My 15-year old daughter never ceases to surprise me. Recently she’s brought up a number of cultural inconsistencies that are driving her batty. In fact, they would no doubt make many of us bat-shit crazy too if we only bother to open our eyes and apprehend them.
Observation One: Boys don’t get wardrobe infractions.
The question was raised by my wife and it went something like this, “Do you know of any boys who have gotten reprimanded for not adhering to the school’s dress code.” No, she replied. To which she added that the dress code and it’s “fear of shoulders” seems irrational. Her take, and this is a paraphrase mind you: “If you’re a male, and a teacher, and you can’t handle the way I dress that says more about you than it says about the way I dress. If you think the way I dress is distracting for the boys then take that up with the boys!”
Let’s get something straight, my daughter is not leaving the house exposing all manner of skin. She does like fashion and some of her style choices, while tasteful, have been the source of conversations in Abercrombie and Pac-Sun. “Will that meet the dress code,” we ask. On one occasion she responded, “Well, it’ll look better than some boy whose pants are falling down with his boxers hanging out. I mean, I have shoulders; get over it.”
In fact she came home just the other day commenting on a rumor that the school might out law “bra-lets” because they show too much lace. She had some choice words to say about that. Now lace is too sexy for school?!
Don’t get the wrong impression. My daughter is shy at heart. In our presence and in the company of her close friends she will be opinionated, but I doubt she’d speak that way to administrators in her high school. But there’s always hoping.
Observation Two: Some people fear the possibility of a woman becoming president.
In her US History class their focus on current events means the upcoming election has been discussed. One day when I picked her up after school, she heard some commentary on NPR regarding the campaign. After connecting her iPhone to the car’s audio to avoid NPR, she said something along these lines: “People are criticizing Hillary’s wardrobe and her face. Why not Trump’s face? I mean, look at him. I think they are just afraid of electing a woman, any woman President.”
Since then my daughter has gone on to add that Clinton is viewed as un-trustworthy despite the vast number and variety of lies Trump has told — verifiable thanks to the New York Times — and she thinks that is because Clinton is female. This bothers her and not because she is a Clinton supporter but because my daughter is a young woman beginning to recognize the profound imbalance between the lip service we give equality and the ways in which we practice it as a community.
Observation Three: This culture lies to women.
This third observation dovetails with the second. Yesterday my daughter called me over to the kitchen island where she showed me a campaign ad put out by the Clinton campaign. She found it on Twitter and it was arresting to say the least.
In the spot a number of teenaged girls are depicted gazing into mirrors or right into the camera. Trump says things in voice over such as, “If she’s flat chested then she is not attractive,” and “You should have see that fat pig eat,” and “she had a fat ass.” Finally the ad ends with the tag line: Is this the best President for our daughters?
Holy crap. I was floored. Not just by the ads content, but by the fact that I think my daughter came across this through Twitter, viewed the ad spot and shared it with me. “That was amazing,” I told her.
“I know,” she replied and then went on to talk about how someone with such abhorrent views on women should not be elected.
Never in my lifetime have I ever witnessed such uncivil behavior exhibited by a potential leader of the free world. Populist anger aside, how can any voter in their right mind overlook the undeniably misogynist behavior of this infantile, narcissistic, racist, oligarch? Wow, that’s a lot of adjectives.
Observation Four: This culture lies to girls.
Our society lies not only to women about their worth and value, but we begin this “culture of lies” in girlhood. In their teen years the messages sent to young girls is cemented fast to their psyche. That is unless someone begins telling them the truth.
Last night around quarter to eight, my daughter had finished her prep for Monday — homework done, lunch made, backpack packed. Usually she’ll “chill” on her bed amusing herself texting with friends and watching senseless videos. At one point she bounded down the stairs saying that she was watching another video she found on Twitter that we had to see. “It’s an eight grade health teacher,” she said, “telling girls what they need to hear.”
“Ok,” I said. “Send it to me.” She did. Today, during my office hours I watched the video entitled What Every 8th Grade Girl Needs to Hear by Noah Couser a Health/PE teacher at Kalispell Middle School.
Couser begins by telling his 8th grade sex-ed class he intended to show how these children had been lied to. Over the course of a 40 minute talk he reinforced three things that, in his mind all young women three things they need to know:
- You are beautiful — forget the messages media sends, these messages are wrong. Young women need to avoid the trap of judging each other based on looks and should treat one another with compassion and care.
- Practice the purpose of dating — dating prepares you to be a couple and preparing to be a couple gets you ready for marriage. Dating is not about sex, it is about building friendships and getting to know people so that you can discover what type of person you may wish to spend your life with should you choose marriage.
- You will never regret good decisions — stick to your guns, don’t be pressured into anything that feels wrong.
Mr. Couser went on to say that young men have been lied to as well and their behavior towards each other and their female peers displays this. My daughter responded to these messages and she wondered if he gave a similar talk to 8th grade boys. He did but I have yet to watch it. I plan to.
My daughter is building a moral center. She’s spotting the inconsistencies in our policies and our actions and this does not sit well with her. It is clear to me her eyes are opening and once you leave Plato’s cave there’s no going back.
These days, most people demand refunds for the shadows they’ve been shown on that cave wall. Others pretend the shadows don’t exist or worse still that the shadows are “real”. For my daughter’s part, I have a sneaking suspicion she may become one of the few who demand the show change somehow, that the script get flipped and the shadows be replaced with the substance that they currently lack.
All I can say is, You go girl.