Parenting My Girl

When I was 12 I was walking home from the school bus. I don't remember a lot about that day except for this one thing. I was crossing where the parking lot of the local strip mall joined onto the street. An older beat-up truck with two older guys were waiting as I crossed. Their windows were down, I could smell the cigarettes they were smoking. I could also hear their conversation. 

"Don't hit that one, she'll put a dent in your hood." 

Then the laughter. I knew that these two grown men were commenting and judging my 12-year-old body. I was the only person around. The immediate shame I felt was overwhelming. I have always been heavy, always super conscious of the space I take. To my adolescent mind, these "adults" were underlining my own fears that because of my body size I was somehow unworthy. I wish I could tell you that I had the presence of mind to come back with a witty retort, but I didn't. Instead, I dropped my head further, quickened my pace, and went home. Where I cried. Here it is 30 years later and I can still feel the inklings of that fear and shame in the pit of my stomach. 

Being a woman in this world had always been tricky. There are the little unspoken things that are passed on. Never be alone in a room with a man that you don't trust. When you are walking alone at night keep your keys between your fingers. Try to park under a light or close to the door. Tell people where you are going and when you expect to be back. Go for the eyes and groin.

I am a parent. My son is 17 and my daughter is 14. As my daughter gets older I am starting to notice that no matter how hard I have tried to parent them in the same way it is impossible. They both have to tell us where they are going and with who. I worry more for my daughter though. When my son played sports I never gave a second thought to the people that were watching. When my daughter competes though I survey the crowd. I scan faces and family groups to make sure that there is no one there that shouldn't be. That no one sticks out or is taking pictures where they shouldn't be. She doesn't take transit alone or walk the dog after dark. I wonder if she notices these differences and if so what effect it is having on her. 

Consent is king is something that they both have been taught. At any time the person that they are with can say no. No matter if that is in an intimate setting or otherwise. They can also say no whenever they want to. That includes listening when someone says no, not continuing to push to get what you want at the other person's expense.

To some that say "not all men", I know that not all men are predators. I would imagine that most men would be surprised to hear how unsafe and scared women are when they are out alone. I am not blaming all men, but I am asking all men to be aware of each other's actions. If you know someone that is crossing a line, say something. If you notice a female friend is nervous about someone or a situation ask what you can do to help. They will out for you as well. 


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