Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Conversation at the delagar household

"Mama," the kid asks, "will I be pretty when I grow up?"

Now, see, I have thought about how I will answer 1,001 questions, but somehow this is not one I have ever considered.  Ack.  I have 1/1001th of a second to consider, of course, as well: and what to answer?  Yes, you will be beautiful?  (Oh, great, you've just reinforced the patriarchy!  Now she thinks she has to be beautiful to matter!  Tool!  What kind of mother are you?) Beauty?  What beauty?  You'll be smart! That's much better! (Oh, fine: why not just tell her she's ugly as sin, you harridan!!)

"Of course," I said, with hardly a pause (I hope).  "Why wouldn't you be?  You're beautiful now."

She considered this answer glumly.  "Do you think anyone will ever call me a slut?"

Oh. Ah.  Well.

"Well," I said, sliding down to sit in the white chair with her.  "Maybe, in fact.  But that won't have anything to do with you.  People do that to women to attack them.  It's got nothing to do with what the woman has done, or who she is."

"Did anyone ever call you slut?"

"That and other things, yes."

She gave me a measuring look.  "The C-word?"

(She doesn't know what the C-word is, because I won't tell her, but I have told her it's a really bad word.)

"Among other things, yes.  Listen, I hope it never happens to you.  But people -- men, particularly -- particularly a certain kind of man, who doesn't have much power in the world, likes to harass women, especially women who seem powerless.  That's why this kind of guy goes after young women.  From the time I was about thirteen until I was twenty-nine or thirty, guys like that were always yelling at me from cars, or saying things to me on the street, or coming up to me in malls or in stores, and saying -- things."

"You must have been very pretty," the kid said.

"That really has nothing to do with it," I promised her.  "I was young and I was a woman.  I looked like something they could dominate.  That's all it was.  They want someone they can be more powerful than.  It's nothing but patriarchy in action.  So what do you do if someone like that ever harasses you?"

She made her horrible hissing cat face -- it's very impressive, I have to say.

I laughed.  "Okay, yes.  Or?"

"Or I do Aikido on them.  Or yell," and she yelled, "GO AWAY YOU CREEP I'M ONLY TEN!"

"Excellent," I said.

And I can't tell you, while we're on the subject, how sad it made me that I had to have this discussion with my ten year old daughter.

1 comment:

zelda1 said...

The best thing for her is that she knows that she can have that kind of conversation with you. You, probably like me, never had that kind of connection with an adult; therefore, we suffered in silence through all of that horrible experience of putting up with the partriarchy.