To my smart, confident, beautiful daughter –
Please know that men may call you a dog or a piece of ass or disgusting or a pig. They may assume that you are irrational because you menstruate. Men may tell you that you are too ugly to be worthy of sexual harassment. Or, they may think that you are beautiful and feel completely entitled to act on that attraction without your consent. I want you to know that all of this is OK. No, really. As long as the men who are doing it appoint the appropriate judges to sit on the bench and make the stock market look impressive for a bit, you need to let them do or say whatever they want. All of this is OK if the men who are objectifying your body parts are making other men cheer and feel more masculine as they do it. You may find other women applauding these men and defending them when they call you a fat cow or tell you that you cannot be beautiful because your breasts are small. Maybe you just need to be more like these women. Stop being so sensitive and politically correct. Men will be men, after all. As women, we shouldn't try to change that. And, if in a couple of years you overhear your high school boyfriend tell the guy at the next locker that he grabbed you by the pu**y last night and he does whatever he wants to you, just smile and say something like, “Oh, you silly boys and your locker room talk.”
You may be questioning my words right now. I get it. But I’m trying to help. You are twelve years old and that is old enough for grown men to make inappropriate comments about how sexy you are and how they want to date you, so I’m just making sure you are prepared. You need to know lots of people think this is just fine. Or, at least, they aren’t saying otherwise.
To my sensitive, introspective, kind son –
Please know that respect of women is optional if you wish to obtain the highest levels of power in the world. The worst and most demeaning thoughts that quickly pass through your brain regarding the women around you? You should say them out loud. Trust me. It will be fine. You are supposed to talk about women’s breasts and their asses. You are supposed to see them as objects for your amusement. If you want to touch a girl because you think she looks pretty, go ahead. It’s normal. If a guy tries to tell you otherwise, he isn’t a real man. He doesn’t get it. If you think a woman is smart or talented or she asks you a question you don’t understand or she criticizes you, go back to looking at her body and point out something you don’t like. That’s the best response. Second best response? Call her crazy or a loser. And, I don’t know if you ever will serve in the military. If you don’t, I want you to know that it’s OK to make fun of your friends if they get injured by enemy combatants. If they were good soldiers, they could have avoided that. Tell them that. Also, please know you should be a bully. You should call other people names because lots of people will cheer for you when you do that and that will make you feel really good. In another decade, you will be a fully grown white man. You may look around and get really upset because the demographics and resulting power structure that kept you at the top of the pyramid for generations are shifting and that makes you scared and then angry. Embrace that anger. Use it to make decisions about who will be your friends and how you treat people. Surround yourself with others who scream and shake their fists in affirmation when you belittle people who are different than you.
You may be questioning my words right now. After all, you are being raised by a strong, smart woman. But I now realize that I’ve been doing you no favors. You are nine years old and that is old enough to know that you are better than me because you are a man and that just how society intended it to be. You need to start walking with more cockiness. You cannot ever say you are wrong. You need to default to being insulting to mask when you are wrong or simply have no idea what you are talking about. People will think this is just fine. Or, at least, they aren’t saying otherwise.
To both of my children –
When I was your age, I watched both our national leaders and my neighbors disagree on issues. But, they still were nice to each other. They looked at pictures of each other’s kids and went out to dinner together and agreed that we all want what is best for the country. Things have changed. If someone has a different opinion than you on healthcare or taxes or the military or gay marriage or abortion or education or repaving a road or whether or not you should be allowed to kneel during the national anthem or what the state flower should be, please know that person is definitely wrong. Do not bother to learn why that person holds a certain position. Do not read or watch any news that may help you better understand that person’s perspective. That’s a waste of time and can make things confusing. Thoughtful communication is not important and takes too much time and patience.
Please know that I love you both very much. Good luck. Oh, and ignore everything you read before this paragraph. Instead, step out into this world and love fiercely, look for ways to be kind, respect everyone, embrace all your talents and strengths and admit your weaknesses and where you hope to grow. Listen more than you talk. Never demean the person just because you disagree with a position, even when you are really, really tempted to focus on how awful that person can be. Give hugs freely, but only when and to whom you wish. Know that you are special, but no more or less so than any other human you meet. Push against the trend in our country toward isolation and fear and meanness and division and instead be a part of community and reflection and inclusion.