I am trying to raise my girls to respect themselves. I believe girls should be afforded the same opportunities as boys, and don’t believe they should have to adjust, change or pretend anything to have those opportunities.
I think I’ve had a very blessed life. Like our parents before us, my husband and I do everything we can to make sure our kids have a better life. And I’m not talking material things. While my kids have way more toys than I ever did. This is about their insides.
I felt that I was able to talk to my parents about anything, and for the most part we were a pretty open and honest family. My parents taught me to stand up for myself, work for what I want and never give up.
But there were things I didn’t say. Moments in time that I felt something I couldn’t put my finger on, and while I may not have been able to articulate it, I also knew I couldn’t say anything about it.
I remember once being at a cottage with my parents and some friends. I was about 12 years old. We spent the day in the lake and were hanging out, when my dad needed to go to the local hardware store for something. I threw on my shorts over my bathing suit and went with him.
When we got out of the car, I remember walking past a van with some men, probably my dad’s age. And this has the makings of bad movie, I remember exactly how I felt as I walked past them. Not because they were men in a van, but because I can remember exactly how they looked at me.
Being pretty well developed my 12, I was probably already wearing a C or D sized bra. I was wearing a full piece blue swimsuit and a pair of blue cotton shorts and running shoes. But I instantly wished I wore a tee shirt over my bathing suit. I could feel their eyes staring at me all the way into the store.
My dad found whatever it was he needed right away in the store, and I remember pretending that I was interested in looking at other stuff, just to stay in the store a bit longer. I didn’t want those men to still be there when we went back out. I remember my dad telling me to hurry up, and to be honest I remember wanting to cry.
But I couldn’t tell him what I felt. Not because he wouldn’t listen, but I was afraid he would have gone up to them to tell them off. Or fight them?!
Those men weren’t there when we left, and we went back to the cottage to enjoy the rest of our time. But that moment changed me.
It was the moment that I realized that my body, which I was still trying to get used to myself, garnered attention. I didn’t know how to process that, and I didn’t know what to do with it. I did know that it was a feeling that stayed with me for a very long time and really shaped part of the way I felt about my body.
This moment, this feeling I had when I was younger, is something I hope my girls will never have to deal with. But the reality is, that isn’t the world we live in.
Yes, I know boys that have been raised to respect girls – respect people. But these boys are part of the minority. I think that the reality is that our society isn’t there yet. The onus is still on the girl to adjust her behaviour, monitor her clothing, be aware of her surroundings
The public hearing of Senator Kavanagh in the US, and the public reaction following his appointment to Supreme Court Justice even after all the allegations and investigations makes me sick. The reactions and attitude towards the victims afterwards shows me the world isn’t ready to change.
So how do I raise my girls in this world? When there are thoughts and opinions that women shouldn’t wear sexy things that could lead a man on?
I think the reality is that we have to raise our girls to keep their eyes open, but we also have to teach boys to be respectful too.
It is our responsibility as parents to teach our kids – boys and girls, to be respectful. We have to start living that and be decent human beings all around. Support those who need supporting. Stand up for those who need your voice. Fight for those who need you.
Teach our kids that their self-worth is not wrapped up in their physical appearance. And that a complete stranger, in a van doesn’t have the right to make you feel self-conscious.
That they should stick together. Speak out when something doesn’t feel right. Listen to their intuition. Push back. Stand up. Be strong.
This is how I will be raising my girls.