Raising Discerning Daughters (& Sons)


I read a truly inspiring article last night, the kind that had me nodding along with every word because the author was literally saying the exact same things that have run through my mind a million times.  I’m not even sure why I’m writing anything today because I don’t think I can possibly say this any better than this author already has.  But I’m a writer & this is what I do, so I’m going to add a few of my own thoughts too.  Here’s the link to the original article: http://thoughtcatalog.com/jamie-varon/2014/06/10-ways-all-dads-can-raise-strong-daughters/

With Father’s Day around the corner, this topic seems particularly fitting this week.  Disclaimer: the feelings I have toward this topic do NOT imply any ill will towards how I was raised.  Though I hope my kids will not be as naïve as I was because that can be dangerous too, as I read this article last night I actually found myself thinking, “my parents did a great job raising me.”  It’s the society around us that still managed to instill some of these hurtful, negative ideas into my brain, & sadly I see these ideas around me all the time, in both more “traditional,” conservative cultures as well as in more “liberal” cultures.  Some of these ideas have become so ingrained in our heads that we laugh & joke about them & don’t even realize how harmful they are.  For example, how many times have you heard someone say “Oh, man, she’s a beautiful little girl; you’re going to have to lock her up when she’s a teenager”?  Too many times to count, right?  I’ll never forget the first time I heard something like that.  I was so naïve that I didn’t understand the meaning behind the comment.  As I got older, I figured it out & found it incredibly offensive.  I don’t know about the rest of you ladies, but I know that just because I am a woman & therefore the physically weaker sex, I’m not something to be locked up or protected from the “big, bad world of men.”  I’m an intelligent woman who is capable of making my own wise decisions.  And I have been for a long time.

lock up daughters

Here are some radical thoughts.

What if we raised our daughters so that they understood the dangers of the world but also how to fend them off?

What if we taught our daughters to discern the difference between a man who really respects, loves, & cares for them & a man who is just trying to use them?

What if fathers role-modeled this good behavior by treating their daughters’ moms in the way they’d want their daughters to be treated by a man someday?

What if we raised our daughters to be independent & ambitious & set goals for their lives & to value men who do the same?  (Maybe then they wouldn’t date so many losers . . . Crazy, I know.)

What if we raised our daughters in such a way that we could actually TRUST them to make good decisions for themselves instead of constantly worrying that they’ll screw up & need our protection?

What if we taught our daughters to never say yes when they mean no or no when they mean yes?  There is no excuse for bad behavior on the part of a man as far as sexual abuse & rape go, but there is no reason to add confusion to what really should be a very simple issue.

On a similar token, what if we taught our daughters to be assertive in all aspects of life instead of passive little girls waiting for someone to tell them what to do?

In the twenty-first century with relatively easy access to safe & effective birth control, what if we realized that the idea that sex is inherently bad & dangerous for women is truly quite antiquated?

What if we raised our daughters to value themselves as more than sexual objects but also to understand that it is perfectly NORMAL & WONDERFUL for them to have sexual needs & desires?

And this is exactly where the topic gets dicey & why these ideas have not taken hold in our society like they should.  Because deep down our society still believes sex is bad for women & that is the underlying reason for such comments I referenced earlier about “locking up our daughters.”  As Kacey Musgraves so cleverly stated in her song Follow Your Arrow, “If you save yourself for marriage, you’re a bore/If you don’t save yourself for marriage, you’re a whorable person” (seehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQ8xqyoZXCc).  In America we have this strange dichotomy where on the one hand our society throws around highly sexualized images of women in ads & media like it’s nothing.  And on the other hand there is a great underlying current that says that women really aren’t supposed to want or need sex, & if we do, we’re sluts.

follow your arrow 2

Here are some more radical thoughts.  (I’m just full of them today.)

What if we raised our sons to respect women & treat them like the intellectual equals they are?

What if we stopped saying birth control & “safe sex” & rape are “women’s issues” & realized these are actually HUMANITY’S issues because they wouldn’t exist without both genders?

What if we raised our sons to understand that no really does mean no & that having sex with a woman when she truly can’t agree to it is not only wrong & illegal but also disgusting, shameful, & a discredit to their manliness?  (I don’t like the word consent because to me it implies that sex is again inherently bad for women; after all, the only other times we use the word consent are in consenting to a police search, surgery, or something else inherently demeaning, dangerous, or generally unpleasant.)

On a similar token, what if we raised our sons to understand that a real man can find a woman who actually WANTS to have sex with him?  (Maybe then there would be less rape, including date/acquaintance rape.)

What if we taught our sons that being attracted to a girl & being able to respect a girl intellectually are NOT mutually exclusive?  Furthermore, what if we taught our sons that the latter ought to actually be a prerequisite for the former for anything more than a passing whim?

What if we stopped making disparaging comments to our sons such as “Stop being such a pussy!” or “You hit like a girl” as if being female were some horrible lot in life?

What if we raised both our sons & daughters to value each other not so much for their gender but for their shared HUMANITY?  On the inside we’re really all the same.  We all experience the same emotions, the same fears, the same doubts, the same hopes, the same dreams, & the same desire to love & be loved.

father and daughter

I know I’m guilty of over-analyzing things, but I truly believe the way we raise our daughters (& sons) in this country (hell, in this world) needs to change if we ever want to see a decrease in things like rape, sexual violence, teen pregnancy, & general distrust between men & women.  And the next time I hear someone say something that implies that girls need to be sheltered & protected from boys, I might just throw a book across the room.  Just kidding.  But I do hope I’ll have the courage to explain why such ideas are truly so dangerous, not to mention demeaning to women (& to humanity in general, actually).  I know it’s radical but maybe, just maybe, if we raised our children a little differently we could all be so much more than we think we can.  And to my readers, I hope you will have the courage to speak up against these ideas as well.

To end this post I would like to thank my father & all the other fathers out there who have had the courage to raise discerning daughters & sons.  You rock.  We need more of you in this world.

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