Dear Friends, Family Members, Strangers on the Street, Fellow Parents at Pick-Up and Drop-Off, Cashiers, and Baristas:
We need to talk about my daughter. I would like to start by saying that at the end of the day we love you all (except for you, Debbie. You know what you did). You're very kind and sweet, and my kid and I both enjoy our visits, chats, and interactions with you. But every now and then, you get sort of... well... creepy. You say these weird things about my daughter that I feel fairly certain you would never say to or about her if she were a boy. Things that really have no bearing on her being a girl, really, but you're acting like whatever you're saying is part and parcel to her femaleness. This just will not do.
Look, it's not that you do this often, and I don't think it's ever malicious, but it's a problem. Because there are a lot of you, and you can't all be intentionally awful. And even if you're only saying these things every now and then, over time, the fact that you're all reiterating some version of this sexist trash is going to worm its way into her little head and get stuck there. And that's not what you mean to be doing, is it? I know it's not. You're good people. Baby, it's not you; it's the Patriarchy.
Attached, please find a list of things I would kindly appreciate you never saying to my daughter or anyone else's ever again. Thanks.
"You're So Pretty!" x 1,000,000
I've said time and time again: telling a little girl she's pretty is fine. It's going on and on about it, to the exclusion of everything else that's the problem. When you act as though that's the only thing you value in my kid, that's what she's going to focus on in order to get that sense of approval and validation. I want her to strive to develop other parts of herself too, so how about we try celebrating something other than her appearance?
"No Boyfriends Until You're 35!"
So this is invariably said by male family members and also almost invariably as a joke, but it still creeps me out on a few levels:
- These kinds of jokes always reflect some level of how the person actually feels
- Even suggesting that level of control over a person's body and autonomy is weird
- It perpetuates the idea that sexuality is dirty and it's not
- It suggests to me that you are attempting to protect your daughter from a level of disrespect that you yourself feel towards women
"We're Going To Greet Your Boyfriends With A Shotgun."
Oh. So you're threatening to murder people who dare show an interest in your daughter. OK. Ew. Don't. Not only is murder generally frowned upon, but this suggestion is creepy for all the reasons listed in my last point.
"You'll Forget All About [Beloved Activity] Once The Boys Come Around."
Ah yes. Because once a girl knows that boys might like her, she's going to cease to be an individual, give up her dreams, and spend her days doing her hair and make up so that the boys will like her. Oh, and of course, all girls like boys. Get out of here with that heteronormative, insulting garbage.
"That's Not Ladylike."
If people used "ladylike" to simply describe respectful, appropriate behavior, that would be fine — but they don't. Accusations of not being ladylike are usually hurled at girls who dare not to be dainty, quiet, and demure. Take your ladylike and shove it up your bum...but if you're a woman, be sure to do it delicately. You wouldn't want to be unladylike.
"He Teases You Because He Likes You."
I am going to stop you right there. Stop. Stop telling girls that disrespect/hurt = love. Even if you suspect some little boy is playing stupid games because he's been socialized to behave that way, we should be telling girls to call them out on that crap and demand the courtesy of would-be suitors/boyfriends/grade school crushes.
"Are You Really Going To Let Her Wear That?"
OK, not technically something my daughter is told directly but something I am told about my daughter within her hearing. YES. I'm going to let her wear what she wants. Her body, her choice. I don't care if you think she would look cuter in the dress or leggings with kittens on them. If she wants to wear her brother's old robot t-shirt and jeans I'm going to let her because it is creepy and weird to push our ideas of what we think it means to be a girl on our girls instead of just letting them be themselves. (Besides, my girl looks good in everything anyway.)
"Don't You Want The Pink One?"
Why would she automatically want pink? It's not like female humans are born with a special region in our brains whose sole function is to attract us to pink things. It's a color. Some people like it; some people don't. My daughter's favorite color happens to be red. Quit trying to foist pink on her at every possible turn.
"Boys Will Be Boys."
This kind of blanket excuse for all manner of wrong-minded behavior commonly displayed by men is why we can't have nice things*.
*a culture that isn't still very much laden with systemic validation of rape mentality
I've heard this one when my daughter gets emotional or demanding (aka, "bossy"). Ah, yes. Let's perpetuate the idea that women are irrational, dictatorial creatures and that "female behavior" is to be mocked and looked down upon. Seriously? Seriously?! Do you even hear yourselves? I can't with you people anymore. I'm taking a rocket to the moon and I'm taking my kids with me. Be back never.