The Plagued Parent

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You Go Girl!

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!”

387595Let’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.”

unknownSince 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.

imagesCouser 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

The Takeaway:

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.

Updated: September 27, 2016 — 7:11 am


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  1. This is a fine job of parenting, steering her in the right direction but letting her figure out how screwed up society is on her own.

    1. If it is a fine job then it’s coincidental to sort of following her lead on these issues and taking an interest in what she shares that gets her riled up.

  2. This is wonderful. Your daughter’s attitude gives me hope for my 13 year old daughter. She is also outraged by the things Donald Trump has said about women, but doesn’t know what to do about it. Speaking up and researching how women and girls are treated in society more generally is a good first step.

    1. My daughter’s attitude gives me hope for the future and for her kids. I think that one day she’ll make a great mother to some lucky tykes. Thanks Shari.

  3. Kate at Did That Just Happen Blog

    Mr. T and I have had many discussions on gender inconsistencies. During middle school, he had his ears pierced, and frequently a teacher would walk by and tell him to remove his earrings (surprised at how many were men). He would remove them… and then wait until he was in another room and put then back in. If girls can wear earrings, then boys can, too.
    I love to read that your daughter has caught on, too – I think the more that realize these truths, the more they can impact change!

    1. Yes, she is seeing the Oz behind the curtain. Thankfully once yogurt a glimpse you cannot unsee what has been seen. Thank you Kate.

  4. This is the first time I have wanted Word Press to have a “love” button. And really that is what it is about. Embracing love instead of fear and hate. The messages that we send to each young girl about her body and her strength seem to be to hide. Hide your smarts and your drive and your shoulders. Programs like STEM and girls on the run work to correct this…but it is never enough. Go Hillary.

    1. Here, here! Thank you Anna. We should also be lucky because such programs as you mention do exist rather than the typical patriarchal blindness (and that’s coming from a man).

  5. Unfortunately I think girls at her age are only supposed to be worried about boys, and nail polish! It’s great that you are sharing that she, and other teens can have way more substance than that!

    1. Thankfully, she has found away to worry about boys & nail polish as well as sexism. Go figure!

  6. You must be so proud of your daughter and also proud of yourselves. Obviously your parenting has produced a thoughtful and insightful young woman. Congratulations.

    1. I am proud but do not think myself as being able to take credit. Parenting to me seems a haphazard enterprise that fuels itself on mostly gut instinct and luck. Plan to be a parent and the best of intentions simply falls apart.

  7. Wonderful to see a young person develop into her own person. I’ve been worried about young women today who are distanced from the battles women fought so many years ago for the vote and for equal rights. There are still inequalities of course, and objectification of women by men in all walks of life, whether political candidates or not. Glad she is seeing the inconsistencies. She represents the future of our fair sex.

    1. She really does impress me as I watch her grow. I don’t know if it is because my oldest is out of the house but i find myself really watching this young woman and also marveling at the way she processes and moves through the world.

  8. You go girl is right! Very impressed with her clear head in looking at all the information

    1. She really is a quick study. I don’t know whether to be impressed or afraid that she’s keeping up with current events. She not a baby any longer.

  9. Sounds like you’re #doingitright. You should be proud.

    1. We are proud, but more importantly my daughter should be proud of herself from coming to these things on her own.

  10. Your daughter seems to really get it. The cultural bar that women are held to for their looks, manners, delivery. Bravo. It sounds like she’s learning to question how others perceive and score women. Truly, you go girl!

    1. She does seem to get it. There are struggles, to be sure, but things like this make me hopeful. She’s a great kid.

  11. She sounds very insightful, and I fully agree with her analysis. I do think being a woman has a lot to do with why people are so convinced she is untrustworthy when the evidence does not support that – I think it comes back to the worrying trend for women to just not be believed. What women say, their perceptions of situations, etc are so often simply not accepted as correct.

    1. Unfortunately that is true. Although today (10/6) I heard that Hillary was endorsed by former Homeland Security director Mike Chertoff. He is a Republican and a former prosecutor who went after the Clinton’s in the 90s. He said you need to check your personal biases at the door and basically look at who is the most competent person for the job. Guess that says a lot. This makes me hopeful. Media needs to show more of this type of decision making where gender and any bias gets factored out. There may be hope yet.

  12. When a young person and especially a young woman is smart and observant, there is always a price to pay, still today, and that makes me so sad. Your advice seems spot on. Her thoughts are well articulated and incisive. All that pain is how we grow. She’s growing. I can imagine the young adult she’ll soon be, lovely.

    I don’t have kids but I have a bone to pick with attire. I really do believe that starting in the mid 80s, we began to over-sexualize kids starting with music videos and attire is a big part of that. There’s pervasive lack of respect in schools and I do think that the loosening of dress codes all around was a big part of that. It’s just something I noticed back in the 80s and the way things have gone since it just seems so clear to me. So I’m a fan of dress codes for both genders. I think it’s part of respect for education and kids must learn that.

    1. I agree Carol. Believe me I too and ok with dress codes, but the standards need to be evenly enforced.

    2. I agree Carol. Believe me I too am ok with dress codes, but the standards need to be evenly enforced.

  13. This is so frustrating and insane! When it is all explained like this I cannot believe it, we tend to look away or not point out the unfairness. I wish there was more we can do! My daughter is also very observant of things like this and I am always amazed on her take with it all. I have started the conversation with my sons as well, even though a lot of this is not “their fight” it should become theirs as well.

    1. I know Emily, it makes my wife and I crazy. Especially now in the “time of Trump” when his flagrant disrespect is tossed about like it going out of style. You are dead on involving your boys. It really is everyones fight because we are all affected whether we realize it or not. Thanks for adding to the comments here.

  14. It sounds like your daughter has a good head on her shoulders. It is a testament to you that she is a critical thinker and becoming aware of the role of women in the world.

    1. It kind of surprises me to think that maybe we had something to do with this, only because you never know what gets through. It may not be accurate, but I like to imagine she has come to these thoughts on her own just examining the inconsistencies in the world surrounding her. Either way, I agree that her head seems to sit pretty squarely on those shoulders of hers. Thanks Michele.

  15. What an impressive, well-balanced young WOMAN!

    1. Yes, she is and tough as well. The world better watch out when she’s ready to take it on. Thanks Lee.

  16. I think I rather see a girl’s shoulders than boxers hanging out of a young man’s pants. Your daughter sounds like a very smart young lady.

    1. I agree with you, but I could be biased. Thanks Kim.

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