Dear Boys and Men Who Ogle My Daughter,
My teen daughter recently asked me if boys only like her for her looks. This is your fault.
You see, my daughter IS beautiful. And you have noticed. And you make damn sure she knows that you notice.
Nearly every single time that my teenage daughter goes out in public, you accost her with one of the following listed actions — and I have a few things I’d like you to know about how that makes her feel:
* Look her up and down like she’s a buffet table and you are trying to figure out where to start
Guess what, Boys and Men (May I call you BAM?)? In the immortal words of Ms. Janelle Monáe (to whom you really should be listening, BAM), my daughter is not out in public for your “consumption”. She is out in public because she has interests and skills that take her there. She enjoys perusing museums, listening to live music, dancing, running, and feeling the sand on her feet at the beach.
And you are a ridiculous jerk for making her feel like she can’t go put her feet in the sand without being scrutinized. Have you ever felt the sand on your feet? It is the best feeling ever and you are ruining it for her. So STOP!
* Tell her to smile
Guess what? My daughter is not out in public to make you feel good about yourself. Sometimes she is not smiling because she is thinking about how poverty affects children or which presidential candidate she prefers or a squabble she had with a friend. Sometimes she is not smiling because she is in her head practicing one of the three languages she is learning or focussing on everything she sees around her. Sometimes she is not smiling because she’s a normal human being and normal human beings don’t smile 100% of the time. And sometimes, BAM, she is not smiling because she sees you approaching and she is afraid you are going to tell her to smile.
How’s that feel, knowing that the reason my pretty daughter is not smiling is because she’s afraid you are going to pressure her into smiling? Do you feel big? You are ruining smiling for her. So STOP!
Guess what? My teenage daughter is not out in public to find a date or sexual encounter. And if she were, do you really think it would be with you? Do you really think that she would date the guy, especially a grown man, who walks by her and moans an Mmmmmmmmm like he’s having an orgasm right then and there on Main Street? She has goals for her life. She wants to do great things and go exciting places and no good plan for the future begins with a total stranger going Mmmmmmmmm on the street.
You know what, though? You are causing her to question some of her goals. You are making her wonder if maybe she isn’t more than just a piece of meat. When you reduce her body to an Mmmmmmmmm, she wonders if all the hard work she is putting in to be a dancer is a waste of time. She wonders if everyone is going to focus on how when they see her body, they go Mmmmmmmmm instead of how the strong movement of her body captures a musical phrase perfectly or tells a story with exquisite precision.
She wants to do great things and go exciting places and no good plan for the future begins with a total stranger going Mmmmmmmmm on the street.
Your disgusting Mmmmmmmmm (and trust me when I say that is IS disgusting) is causing a child with her life in front of her to question her dreams. So STOP!
* Tell her how beautiful/fine/sexy/lovely/gorgeous/hot she is
Guess what? My daughter doesn’t care what you think of her looks. She really doesn’t. Now, you might be thinking that you are only trying to make her feel good. But that is just poppycock, isn’t it, BAM? If you really wanted to make her feel good, you would find a way to lessen the grip poverty has in the world because, as I mentioned, she really really cares about people who have to live in poverty. You would buy a ticket to one of her dance shows, applaud when everyone else applauds, and then perhaps even offer up a nice compliment of her dancing if you should see her in the lobby. You are an amazing dancer is always nice (The adults in your life should already have taught you that, but I guess I have to teach it to you again).
What you are doing, though, when you ambush her while she is sitting at a cafe with a friend to tell her that she is the most beautiful thing (“Thing”? Really, BAM?) you’ve ever seen is contributing to her rapidly burgeoning belief that all men are creepy, scary, and often a little bit rapey.
Do you really want to be responsible for yet another girl in the world believing that all men are creepy, scary, and often a little bit rapey? No? Then STOP!
Just for you, BAM, just this once, I am going to let you in on when it is appropriate to look my daughter up and down, tell her to smile, whistle/catcall/moan/groan, or tell her what you think of her looks:
NEVER! It’s never okay, BAM.
And I know what you’re thinking: What about if I get to know her and we become friends, maybe even date? What about then?
My answer is simply this: If you, BAM, are a person who needed to read this letter because you didn’t know this information about how to treat girls and women like my daughter, well, BAM, she’s just not going to be that into you. She respects herself too much. So move along and make room in her life for the people who already know not to do all of the above. That’s who is getting my girl’s attention.
Mommy Means It (and I do, BAM! I really do!)