So there was this meme:
Then my daughter did this response:
Now there is this discussion.
My reaction? First thought was: Hells yeah!
But I rarely go with my first reaction. Events, ideas and thoughts simmer in my head. Over and over. That’s a good thing for writers.
As a parent, however, it’s a bit different. My friends will tell you that I sometimes grumble about raising a social activist, as my daughter’s strong sense of social justice and current (vocalized) popular values collide often. It’s tough when you’re viewed as “too young” or “too inexperienced” to be taken seriously. When you want to make positive changes in your community and people think you are just a misguided youth. But, if there’s anything I’ve instilled in my daughter, and all my children, is the value of which the great Horace Mann spoke, “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.” My daughter clearly takes that philosophy seriously and I’m happy to support her in those efforts.
With her response she was lashing out on the sexism she has been enduring — even given she’s just a teenager. This year as she transitions from junior high to high school she’s had time to reflect on the personal experiences that made her jump to respond to that meme. During her junior high years she was one of only two girls that competed for the wrestling team. Her record wasn’t bad — sometimes buoyed by situations like this. However, the amount of what I would term as archaic sexism she ran into was ridiculous. Not from the coaches. They were great. Very supportive. But from fellow wrestlers, competitors, and especially parents — they were the worst. She came close to quitting over it, but persevered (which was a great lesson for someone who declared three years ago she wanted to be a social activist). And this year Washington state has a female wrestler that placed in the high school state tournament. This last year, my daughter became aware of the discrepancies in dress code emphasis between males and females in the school district. Example (although there are several): Girls were not allowed to show their shoulders, but boys could. She processed these differences and asked questions of the administrators and teachers in the school. “It’s a distraction for other students.” Without further input from anyone else she critically determined that this line of thinking was much like the line of thinking that a woman who dresses provocatively is asking to be harassed, or worst raped. “That is so sexist,” she declared one day. “Since when is it my responsibility to dress in a certain way so that some boy doesn’t get distracted. And why is it that such ‘regulations’ aren’t aimed at the boys? Why aren’t the boys brought into an auditorium before graduation and told they need to not wear something low cut or short skirts or high heels…or…the football players told, like the cheerleaders, to not dress like a slut? Huh? What a patriarchy!”
Oh, to have her clear headed thinking and big-picture perspective skills when I was her age.
As she and I, together, watched the responses on the interwebs to her retort meme, the big jokes made from it were amusing in that head-shaking-silliness-to-the-extreme way, but it was made clear that sexism and feminist values were seen as laughable and not important. The fact that the original meme came from a girl was very disheartening, yet very telling about what is wrong with our society, particularly here in the United States.
It also shows that so much of the work that my grandmother’s generation, my mother’s generation, and my generation did for for women’s rights and equality still has a long way to go. Granted the original meme was taken down after my daughter’s response and so many others. So, perhaps the young woman who “joked” about cleavage and boobs and where you should keep them realized the irony? I don’t know. Maybe it was just a manner of not wanting the attention, which is seemingly why she feels flashing cleavage is not for her. To each their own. That’s cool. I served in the military (another place women are still slashing through barriers), in part, because she has that right to feel that way. However, it doesn’t mean that my daughter and me won’t feel differently. Is my cleavage really hurting you? Didn’t think so. Is it a distraction to you? Look the other way. Think about baseball.
I have gotten a little flak (and more probably after this post) for allowing my daughter to touch her *boobs* and post it on the internet, because, you know, having critical thinking skills our founding fathers would be proud of –for which education is all about, and for being a social activist is a bad thing for a parent to allow for their child. Because, you know, thinking apparently is worthy of judgement and soon will be illegal.
Regardless, I’m still a proud mama bear. I stand behind my daughter’s response. I hope and pray that all of this a learning lesson for all — male and female.