Go on, I’ll wait.
Maybe she is asleep, curled softly against your chest, a little bundle of pink and spice and everything nice. Maybe she’s digging in a sandbox or playing soccer, spinning in a tutu or blowing a trombone. Maybe she’s going out, a skateboard under her arm, or curling her eyelashes on her way to a date. Maybe you’re already poring over college catalogs together, talking about her dreams. Doesn’t matter. Just take a good, long look at her.
Now take her aside. Sit her down. Look her in the eye, and tell her she’s not as deserving as a boy.
Tell her she’s less important.
Tell her that no matter what she does in life, no matter what she is recognized for, what she accomplishes, it will always be diminished because she’s a girl.
Tell her she can’t be trusted to make choices about her own body. Tell her it’s best if she leaves the difficult and complex decisions about who or how or when to plan a family to other people, people who don’t know her or have any insight into her life or personal beliefs. People, who, most of the time, don’t even know what it is like to live in the body of a girl.
Tell her she doesn’t deserve the same attention or opportunity as boys. Tell her that deep down, girls are weaker, that when push comes to shove, they don’t really want to lead, they aren’t capable of commanding.
Tell her you’re always going to hold her to a different standard. Tell her she needs to be twice as good for half the reward.
Loudly explain to your daughter that if she does everything exactly right then maybe, just maybe, things will even out. (Then whisper in her ear that of course they won’t–because she’s always less than).
Tell her you don’t trust her to make decisions about sex. Call her a bitch. Tell her she’d better keep her legs shut or suffer the consequences. Then call her frigid.
Tell her that her life doesn’t matter as much as her brother’s.
List the thousand and one reasons someone might pummel the soft flesh of her body, every single one of which she bears the blame for.
Tell her if she’s raped or beaten, it’s probably because she did something wrong. Tell her she can’t drink too much or drink the wrong drink or wear the wrong clothes, talk to the wrong person, be in the wrong place, go to college, go for a jog, walk alone. Tell her she can’t flirt. Tell her she can’t lead someone on, can’t accept dinner and flowers and expect to simply go home.
Go on, tell her that no doesn’t always mean no, that deep down, she must really want it, she’s just afraid to say it.
Then call her a whore.
Tell her you hate her for no other reason than she’s a girl. Tell her it’s cruel to laugh at or reject someone who’s only trying to impress her. Tell her that a giggle or a refusal is more than enough justification for harm.
Tell her it’s her fault.
Tell her no one will believe her anyway.
Tell her she deserves less money, that she should pay more for goods and services just because they’re made for girls.
Tell her she’s being irrational when she tries to point out the absurdity of wanting to make decisions about her own body.
Tell her she’s being ungrateful when she points out it’s unfair she should earn less, pay more, be locked out.
Tell her it’s her own fault when she points out she shouldn’t have to worry about being raped simply because she had too much to drink or went for a run; that she shouldn’t need to worry about being killed because she fell for the wrong guy.
Would you be comfortable sitting down with your daughters and saying this out loud to them?
Because this is what she hears all the time. This is what we are all shouting at our daughters with our laws and our double standards, our perceptions and expectations, our justice system, our actions.
This is what our girls hear every single day, regardless of whether we are saying it out loud. And unless we work to change it, unless we all start shouting even louder that it isn’t right, unless we start teaching our boys, unless we start changing laws, well….we may as well be saying it right to their faces.