Today, as I perused Facebook with my coffee before waking children and the hustle and bustle of the day, I saw yet another article/post about a parent standing up for their daughter and the school dress code. It got me thinking.
Yesterday, I saw something a friend posted on Facebook. It wasn’t anything new; it’s been going around for a while. It was an article about Sam Carter, the front man for the British metal band Architects stopping a show because he saw a woman being sexually assaulted while crowd surfing. It got me thinking.
I’m 41. And pregnant. With a daughter. I grew up believing that my short shorts were a distraction to boys. I grew up believing that what little cleavage I might have had when I bent down to write was a reason for boys to pop my bra straps in the hallway. I believed that my cheerleading uniform, that was somehow okay in the dress code even though it didn’t’ cover my ass, was reason for boys to slap it. I was a distraction. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in dressing appropriately for the situation. I don’t like tank tops on boys or girls, personally, because arm pits are gross. Tank tops, short shorts, miniskirts, and midriffs are not why boys cannot concentrate at school. A girl could wear a potato sack and still be a distraction to a teenage boy.
A few nights ago, my favorite movie came on. Sixteen Candles. I can recite the whole movie. I was sorely disappointed in my sixteenth birthday that some Jake Ryan looking guy with a Porsche didn’t roll up to my non-existent sister’s wedding and whisk me away to his house for a birthday cake on his glass dining room table. There’s this scene where Jake is talking to Ted in the kitchen after Jake rescues Ted from the coffee table. They are talking about Sam and Ted tells Jake if he wants to be with Sam, Jake had better treat Sam right. Jakes reply, “I’ve got Caroline in my bedroom right now, passed out cold. I could violate her ten different ways if I wanted to.” So, the MOST ROMANTIC movie of my life is a little rapey. A little more than a little rapey. There’s another scene with Ted and Caroline later, but you get my point and as you’ve no doubt seen this movie, you know. My point is this, in 1984, our whole thought process was different. Like so many other things once you see it, you can’t unsee.
I cannot tell you how many shows I went to in my youth where I crow surfed, moshed, and got groped. I always fought back, but at the same time, it was something I expected. Something that “just happened.” I don’t know how many girls didn’t’ fight back, didn’t’ say “Stop, you f—-r!” Whose experiences at shows went further and were much more traumatic than mine.
In early 2004, when I found out I was pregnant with my first son, I was relieved he was to be a boy. I know, most moms dream of sweet little girls, but I was honestly terrified of bringing girls into this world. In early 2006, when once again I found myself expecting a little boy, I was comforted. It’s not that the thought of a daughter didn’t appeal to me. I’ve always had a vision of what a girl of mine might be like: cute in that mostly wild way, a little rough and tumble, sassy, wicked smart, and brave. I was the type of little kid who wore my boy cousin hand me downs but could also wear a dress when required. I got a long with boys better than girls, for the most part, because girls baffled me. I have always pictured a theoretical daughter being the best of me, but with better hair.
But I was always thankful to have boys. Not because I don’t worry about my boys in this crazy world, I do. I worry about the easy access to pornography at our fingertips, online bullying, my oldest not understanding the social norms, my youngest fighting for his brother, that fist fights rarely stay fist fights anymore, and on and on and on. But I haven’t worried about rape culture. My job as far as that has gone to this point is to raise decent human beings, to talk to them about enthusiastic consent. To teach them from an early age their body is their own and that rule applies to everyone. To tell them that just because you “only want a hug” doesn’t mean you get one unless the other person says so.
But, all of this shifted in late February when we found out we were pregnant. I just knew it would be another boy. But as with everything else, #NotoriousVIG had plans of her own from the very beginning. When the nurse called to tell me the results of our bloodwork, I was simultaneously excited to have a girl and scared. It all starts so early: the comments about dating, being pretty, being perfect, a princess, and on and on.
But over the last several years there has been a shift. A cultural shift. One that says, “Hey! NO. MORE. OF. THIS.” One where a girl or woman doesn’t value only because she is someone’s wife, mother, daughter or sister. She is valued because she is a woman; a PERSON in her own right. More MEN are standing up and saying “THIS IS NONSENSE!” We will not ask women what they were wearing at that show when they got groped. We will not ask them how much they had to drink at that party when the guy followed them to the bathroom. No. More. Men, even those like my bearded, heavy metal loving, tractor driving, engineer husband who lives in a very traditional marriage, are embracing the word feminist.
My hope for little girls today is that this shift in thinking continues. That men and women continue to know how important this is and that they don’t let people who tell them otherwise win. That we continue to speak out, speak to our children, to STAND UP for our girls. For when we stand up for our girls, everyone wins.
As I’m typing, I feel my daughter moving. She is currently kicking my ribs and doing a handstand on my bladder. She is strong. I feel hopeful.