Thursday, December 17, 2015

Dear Daughter

Care Norway has a new video out on YouTube supposedly detailing the life a woman. The video takes the form of an unborn girl's letter to her father. It comes complete with a #DearDaddy hashtag. And loads of crap.

Are you kidding me?

I'm not saying middle school-aged girls aren't called the names mentioned in the video (whore and slut are specifically name dropped) nor that teenage boys don't make sexual advances on teenage girls. Both happen. The little girl makes a point of reminding her Dad that he probably did many of the same things growing up. He probably did. I'm sure that if, showed a video of my life, I'd be embarrassed about lots of it. So would my wife, most likely. So would you, I'm guessing. Life isn't something we are born knowing how to do. Our 20-year-old selves often have different goals, values and understanding than our 40-year-old selves. As it should be. We shouldn't want or understand things the same way at 20 as we do at 30 or 40.

That isn't to excuse bad behavior, it just explains why it maybe looks different to a Dad at 40 than a kid at 20. The name calling mentioned in the video is especially uncalled for. But will every woman be subjected to those names in high school? Seems unlikely, but if its true, its inappropriate and sad. And while unwanted sexual advances - while the girl is so drunk she can't stand straight - are equally unacceptable. But figuring out the when and what of the sexual advance dance is at least a part of the process of growing up. We aren't born knowing how to make advances on those in whom we have interest. Occasionally one person is going to lean in for a kiss that, having entirely misread the signs, is not something the other person wants.

No, boys should not be shoving their hands down girls' pants without consent. But is that really something that happens twice by the age 16? The woman in the video is raped at 21, as if its just a matter of course for women. Is that the world we live in? I refuse to believe this is true. It isn't.

Look, it doesn't make it right, but consent, how society and manners operate and hormones are confusing things during the teenage years. That doesn't make it right, but it makes it tricky. For both girls and boys. The good news is that fewer teens are partaking in conduct that can lead confusing situations to become even more confusing. There are certainly things we as society need to clean up. We could lose our focus on all things marketed toward girls being pink, for instance. But we do ourselves very little good as a society, and do our daughters actual harm, by pretending they are these weak flowers whose lives will be less because they are born female or because wear pink.

Maybe most of the women I know and work with are secretly walking around with vast emotional damage caused by growing up as women. Maybe. I haven't heard of it. I kind of doubt they are, at least in any way or any proportion that differentiates them from the men I know.

But creating a society that believes women are somehow victims of out-of-control men is a dangerous road to go down. Nor is the answer to post a bunch of pictures on Facebook about how if you date our daughters us Dads will come to the door with a gun. We need to stop demonizing men as predators, pretending our daughters are unable to protect themselves, and ignoring that they are also actors in this play. Guess what? The majority of time when two teens have sex both of them are into it. Yes, there are cases where our daughters are probably put in uncomfortable and dangerous situations.  No, that doesn't make those situations OK. But ignoring the reality doesn't fix those situations.

And that brings me to the bulk of my post:

Dear Daughter;
Despite what you might hear, being a girl is not the "biggest danger of all." Your life is not ruin because of it. Don't ever believe it.
I'm not going to tell you that there aren't bad people out there. You'll meet boys who think they can pressure you into sex or who will call you names because of things you do, or don't do. But don't for a minute ever demonize men as a group. Because you'll meet plenty of girl friends who will also bully you for the things you do - and don't do.
And you'll also meet plenty of guys who are respectful. If I've done my job, you'll know your worth. If I've done my job, you'll be able to recognize the people who don't treat you properly. Maybe not every time and maybe not in every circumstances; but most of the time and often enough. Sorting out the wheat from the chaff, the good from the bad, those you want in your circle of friends from those you don't, is part of life. It is a ongoing process. Yes, even for your Dad.
That doesn't mean you should take or accept abuse. You shouldn't. But you should never think that its the way it is. Oh, sure, you'll read about a lot of bad people and bad events. Its easier and "sexier" to report on that one bad event than it is to report on the 10 people who are helping an elderly person by mowing their lawn or visiting with kids in a hospital. So don't you ever think your life is doomed to be full of insults and assaults. It isn't. There are good people out there. Lots of them. You'll find them.
 And yes, you'll have to wade through some bad people to get there. Some of those people just won't be a fit for you. And some will be awful, evil people. But in any bunch as large as the one you'll encounter in your life you are bound to find some people bad apples. That doesn't mean every apple is bad.
Don't ever believe it.
Your Dad

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