I’ve been thinking a lot this week about what it means to grow up as a girl. Countless Twitter friends have shared painful stories about their experiences of being sexually assaulted or harassed as part of the #YesAllWomen hashtag that started after the horrible shooting deaths in California.
So many women I know have stories from their past of things done without consent, about guilt or confusion or shame felt at being the object of someone’s sexual interest when they were far too young to have to deal with that, about having grown up with messages that said that preventing sexual assault was their job (don’t wear that, don’t drink too much, don’t walk alone at night).
Many of the women posting are mothers now and I imagine that they have some of the same thoughts that I do: how do I keep her safe?
I worry about my sons too, of course, and am making damn sure that I am raising people who understand about consent and private places and about not kissing or hugging the girls in your class unless they say yes first.
But I look at my daughter, my fearless, free, fierce girl, and sometimes it makes me ache when I think of her having to grow up in a cultural that is, excuse my language here but let’s be honest and precise, so deeply fucked up to women sometimes. I worry about her hitting puberty as early as I did and having to deal with the attention that brings. I think about the 16 year old boy who French kissed me when I was 12 years old and had no idea what I was doing. I think about the boy in 8th shop class who used to feel me up during class while I stood there silently, embarrassed but also maybe hopeful this meant he liked me enough to be my boyfriend (spoiler alert: he did not). I think about being at my Christian college and hearing, again and again, that as a women your job is to be modest, to not tempt the boys, to help them have self-control.
It took me years to feel like I had a voice, that I had agency over my body and my sexuality. I don’t want my girl to ever feel that way, but I don’t know if things are getting better or worse.