“I know that by being here now, in this rarefied, difficult, elitist, beautiful world, I have made my mark on history and ballet. I will forever fight, performing like it’s my last show. And I will love every minute of it.” – Misty Copeland
We live in a world that has me scared to death about raising a daughter. She’s the easy part. The world, on the other hand, makes me want to grab her hand and go running for some underground bunker. I start thinking about all the things that shouldn’t be, but are, and feel sick. This week I read an article in Rolling Stones magazine. Be warned… it’s a horrifyingly graphic account of a young woman’s rape on a college campus about one hour from my house. The same campus I just visited a couple years ago to watch my brother receive his diploma. It really wouldn’t matter where the college was, but this is very close to home for me. It’s the same campus where earlier this fall another young woman went missing. Her body was found a couple months later later. (update: the article linked to has had some doubt cast on it’s accuracy. While I don’t know if this specific story is 100% accurate I do know that things like this do happen.)
The thing is, sexual abuse and sexism in general isn’t just a UVA issue. It isn’t just a college issue either. The objectification of women is a national issue that permeates just about every inch of our culture. It’s a global issue because we live in a world where in some countries women are still convicted of adultery and sentenced to death when they are raped. We live in a world where websites like this exist (pay close attention to #4), and where articles like this get written. We live in a world where an anchorman can wear the exact same suit to work every day for a year and no one notices, but his female co-anchor is criticized for her wardrobe choices regularly. We live in a world where a beautiful young woman walks fully clothed around New York City for a full day and her male friend films her being the subject of constant cat calls, objectifying remarks, and something scarily close to stalking by a strange man. If you read the comments below the video you’ll see that a lot of people still think this is okay.
These women are someone’s daughters. Someone once sang them lullabies and rocked them to sleep. Someone once pushed them in a swing and laughed with them. They were once wide-eyed, tender, curious little lights. And then one day someone saw them as something else… as an object rather than a soul to be honored and protected, and the course of their story changed forever.
This continues to be the world we must raise our daughters in, and I hate it. So I wonder how to change it. I wonder how to make this a safer and better place for my daughter, and I feel helpless. I have to start somewhere and that somewhere is my home. So what does that look like, even now as she’s just two years old?
- We tell her she’s strong and smart and beautiful – inside and out.
- We listen to her when she talks and never dismiss her as “silly.”
- She has control over her own body. Her no means no. At two years old. If we want to go in for a kiss or snuggles and she pushes us away and says, “no kiss.” WE LISTEN. She needs to learn the confidence to express herself now. She needs to know that no one is allowed to touch her without her permission. And one day if, God forbid, someone touches her without her permission she will know without a doubt that it wasn’t her fault. She will understand that her human rights have been violated.
- I watch how I, as her mother, talk about myself. I catch myself before complaining about my appearance or start listing off the things I wish were different about myself. I’m learning to love who God made me to be fully.
- I grow daily in the confidence that my infertility has nothing to do with my womanhood and I embrace all the things that God made me to be. That little girl watches me closely and learns from me. A frightening and honoring prospect.
- We’re working on practicing kindness, compassion, love, and respect all the time to all people.
- We don’t for one second entertain the thought that she is disadvantaged or “less than” because of her physical differences. She’s awesome because she’s awesome. And it doesn’t “make up for” her differences. She’s awesome because she’s awesome, and it’s because of and including her differences.
- As she gets older and can understand more, we will start talking about identity and who she is in Christ. We will talk about the truth of who she is so she can recognize the lies when they come. We will teach her what it means to love her body and respect herself. I want her to know that what other people say or think in no way defines who she is.
- Her Daddy will take her on dates and treat her with respect and honor so that she knows what to expect from a date when she is old enough to begin having them.
- We will read books and watch movies about incredible women from all walks of life. We will teach her the amazingness that is Misty Copeland and women like Jane Austen, Sally Ride, Amelia Earhart, Mia Hamm, and Rosa Parks. We’ll tell her about brave little Ruby Bridges and the courage of Harriet Tubman. We’ll get to watch the grace and stature of Audrey Hepburn and know that she was just as gracious off the screen as she was on. I’ll be able to share with her the passion and love of women like Katie Davis and Mandie Joy. I’ll have the honor of introducing her to friends of mine who are changing the world with their passion, grit, and brilliance.
- We will support her in whatever role she chooses to pursue – whether it’s dancing or biology, art or foreign affairs, baking or aviation, soccer or medicine, CEO or stay at home mom. Because all have worth not because of what she does but because of who she is.
So, as much as I want to keep her safe by my side and in our home forever, I know that I can’t do that. Because I know her value, worth, beauty, and awesomeness, I know that I have to send her out into the world someday. Because she has so much to offer (and teach) the world just by being who she is. And I pray that for the short 18 years that we get her we will have taught her enough for her to go out in confidence and be the six million different kinds of amazing that she is. And her light will shine so bright that it will make other peoples lights shine brighter. And that’s how we brighten this dark world. We start with ourselves, our children, and the people in our home. It is an absolute privilege to raise such a precious and wonderful little girl. The hardest part is knowing that the world might not receive her for who she is. The best part is that she is sweet and mighty. She’s just the type of person who can change the world… even just a corner of it.
* One of my favorite websites for stories and resources to raise my smart, confident, sweet, and courageous girl is A Mighty Girl.