yearbook) rights and protections under the law.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but the yearbook chose not to publish under its own rights. The student yearbook committee and adult staff members have the right to accept or decline what is submitted for the yearbook. And while we're at it, Mom, if you are supporting your daughter 100% to have this photo published, you do want the photo seen. Don't tell us you didn't want it chosen. You're loving the publicity.

Also, even if something is protected by the law, that doesn't make it appropriate. Sheesh, so many unsavory, immoral and obscene things are protected by laws! Look at the KKK's rights to spout their racist messages! They're protected by the law to do so, even though what they are saying is deplorable. Look at Nevada - prostitution is legal is many parts of that state. Does that make it okay? No. It's just legal. Do high school yearbooks in Nevada have ads for brothels? I'm guessing NO.

Another argument - Sydney is 18. Great, she's 18. Congratulations. She can do what she wants as an adult with her modeling career. One thing she and Mommy forget is, a four year high school has more than 75% of its students under 18. If Sydney wants to go to a community college and try to have the photos in their publications, at least it's an adult educational facility. High school is not.

A similar controversy erupted a few years ago with a tattoo page in a local yearbook. There was parental outrage about the page featuring students' tattoos (among other things that I won't get into now to digress even further). Sure, many high school students have tattoos. I saw them all the time. I had students show them to me and ask me what my opinion was (and I gave the opinion of the tattoo itself from a pure artistic and professional standpoint, not my personal feelings on tattoos themselves). But since one has to be 18 to obtain a tattoo (that is the law, unless there is parental consent), and more than the high school campus isn't 18, it probably wasn't the best move to have a tattoo page in the yearbook. Just saying.

The point is, there is a time and place. The yearbook isn't that place. 

I love Durango. It would be the perfect place for me to live. It's beautiful. It has a great climate and a fun bohemian culture. Unlike here, the color green exists there. The summers can get pretty warm, but they're manageable as opposed to the heat lamp I live under here. And even if it does get too hot, minutes up the road the elevation climbs to crisp cooler temps and even more beautiful places like Silverton and Ouray. Below is a beautiful picture of a girl in Durango that adds to its beauty. It's Mikelle along it's Animas River Walk in 2006. Sure, she was almost 6 and not 18 (I'm in no hurry for her to be 18), but this still captures the kind of beauty our daughter's should portray.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you! As a mom of three adult daughters I can tell you that there is definitely a time to be a mom and a time to be a friend. I'm happy to report that now, when my girls are grown and married, it's the perfect time to be able to slip back and forth in the "friends" role. And it's great to have daughters, friends, that know that I cared enough to respect myself and them to parent them strictly when necessary!

    A Coloradoan~Lisa :)
    pinkmochas @2ps