I have noticed something that makes me both indignant and sad since becoming the mother of a daughter. I always knew on some level that it was an issue, but never did I realize how deep it truly goes nor how early on in life it begins to occur.
I have come to realize that we are raising our daughters to see themselves as prey. We are grooming them for destruction, for self destruction of sorts. And we don’t even mean to do it. We do it out of love. In it’s own twisted way. From day one we hear the jokes. Jokes about fathers sitting on the front porch with a shot gun, jokes about dear old dad killing the boys who hurt her, jokes about how she won’t be allowed to date until she is 30……
Why? Because she is fragile and delicate and weak and vulnerable. As all prey is. Because the world out there is filled with boys who will rape and harm and pillage and beat and drag her face first through the mud. So, she better be ware, avoid boys at all costs, look over her shoulder at night time, carry her keys like Wolverine claws clenched in between her knuckles, accept that her body is her reason for shame or ownership or defiance or sexual crime. It is how she carries it, how she clothes it, how she presents it, like an offering to those bloodthirsty, one-minded boys. The curves she will have, the shape, the rise and fall of her flesh and bone and muscle and sinew can ultimately result in her being harassed, accepted, rejected, hit, hurt, shamed, undone, broken……The world is a hard hard place and thank God for fathers who protect daughters.
THIS is what we teach our girls from a young age. Keep your legs crossed. Don’t say vagina. Be discreet. Be a lady. Keep your shirts cut high and your dresses cut low. There are consequences for how you present yourself to the world and if you don’t follow the rules you WILL be raped. You WILL be molested.
Ladies…..raise your hand if you have ever had a man touch you in an unwanted way. If you have ever been forced into a sex act. If you have ever been molested or raped. Statistics show us about 1 out of 5 women are raped. That’s 1.3 MILLION women raped in America each year. So, it DOES happen. But what I am wondering is…how much of it is the direct result of how we are raising our sons to be predators and our daughters to be prey?
I have 6 sons. And not once have I ever thought to tell them not to dress a certain way to avoid being a sexual object. Not once have I worried about protecting them, besides the typical “No one touches your privates and if they do you tell me or a trusted grown up” talk. That was it. Cut and dry. Simple. Why? Why is it we do not have to protect our sons from potential assault?
Because it is a cycle. We were taught it ourselves as children. That boys are stronger, faster, tougher. Boys don’t cry. Don’t show emotion too much. Boys are bricks and mortar, dirt and stone.
Girls though….girls are slower, weaker, dainty, submissive. They are rose petals to boys thorns. And they are targets. Potential victims. Prey.
And we grew up with that thought process in our minds. I know I did. Don’t drink too much at the party. Keep your drink covered. Don’t wear that skirt. Those shoes. That shirt. Your makeup like that. Don’t live there. Don’t work there. Don’t walk there. Don’t be in the parking lot after dark. Carry mace. This mini alarm.Pepper spray. Your cell phone. A knife. A gun. Keep your head down. Walk fast. Don’t flirt. Don’t send those signals. If rape happens, let it. Don’t fight back. It could be worse. Let it happen so you can at least get away with your life when it is over. Take that self defense class. Learn how to throw a punch. Aim for his crotch. His eyes. His throat. Be prepared.
Boys. What do we teach our boys on the subject?
Wear a condom.
Maybe we throw something in there about being a gentleman. Maybe we don’t. Basically, for a lot of guys the only message they got on their expected role is “protect your junk.” Beyond that, what do we have for them A million movies, shows, songs and true stories about men just like them raping women. We set them up. Not that it is an excuse or makes it okay. But I for one think that if I was raised my whole life seeing a stereotype that men were compassionate and kind and women were hard bitter bitches…if I saw women portrayed as bitches all over the place all of my life….I might just become a bitch. Because of the example set before me.
So, how about this for a radical idea? How about we start with our children to end this problem? How about instead of jokes about shooting potential mates, we talk to our daughters about what sort of traits are valueable in a mate? We tell her about men with integrity and honor and respect.(How about instead of fathers going out to buy a gun they instead show their daughters what kind of men to allow into their lives by their OWN example. Show the girls what a real man is, Dads. Show her by how you act, how you work hard, how you respect women, how you treat her mother.) We teach her that her body is a marvel, a thing of epic wonder and beauty. That she is a mother fucking warrior princess. That her body is not a target , but is instead a tool to use for anything she wants. To go running, to dance, to paint, to fight, to bear children, to climb mountains. It is not an object to be potentially defiled. It is HERS. To claim. Tell her to dress in what makes her comfortable. The length of a skirt or how much cleavage genetics has predisposed to her in no way ought to make her a target for a crime. She is not a statistic. She is a spirit, a soul, a heart, a woman-in-the-making. If I dress my baby daughter in a 2 piece swimsuit just because it is so frickin adorable with it’s ruffles on the bum and the sweet pink color that makes her eye color pop, I should not have to concern myself with the fact that I may possibly be showing too much of her innocent skin to some pervert.
I’m not saying let your daughters dress like tiny prostitutes in training. I’m saying, don’t emulate THAT image any more than you should emulate the fact she is going to be hurt/used/shamed/raped at some point in her life. Break both cycles. Teach your daughters to be strong and independent and classy and have self respect and self pride and integrity. A woman who holds her head high and knows she is beautiful not only because her hair is shiny that day or the shirt is brand new and accentuates her curves in a sexy way without being slutty, but also because she has brains and brilliance and creativity and passions.
And our sons…..stop telling our son that they are predators. Teach them instead about holding open doors, about asking permission before kissing a girl. Tell them about no means no. About waiting. About respect and honor. Teach them that every girl is someones daughter/sister/niece. Teach them that women are not objects. Teach them that porn sets ridiculous expectations and standards up and that real sex, the healthy kind, is sometimes a bit awkward and sloppy and silly and fun and wonderful. Teach them that strength is not just a physical thing. Strength is in accepting the word no even when you really really wanted to hear a yes. Strength is in looking for a girl with morals and grace class when all his friends are just going for the kill, so to speak. Strength is covering that passed-out drunk girl with a blanket and leaving her to sleep it off. Strength is being a man. A true man.
Too many times we as parents allow thoughtless words to pour from our mouths not realizing the standards we are setting into place for our children and their futures. Maybe we simply need to be a little more mindful of our words. Little ears are listening.