I’m Raising a Daughter. And I am Scared.
I am raising a daughter. And I am scared. Terrified. I am scared of sending her out into a world where I cannot protect her. I am scared that no matter what I teach her at home, what others may say to or about her may cut away at her self confidence until one day she believes them. I am scared she will be labelled “fat”, “bitch”, “nerd”, “whore”; any label that is said to define her, to make her feel confined by what others may think of her. I am scared that she may have the voice to stand up for herself, but that others won’t listen. I am scared that she will be ridiculed or teased. I am scared of her being hurt, being taken advantage of, being violated, being disrespected. I am scared that she won’t be taken as seriously because she is a girl. I am raising a daughter and I am scared.
As I’m sure you are all aware, social media has been filled with the story of Brock, the rapist (not swimmer) who has been given 6 months jail time for violating a young woman and completely derailing her entire life. This story may be in the news, but there are countless other stories of women whose rapists are not held accountable, women who are silenced, and women who never see the justice they deserve. And it’s got me thinking about what it is like to raise a daughter in today’s world.
My daughter is four. She can’t tie her shoe laces yet, and she likes to fall asleep next to her Mommy and Daddy. She is still a baby. And yet in the four short years that she has been in this world she has been told that she is fat by girls at school. She has been called stupid and her name has been made fun of by a group of boys. She has been ridiculed at kid-friendly restaurants. She has been silenced at a dinner because ‘girls don’t talk at the table’. She has been told that she can’t do certain things because she is a girl. She has been in the safety of her car seat at a robot where a drunk man stood at her window, licked his lips and put his hands down his pants. She has a code word where she knows to jump to me in case of a hi-jacking. She knows the safest route to a friend in our complex in case an intruder ever comes into our home and I need to push her out of a window. She knows to find a mom with children if she is ever lost, because she knows she can’t just go to any man. She is four years old and yet she already knows her female place in the world. And I’m calling bullshit!
I’m calling bullshit on the ‘boys being boys’ excuse. I’m calling bullshit on anyone who ever says ‘yes means yes, and no means yes’. I’m calling bullshit on ‘if he likes you he will be mean to you’. I’m calling bullshit on boys EVER being allowed to belittle or tease or hurt girls. I’m calling bullshit on calling girls ‘crazy’ when they show any emotion. I’m calling bullshit on the concept that virginity is something a boy takes from a girl, and I’m calling bullshit on girls being labelled ‘whore’ because they made the conscious choice to have sex with a man. I’m calling bullshit on girls who are criticised for how their clothes or alcohol-level may be too enticing for a man. I’m calling bullshit on every situation or phrase that deems that a boy is somehow better than a girl.
Last week I took Bella for ice-cream and chatted to her about boys and girls. We discussed the differences and similarities. She suggested various things she thought boys or girls couldn’t do purely because they are boys or girls. I debunked almost every one of them. But I have a very smart little one, who reminded me that only girls can have babies. And only boys can wee standing up. Okay fair enough Bella, you can have those two. But when it comes to sport, academics, style, relationships and so much more, boys and girls can do anything they want. Simple.
I believe that we should be raising our sons and daughters in the exact same way. As equals. If they start out this way in their home, it can only continue into society. My brother and I were raised like this. My mom wasn’t softer on me because I’m a girl, or harder on him because he was a boy. We both played with trains and dolls. We both got taken to vintage car shows, and we both got woken up early on weekends to paint murals on the garage wall. We both got taken for facials to help with puberty and we both wore eye liner in high school. We were both encouraged to find our individuality, and to study whatever made us happy. Our thoughts and views were always welcomed, and we were always accountable for our actions.
There needs to be no difference in how men and women are raised. The more we raise our children as ‘boys’ or ‘girls’, the wider the distinction between them becomes. We should simply raise good humans, children who respect others, who are kind and accepting of all differences, who help others, who are loyal, who are independent and strong. Children who are praised for their creativity, their intellect, their sportsmanship and their personalities. Maybe, just maybe we will change these divides. The divides where one is better than the other, where one feels entitled to belittle the other, where one can do more than the other, where one has more rights than the other, where one can touch or violate the other.
I have to believe that this is possible because I have a daughter. Because I have a daughter I have to be stronger when men tease me. Because I have a daughter I have to take everything seriously, even if it is a friend who jokingly tickles her when she asks them to stop. Because I have a daughter I have to listen and respect her wishes when it comes to her own body, even when she insists on dressing herself when we are running late for school. Because I have a daughter I have to stand up for myself in the workplace and social situations. Because I have a daughter I have to talk openly about body parts so she never feels shame over herself. Because I have a daughter I will make it my business what you teach your sons. Because I have a daughter, and one day what your son thinks is acceptable will become my daughter’s problem. Because I have a daughter I will never silence her, or put her in her place. Because I have a daughter I will never sleep through the night when she is not at home. Because I have a daughter, I am scared.