Posted by: mindyourknitting | February 5, 2010

“That’s my mom!”

Rather than whine about how much work I’m doing on my thesis (and boy can I bellyache about the work and the writing and the time and the torture of pecking out sentence after sentence praying it all makes sense and my advisor loves it and I can eventually finish and stop having this hang over my head for crying out loud), I thought I would refer you to this blog entry  and ask you what you think.   [This is where you should go read it, and then come back because what comes next will make little sense if you don’t.]  I’m curious what you made of it, especially those of you with kids older than mine.  I could giggle about it because my kid’s still a toddler and would probably be oblivious to such things, but it did make me wonder what I would do if my nine-year old came home from school one day and told me that she/he had seen, briefly, video at school of a very naked woman.  Or, heaven forbid, I got a call from someone at her/his school telling me that my kid has seen what was in all likelihood amateur porn made by a fellow student’s parents.  Like I said, I could guffaw about it, but it wasn’t my kid.  Putting aside the obvious inappropriateness of the situation, is it such a big deal for kids to see a flash of boob?  Really?  Are bodies and nudity something we should teach our kids to be ashamed of?  If the kid doesn’t make a big deal of it, should we?  In our household we’re all usually appropriately dressed at appropriate times of the day, lest you think we’re a nest of nudists, but I just can’t get that excited at the idea that a child might at some point get exposed to bare body parts.  It’s biology, and I won’t get started on my rant about calling things by their actual names.  It’s a vagina, for crying out loud.  What is being done with that body is a slightly different matter, but I can think of so many other things to get worked up about than this.  For example…

At this stage my biggest challenge is teaching my daughter how to stack Megablocks (she’s an expert, by the way) and put on her own shoes (still working on that one but she’s determined), but soon enough, and probably sooner than I’d like, I’m going to have to teach her about the S-E-X.  I plan on roping her father into this discussion so that she’s clear on the fact that she can come to both of us to talk about anything, and that it doesn’t have to be a one-time, one-way discussion.  That, once we’ve taught her the mechanics of the S-E-X, she can come back with questions about situations, feelings, or biology, at any time she needs to.  I will somehow figure out a way to put aside my own discomfort at having to explain this to my daughter at an age I will consider far too young to be thinking of such things, because if I don’t explain it to her, the world will undoubtedly misinform her on the subject, and probably do a number on her self-esteem in the process.  And long before we teach her about the S-E-X, I want to teach her that the human body, and in particular her body, a girl’s body, and all the wonderful and strange things it will do throughout her life, is not something to be ashamed of. 

I was flipping through my copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves recently (yeah, I’m a radical feminist, although don’t ask me to use the word “herstory” – gag), and was struck by one observation in it in particular.  A little blurb said that while it is apparently acceptable to objectify women’s bodies and treat woman as sex objects, the biological functions of women’s bodies are often perceived or portrayed as disgusting and gross.  They were talking about menstruation, in particular, but this could apply to pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, menopause, and many more things.  It’s a fine line – teaching a daughter to be proud of her body, but not to be defined by her appearance or buy into the objectification of women as exclusively ornamental or sexual objects.  While most children won’t see porn in the classroom (at least one can hope) there are enough sexual/sexist images in prime time television, on the internet, and even in how people treat each other, to make a parent pause.  Especially the parent of a girl.  This is not to say that parents of boys don’t face their own image-related challenges (a big fat hello to stereotypes of masculinity!), but the self-image thing is so very complicated for girls.  And one of the biggest challenges they will face is how they are treated by the boys and men in their lives, and how the gender roles they see on a daily basis operate. 

I do not have a marriage free of stereotypical gender roles, but I also have a husband who does not consider women to have assigned roles within or without the home.  Our marriage is a partnership, and that is the example my daughter will grow up with.  Her mother has a good deal of education and a good job, contributes financially to the household, and has an equal say in decision-making (but I also do most of the cooking, and Erik mows the lawn and shovels the snow).  This is not the case in every marriage, and I worry about my daughter having to deal with boys who will treat her as “the weaker sex” (that phrase makes me want to vomit), and pigeonhole her based on her sex and more specifically her appearance, whether she grows up to be pretty (which of course she will) or not.   And I can do little to prevent this, other than to educate her and shore up her sense of self and entreat the parents of boys to be cognizant of how their little ones, who will eventually be big boys, then men, treat girls.  I entreat the parents of boys to raise them so that they will become men of character who respect everyone, not just others with penises. 

My daughter will be taught not to accept being disrespected or discounted on the sole basis of her gender.  But she will have to interact with people who have all sorts of backgrounds who have seen and been taught all sorts of things, including boys and girls who have modelled their behaviour on people who think one sex is better than the other, or that women have an “appropriate” role.  I don’t want to discount gender roles entirely – we don’t live in a gender neutral world, and I am as guilty of as anyone of intentionally or unintentionally reinforcing those stereotypes (we’ve fallen into the Disney Princess sinkhole, and its walls are Pepto Bismol pink), but if I can avoid teaching my daughter that she can’t get by on her looks, and she shouldn’t let others make assumptions about her because of the way she looks or the anatomy she possesses, then I think I’ve done a fair job.

In light of what I said above, it’s not exactly reassuring that someone found my blog today by googling “naked girl body photo.”  *sigh*

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