Smack in the sprint of my busy season, I’m a little too overwhelmed to be posting updates, so I’ll add this nacho-fueled rant I posted to Facebook last week, which went mini-viral. This contains updates since the original post.
Cussing below. I usually avoid cussing with my business stuff, but you know what? This warrants cussing.
Last week, a local family-oriented blogger posted an animated gif on Facebook. It was a loop of a small child* throwing gobs of cash out a window, with some insipid, tired caption like “What it’s like to raise girls!”
It was meant to inspire solidarity and laughter. She was just looking for a way to make people laugh. “I’m a mom just like you! Daughters! Amirite?”
I’m not laughing.
So I un-liked the group, and was going to move on with my important evening plans (post-bedtime nachos), when I realized that there were 730 more families who were going to scroll past this insidious BS.
Whether they laughed or had my reaction of “WTF AM I LOOKING AT,” no one had commented to point out how damaging jokes like this were.
And then I remembered who I want to be – who I want my sons to be raised by, and how I want them to speak up when crap like this takes place. I remembered that if I don’t speak up – then who will?
We are not doing this
And I want this place – my company, my blog, my Facebook feed, my corner of the internet, to be a place where, when I say something stupid, harmful, or belittling, I want to know. I don’t want the people who like and support me to scroll past something awful I say and remain silent. I don’t want you to ignore it. I want you to call me out. I WANT YOU TO SPEAK UP. I have and will make mistakes, and I need your help to learn better.
So instead of quietly un-liking the group and scrolling past. I spoke up. I said “NO.” I said “No, we are not doing this.”
I’m not laughing at the expense of the blogger’s daughters, or of the daughters throughout my community and throughout the world. I’m not laughing about the fact that we SHOW little girls that the best way to gain power and influence is to be beautiful and wear cute dresses and then belittle them and sigh when they ask for dance classes and slim-fit jeans and lip-plumping makeup.
Emphasis on SHOW. They are with us at the grocery store, where beautiful celebrities are on every magazine cover. They are with us in the car when radio hosts get hung up on Hillary Clinton’s wardrobe. They are on the sofa with us when we watch sitcoms with curiously beautiful woman married to regular-looking men. They are with us at the mall when we shop for outfits we can work in, while still remaining professional (re: attractive). They are with us at the hair salon where we spend hundreds of dollars to polish our nails and color our hair. They share our bathrooms, full of hair products, makeup, potions and ointments.
We can TELL them that beauty doesn’t matter – but it does. Women who don’t take pains to keep up appearances are judged and punished in our culture. Our daughters are not stupid. They can see what is going on. Telling them to be ambiguously ‘strong’ or ‘independent’ is all bullshit when we’re simultaneously showing them what the world values in women while simultaneously bemoaning their requests to obtain it.
Sparkles and princesses and American Girl dolls are signifiers of power and wealth. In this country, those without power and wealth are trampled. All our girls want to do is avoid being trampled.
WHY THE HELL ARE WE STILL MAKING JOKES ABOUT THIS?
I’m not laughing about the fact that this post was positioned less than an inch from a headline about Brock Turner’s dumbass father and his shockingly informative letter – providing a glimpse into what kind of mentality it takes to raise a rapist. We live in a world where a man can casually reference his son’s rape of a helpless human being as ‘20 minutes of action.’
The Dad Turner’s of the world are raising sons to view women as toys without agency in a culture where men are entitled to do as they like with us. We live in a culture where 6 months of prison and a lack of appetite is too harsh a punishment for violating a woman’s right to feel safe in her own body for the rest of her life.
The ‘Daughters! Amiright?’ parenting jokes are raising our daughters to understand that they MUST FIT IN but to stop asking for the things they need to do so. We are squeezing the life out of our daughters. We are showing little girls what matters, and then rolling our eyes when they ask for it.
What they value matters
We need to stop it. Just STOP IT. We need to stop seeding ideas of feminine worthlessness in our daughters AND in our sons. We need to show our little girls that what they value matters and we need to teach our sons that what little girls value matters.
Yes it sucks that beauty and body image matters in our society – let’s CHANGE that. Let’s WORK HARD ON IT. But meanwhile, while we work on that, let’s also support our daughters and not make jokes at their expense.
And if what I say – ever – doesn’t sit right with you, or adds a subtle damage to the world we’re working so hard to improve, put down the nachos and GODDAMMIT, SPEAK UP.
Because if you won’t speak up – then who will?
Gratitude for those who spoke up
After posting this on Facebook, the vast majority of the people who commented and shared it were just as riled up as I was and happy to see it addressed. A few dissenters kind of missed the point, but that’s what happens when you put something out into the world – whatever. The important part is that they spoke up when they felt strongly about this topic – whether with or against me, and making this visible and opening a dialogue is the only way we can move forward.
Some felt I was attacking the people who shared it. I get that knee-jerk reaction, and I can understand how it feels like an attack. I don’t mean it as an attack. I wish I could be more eloquent in stating how this insidious practice has soaked into our public consciousness, how it’s become so normal, and so invisible that it seeps into the very idea of what we find humorous or OK to laugh about. The people who share this, who laugh at this kind of thing – I am not trying to shame them.
I got all itchy and needed to speak up so we can stop mindlessly clicking and making jokes and LOOK at what we are doing. We need to pause before we click ‘share’ and think – Is this actually funny? Why? Who does this benefit, and who might this harm?
Wouldn’t it have been just as funny if it had been about ALL kids – both boys and girls? Why did this have to be specifically about our daughters?
Either way – thank you for speaking up. Because it’s good to know that I’m not alone. It’s good to hear commentary that will cause me to self-reflect and second-guess something that might harm someone else.
It’s also good to address how insidious this problem is.
A minority of commenters chimed in with “You’re being too sensitive.”
And of course as a woman, I’ve been raised to stay quiet, to stay small, to not cause a fuss and above all things – not to sound like a complaining nag. So my first thought was ‘Oh dear – someone recognized that I am a fussy cartoon liberal. I just outed myself.’
Well of course I am! I’m a hard-core uber-liberal mixed racial-minority autistic mother with the kind of privileged life and resources to notice this sort of thing and the power to do something about it. What exactly do I have to be ashamed of?
Why do fail to rant while people support an organization that treats autism as a disease and funds anti-vaccination reports? (That’s right, FRAPPE-YOU, Autism Speaks). Why do I hide in shame after my partner’s friend says condescendingly, ‘Yes ma’am’ every single time I fail to bite my tongue?
It’s because we are told not to stay quiet. It’s because we are raised to stay small. It’s because we’ve been raised – every single woman – to know that what we value and what we have to say is frivolous and stupid.
If not us, then who?
It is literally my job to find the thematic stories and snags in our culture, the inequalities and blips that tell us what is coming next. If we don’t stay sensitive to the seeds of bigotry, the subversive ways that we foster stereotyping and bull-shittery then who the strawberry frappe will?
As a parent, as a woman, as a racial and neurological minority, of course I’m sensitive to the daily/hourly injustices. Dude, you don’t have enough ears to hear me get over-sensitive.
Do we have the right to turn down our noses at the parents who raise sons to devalue our daughters if we’re doing the same thing?
“If we want to live in a world where women feel heard, respected and admired, then why shouldn’t it start with us offering that to one another?”
– Ashley L. Founder of Lift
*Here’s your smug brain-explosion of firey injustice – the gif was stolen from a 30’s film of George ‘Spanky’ MacFarland. I’ll let you choose your own surface to face-plant as an animation of a little boy has been cherry picked to joke about girls. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. Imma go bang my head on the wall over there. Later.