My beautiful joy-filled three-year old princess will be a victim of Rape, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, and/or Sexism. As harsh as it sounds, that statement is almost a certainty, and I hope against hope that it is only the latter, and none of the former.
According to +RAINN, one out of every six American women will be the victim of some form of sexual assault, and 80% of them will be under the age of thirty when it happens. More than half of the incidents will never even be reported (http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims).
This breaks my heart in the very worst of ways. As a father I am deeply concerned for the well being of my daughter. As a man I am deeply ashamed of the actions of so many members of my gender. And as a human I am deeply saddened to see so many other people being treated so badly.
Much of this knowledge is nothing new. As a society we’ve known about these issues (even if we tried to ignore them) for decades, if not centuries. Patriarchy, rape culture, sexism, these aren’t new ideas, but since I became a father to a girl I have become so much more acutely aware of them.
This video in particular was brought to my attention by my friend +Annika O’Brien, who shared an original post from +Liz Quilty (https://plus.google.com/u/0/114228869493885222559/posts/TAdq1WhG3fG) This is an excerpt of what Annika had to say in her post about it:
“I gave +Mat Luschek permission to use my static image in a public Hangout one evening over a year ago. Hours later he was apologizing to me for his gender. There were men fighting over him and threatening him if he didn’t respond, believing they were talking to me. He only saw a few hours of what it’s like, but it was a good experiment for him. Women regularly endure this sort of stuff.”
She then went on to say,
“This was shared with me via +Christopher Knorr a man who continuously stops men in my comment section to point out what they are doing and make them look like idiots when they tell me how much they love me and leave their details publicly. If more men stepped up to put these creepers in their place, it would be a better Internet.”
Annika’s description may be focused on her experience online, but the context is an easy parallel for the daily life of the average woman.
THIS is the world into which I am bringing my daughter. A world where her possession of a vagina means that she will be a victim of some form of sexual assault, at worst, or at best that she’ll be subject to a lifetime of a near-constant barrage of belittling and sexist remarks and circumstances.
This is a world where the significant majority of women are having the point forcefully demonstrated that they only worth something to the degree that the desecration of their body, mind, and heart can bring pleasure to another.
This is NOT ok.
I was raised in the same patriarchal heteronormative world as the rest of you. Most all of us guys were brought up with a shared mindset:
“Ogling a woman is normal because it demonstrates our masculinity and sends a clear message about our sexual desire.”
“It is normal to subtly (or not so subtly) touch a woman inappropriately and then play it off as a “joke” because it demonstrates our love of the female form in a way that is less intimidating than rape.”
“Verbally belittling and/or sexually objectifying a woman is normal because she needs a reminder that she doesn’t belong on the same level as men and her “place” is either in the kitchen or the bedroom.”
“Taking sexual advantage of a woman is normal when ‘she put herself in that situation; she was drunk/high/whatever; she wore provocative clothing.'”
Men, I get it. Us guys, we are so very easily aroused by visual stimuli that it borders on ludicrous. The very hint of sexual potential is enough to make our brains behave different than usual, and all of a sudden we become very singularly focused. But the above statements are NOT true. They defy reality, and they are not license to stop acting like decent human beings.
Sexism is hard to deal with. It is so entrenched in our culture that it can be hard to recognize, and fear of how others will view us can keep us from reacting to stop sexism when we do recognize it. I suggest that we need more guys like +Christopher Knorr. We need guys who see sexism and take action to prevent it: online and offline. But more than reacting, we need guys who will proactively base how they treat others not on their gender, but on their humanity.
Try forgetting about her vagina for a second and treating a woman like an actual person first. Maybe if the men of our culture can stop thinking of a woman as merely a place to park their penis then we can be bothered to give her the respect and decency deserved by any fellow human.
I want to show my daughter that her gender is not a limitation or a curse, but just an extension of her humanity; that she can be both beautiful and brainy. That she can love science and shoes. That she is not forced to “settle” for femininity as some kind of second-class status or strive for for some kind of quasi-masculinity to have significance. That her opinions, talents, and ambitions are every bit as critical to the world as any man’s.
I plan to raise my daughter as best I can. I hope to emulate for her what a good man is, while simultaneously showing her that she deserves to be treated well and should not tolerate sexism. I want my daughter to live in a world where she does not have to accept her importance being tied to the size of her breasts, or have to choose between tolerating the roving eyes and hands of random men or being labeled a bitch.
But I need help. If my daughter is ever to live in that kind of world then I need mother and fathers, women and men; like you, to commit to raising your daughters to view themselves as deserving just as much human decency as men, raising your sons to view women as deserving just as much human decency as themselves, and standing up and calling out sexism when you see it. I hope you’ll do that for my daughter, and for all daughters.