Dear Men of the Internet,
Stop calling my daughter a slut.
A few weeks ago I wrote a blog entitled “Stop Talking About My Daughter’s Butt” as a letter to the “Boys of the World” kindly requesting that they stop trying to give my daughter body image issues by commenting on, among other things, her butt. ForEveryMom.com picked it up, but you probably read it over the weekend because when the Independent Journal Review picked it up and re-published it, it went viral.
You also had a lot to say about it. So, let’s talk. You go first.
“This will change nothing and help no one”
Maybe! But let’s give it a shot anyway. Can’t hurt to try.
“…As a man and used to be boy this Dad knows full well that at one time his life he probably did and said some of the same things these boys he talks about says and does… maybe you should go out and buy her clothes that’s a little too big so these boys you talk can’t see what your little girl’s body looks like. Remember the old saying Dad boys will be boys.”
First of all, me trying to buy my daughter clothes is a non-starter. I don’t even know her size.
Second of all, I’ve always hated the phrase “Boys will be boys.” It’s simply not true. When I was a boy, I didn’t make inappropriate comments towards girls about their bodies. I just didn’t do it. And if I didn’t do it and other boys didn’t do it (trust me, I wasn’t alone), then this isn’t a boys-will-be-boys situation. It’s a misogynistic-jerkfaces-will-be-misogynistic-jerkfaces situation. It’s a learned behavior.
The cool thing is that a Misogynistic Jerkface can change and become something else. He can stop saying stupid stuff and become a man.
“Wonderful, another whiner that doesn’t like something that someone did… Tell her to get over it… Where is the picture of this girl? Is there something wrong or is there something right?”
I humbly submit I wasn’t whining. A lot of you also accused me of being offended. Honestly, I don’t really get offended. Taking offense is a waste of time. I identified a problem and suggested that it should be corrected. Isn’t that a good thing? It’s certainly not whining.
Wait, I just read that back… are you saying you want to see a picture of my daughter’s butt?
“Butt, where’s the photo?”
You are asking to see a picture of my daughter’s butt. This is so weird.
“Well? Where’s the picture of her butt?”
Guys! She’s 13! Do you even think about this stuff before you type it?
“I can only imagine she is probably dressing provocatively.”
Why is that? Why is that my daughter dressed provocatively the only thing you can imagine as the reason for the boys’ comments? My wife had a great response to this. Let’s remember together:
“…actually she dresses extremely modestly. What is most concerning is that… people like you suggest it must be her fault this is why we have a rape culture.”
She makes a good point. Why isn’t the automatic go-to when unthinking boys spit out their garbage words, “I can only imagine those boys are rude and haven’t been taught proper respect for the opposite gender”? No, instead the Men of the Internet blame the girl. In the past couple of days, there have been lots of these comments directly blaming my daughter. For something boys did. This happens with nothing else.
“Sorry, officer, I was driving just fine until that cat jumped over that bush. I was so surprised, I swerved into oncoming traffic. Stupid cat, right? C’mon, let’s go find her together and arrest her!”
“We do not have a rape culture, that is a myth.”
Y’know, honestly, I used to think rape culture was a myth, too. Then I posted a blog asking boys to stop talking about my daughter’s butt and you guys showed me I was very, very wrong.* It was like Nessie held a press conference only to tell us she’s not real.
Look, I still hate the term “rape culture.” It’s incendiary and off-putting (but then, so is rape). I keep thinking there’s got to be a better term for it, but it is a real thing–it’s this idea that how we talk about women has real consequences. Here’s one, partial definition:
In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm . . .
In other words, violence against women starts with stuff like “Boys will be boys.” When you normalize inappropriate behavior as inevitable, you create an environment where people aren’t as responsible for that behavior–and that leads to more bad behavior. If a Junior High boy feels bold enough to cuss at my daughter and comment on her butt, if he isn’t stopped and corrected, where does that lead? Maybe he’ll grow out of it, but maybe that’s the beginning of a path that leads to rape. No one wakes up one day and says, “I think I will rape today.” But a violent disposition towards women starts somewhere. It starts with a dismissive and unsympathetic attitude towards women’s feeling and experiences that places the responsibility for bad behavior towards women on the women themselves.
Did that sound convoluted? That’s because it is.
“…Girls wear very little during the summer, use profane language…have sex/drug parties. It’s no wonder young boys think it’s perfectly alright to appraise a girls butt and anything else.”
I love the world that’s being painted here. So, basically, the Earth would be full of virtuous, righteous boys if it weren’t for the sexy, decadent girls making it so hard to not talk about their butts?
Look, do I think girls should dress modestly and that the sexualization of even the youngest girls is a problem? Of course I do! Do I think that absolves boys of bad behavior? No. That’s like saying my little brother took my toy away so I had to hit him. That’s baby reasoning.
Men of the Internet, your logic is that of a toddler.
“So, you never looked at a girls butt? Tell your slut daughter not to wear clothing that accentuates her butt whether it is a good one or a bad one. Out of sight is out of mind to a hormone raging boy.”
So much to unpack here. Let’s break out the numbers.
- I have looked at girls’ butts. You got me. I’m a heterosexual male and attraction leads me to appreciate the female form. However, I do make an effort to control my thoughts. In controlling my thoughts, I control my actions and, amazingly, I manage to not tell women what I think of their butts. I know, I know. It’s like, what? How do I do it? I’m a freakin’ unicorn, that’s how. (Except I’m not. I just respect women, like so many other guys who would never think of calling a woman a “slut.” Speaking of which…)
- Straight up, you owe my daughter an apology. You don’t call any woman a slut. You don’t do it. It’s matter of respect. Men of the Internet, you messed up today. Big time.
- No girl who works so hard to find shorts that extend to her knees can ever be accused of wearing clothing that accentuates her butt. You have no idea who you’re talking about. You have no idea what my wife and I have taught our daughter.
- I’ll grant you that immodest clothing makes it difficult to keep thoughts pure, but out of sight is not out of mind. A hormone raging boy has a pretty good imagination.
I want to thank you, Men of the Internet. You’ve really opened my eyes. Rape culture is a real thing. Not a great name, but a real thing.
You’re so willing to give the boys the benefit of the doubt that you’ll characterize my modestly dressed daughter as “provocative” and a “slut” with zero evidence. Literally, all you knew about her from what I wrote was that she’s 13 and she told me what some boys said about her body. All you know about the boys is that they made some inappropriate remarks. How are they the automatic good guys in this scenario?
Do you get it? Do you see that the way women dress is not what this is about? It’s about how men choose to treat women, full stop. Women don’t make men treat them badly. That’s so asinine.
I think all this defending of the boys and all this demonizing and shaming of my daughter and girls in general comes down to this: you recognize yourselves and you feel attacked. Who are the boys who said these things to my daughter going to grow up to be? They’re going to grow up to be you. I’m talking about you and you don’t like it.
So, you strike back. And who’s your target? Why, the girls of course. That’s who you know to blame.
The anger boggles my mind.Why is the idea that we place more value on the feelings of our girls than the whims of boys with big mouths so offensive to you? What is it about what I’m saying that you’re really so upset about? I’m not a Progressive or a Social Justice Warrior or anything else you accused me of this past weekend. I’m a conservative Mormon dad who was raised with no sisters in a house where gun control was the devil’s program designed to take away our freedoms.
“This should stop something which has been going on since the dawn of time.”
You say this has been going on forever and it will never stop. Well, I think you’re probably right. As long as the perpetrators of this behavior–you–do nothing to teach your sons better, it will keep going.
But that doesn’t mean I’m wasting my time with these letters. Just because you’re not listening, doesn’t mean no one is listening. I’ve heard from a couple people already who were inspired to sit down with their sons to have a heart-to-heart and I’m told it went well. That’s some kids right there, changed.
Men of the Internet, I would like to humbly suggest that a heart-to-heart with your sons is what is needed. Even an immodestly dressed young woman is still, completely and thoroughly, a daughter of God. She has His love. She deserves your respect. If you’re not teaching your sons about these things, chances are, to one degree or another, she’s not getting that respect.
Whatever you decide to do, can you at least do this much for me?
Stop calling my daughter a slut.
Because that word is just the worst. Seriously.
Some Girl’s Dad
*Well done! You’ve probably given some Women’s Studies major just what she needed to complete her thesis.