When my daughter watches the news, she laughs off the ridiculousness of what’s happening in our election. She’s trading memes of a certain candidate’s hair with her friends, and yes, she’s now quite familiar with what a pussy is, and how one might grab someone by it. But inside, I know she is wrestling with what her place in the world is. Does she want to take risks and chase her ambitions when she may only be judged by how hot she is? Will she want to keep being the athletic, headstrong, assertive person she is when she figures out that some men will just want her to sit still and look pretty?

I don’t really want to write a post about politics— because so many people do it better than I ever could, and because this isn’t that kind of blog— but I do want to say that our conversations are tripping me up these days. I am stumbling through answers to her questions about our country, where one woman can be a presidential nominee and another (many others) can be groped without her consent. I’m not sure what to say when she asks why some men are raised to objectify and devalue women, or why a woman would be attacked because her husband had an affair.

I work in an industry that’s predominantly male. There are good apples and bad, and I regularly meet them both. I’ve been told by one TV producer that I’m not young or hot enough to have my own TV show, and I’ve been told by another “social media expert” that my Instagram following would spike if I just showed a little more skin (as if I didn’t know that, thanks!). On the flipside, I know it’s a marketable thing to be a blonde “chick” who talks tech, and I do often leverage my “femaleness” while still being as smart as any guy in the room. It’s a weird line to walk, and while I hope that my daughter’s gender doesn’t factor into whether people think she’s good at her future career, it seems unlikely.

My son, who is normally quiet about world events, is piping up a lot lately. He’s fascinated with gender norms and stereotypes, and the double standards that come with them. He’s insulted at the implication that when men get together, that locker room talk ensues— he doesn’t want to talk about women like that, and doesn’t want to participate in those conversations. We also talk about why some guys feel that, to be cool and impress one another, they should knock women down. We don’t come up with many answers, but I love that the conversation is happening.

Right now, regardless of what side you’re on, the state of our discourse in this country is appalling. We are scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to how we speak to one another, how we judge each other, and how we fear each other. It’s harder than ever now to raise kind, empathic, compassionate, optimistic children— the male and female kind. I know I’m working hard at home to use every outrageous statement, every disingenuous lie… all of it as a teachable moment.

How has the news lately affected your conversations at home? How are your sons and daughters processing what’s going on around them? I’d love to talk about it with you below. 

6 comments on “Daughters”

  1. Hi Carley. Thank you very much for posting this. I have the same worries when it comes to making sure my daughter does not take away the wrong message during this time and from this point on. I definitely don’t have the answers but I am so relieved that these conversations are being held among concerned parents and between these parents and their children. Maybe not having the answers ready to go and shout out loud will be how we can proceed with kindness and empathy rather than feeling judged and in fear of one another, as you so eloquently stated.

    1. Paula— I couldn’t agree more. I think my kids learn a lot when I say, “I don’t exactly know how to make sense of this” or “I need a minute to figure out how to explain this.” It teaches them that vulnerability is okay. Teaches them to hesitate and craft their thoughts instead of blabbing the first thing that comes to their minds. Glad you agree. (Wish some of our politicians would follow that same advice).

  2. Love that you posted this. I feel so lucky my kids are old enough that I don’t feel I need to protect or parse these things for them.

    1. Jan— How old are your kids? Mine are 11 and 15 and although they’re old enough to hear some of this nonsense, it’s still sending such a foul message to them that I feel the need to run interference. But yes, lucky to have older kids who can handle it!

  3. My sixth-grade daughter has heard about Trump, even though we’re Canadian, because there’s just so much outrageous talk. I didn’t really want to talk to her about what sexual abuse is, but there it is, front and centre in the news. One thing I haven’t been hearing about is that it’s not just men assaulting women. It’s whatever gender assaulting whatever other gender, and I told my girl that she was never to do that to anyone. Another thing I’ve been thinking about – the nominees are Trump and Hillary. Last name, like we use for all the important people (eg. Obama), and a first name – informal, lesser, not as important. I’m trying hard to remember that she’s Ms. Clinton, because she deserves that much respect.

    1. I never thought of that before, but it’s so true! I think she’s a bit in the shadow of her husband when it comes to her name, so that’s probably the primary reason, but I think you’re so right on the respect issue.

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