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.