Hey Dads, Watch Your Language: Girls Are Not For Sale!

Feb. 4, 2010 Today Senator Scott Brown (R) was confirmed in the Senate…

…And I confirmed not all that much has changed from yesteryear…Especially when girls and women are reduced to chattle despite living in this 21st century supposedly “politically correct” age of conversation.

As a nonpartisan, nonprofit, non-religious-based organization (our only ‘cause’ is the emotional and physical well-being of children and media/marketing’s role in same) I have to say, Senator Brown’s daughters typify the historic humiliation from gaffes aplenty over time; the only thing that makes it newsworthy is the YouTube video capture of the mortification for eternity. (yep, video after the jump)

Our 21st century antics of female objectification harken back to history books of slave auctions, women paraded across planked makeshift stages, and age old farmer and dowry stories where the betrothed would joke about having her ‘teeth checked’ like a horse being swapped for oats and barley. The very fact that I’m interrupting  our ‘girlcott’ series slamming the sexist absurdity of American Apparel’s latest ad campaign prompting girls to “post their backsides for judgment” says things may be getting WORSE not better in this department. Ahem. (Take action here, and visit Hardy Girls Healthy Women’s site for updates!)

Still, I prefer to view Brown’s public auction style blunder as a media literacy opportunity to turn his words into a ‘teaching moment’ for all dads and daughters out there…So listen up, guys.

No, I’m not the PC-police, but powerful words and off-the-cuff remarks can sear themselves into kids’ souls like a branding iron; especially coming directly from ‘role models’ like parents who may never deem to intentionally harm.

Great resources here from The Dad Man, Joe Kelly, co-founder of the acclaimed Dads & Daughters org for over a decade…

Anyway, whether it’s intended as a backwards compliment, verbalized in a wedding toast, or shared in SuperBowl Sunday jest…Please, PLEASE gents… hold your tongues, watch your ‘well-meaning’ words, and engage your grey matter before uttering sexist tripe that can reduce your daughter’s self-worth to an appearance-based ‘object’ of desire.

Gawd knows, we have enough of that in our crass pop culture of ‘bootylicious-hot-mama’ style coarseness, n’est ce pas?

We see this in phrases like ‘trophy wife,’ lewd and lascivious bartalk comments within earshot of attractive ingénues (particularly at Superbowl parties with cheerleader and beer commercial shenanigans; here are some tips from The Dad Man if you’re watching the game with your daughter, guys)

…And the entire notion of upholding daughters on a ‘pillar/pedestal’ during dating years or yammering about ‘when they’re gonna tie the knot.’ (or have kids… insert narrowcast expectation du’ jour)

It can really be quite toxic, making the girl-child feel like she’s ‘nothing’ unless (or until) she ‘gets a man.’ And that kind of pressure can skew decision-making in all aspects of life. (don’t get me started with teen girls and dating violence right now, argh!)

Personal anecdote: (yeah, that’s a sweet 16 shot w/my dear ol’ Dad)

I was a ‘serial monogamist’ with very long term relationships in both high school and college years, so by the time I hit the ‘ripe ol’ age of 28’ I’d been subjected to more than my fair share of my own dad’s friends lobbing verbal grenades like:

“Why doesn’t she get married and commit? Is she ugly or something?”

Or “Whoa. She’s too smart for her own good”

Or misguided projecting of patriarchy ideals in back-handed compliments, like, 

“Wow. You’re so attractive, don’t you want to settle down and have kids?” Ugh.

To this day, I think it’s shaped the person I am and how I walk through this world.

For better or for worse. (see Rachel Simmons’ Curse of the Good Girl interview!)

So now, here’s co-author of So Sexy So Soon, Diane Levin with her post about Senator Brown’s misfire, as she asks some pertinent questions for ALL of us to ponder.

By the way, Jean Kilbourne and Diane Levin have just launched their new blog as of 1-22-10, so check it out pronto!

Here’s my interview with Jean Kilbourne on Shaping Youth too…I tell you, this dynamic duo “saw this coming” loooooong ago…

They pioneered the movement of awareness and critical thinking skills pertaining to media and marketing’s impact on kids. “She-roes” to be sure.

The rest of us are simply taking the baton and running like the wind to reverse some of the collateral damage that’s happening in new media digital nanoseconds…preserved forevermore in a Google search of archival internet gaffes. Like:

The Bigger Meaning of Senator Scott Brown’s “Available” Comments:

by Diane Levin, Ph.D. co-author of So Sexy So Soon

The election of Republican Scott Brown to the US Senate seat vacated by Ted Kennedy made last week a very bad one for Democrats, Obama and a new political agenda.  And appallingly as it turned out, when Brown made his acceptance speech, it also became a very bad week for girls and young women.

During his speech, Brown’s two college-age daughters, Ayla and Ariena, were by his side and dressed to kill.  He introduced them and enthusiastically said, “Yes, they’re both available,” to a huge gale of laughter from the crowd.

What does Brown’s comment tell us about this father’s relationship with his daughters and how he thinks about them?

What does the audience’s response tell us about what has become a normal and acceptable way for men to relate to girls and young women and fathers to daughters?

If this were an isolated, albeit very public, incident, it would be disturbing enough.  But it really reflects a disturbing attitude toward girls that has become increasingly normalized in the new sexualized childhood.

Rather than being valued for what you do and how you behave, girls are judged by whether boys view them as “available” because they look and dress right.

More and more, from a very young age, girls learn that popularity and “success” comes from being attractive and available for boys and men.  And more and more boys and men learn to judge girls and young women based on having the “right” body and wearing the “right” sexy clothes.

Seeing one’s daughter as an available sex object does not bode well for father-daughter relationships or for men’s attitudes toward women and girls in general.  Nor does it bode well for the lessons girls will learn about themselves.

Have you seen men react to young girls this way?

What do you think it meant to the girls?

Did it affect them over time?

What did you do or wish you’d done?

What can we do about these issues now?

Cough. Cough. Um…Point well taken, Diane. Here are some resources below for tips on relationships and a healthier outlook for dads and daughters as the 21st century marches on…Enjoy!

p.s. Love you, Mom AND Dad, see you this weekend! (don’t take this the wrong way, ‘k?)

Related Resources On Shaping Youth

Shaping Youth Via Fatherhood: Joe Kelly On New Media, New Men

Childhood Matters: Shaping Youth’s Fatherhood Resources

Dads & Daughters Bonds Will Grow And Mature Over Time

Dove Ditches Superbowl: Media Tips from Dads & Daughters

Peter Coyote Lends His Voice to Dads & Daughters Video

Dove’s Onslaught: Media Messages Pummel Girls’ Self Esteem

More Fatherhood Picks/Vital Resources:

The Dad Man: Tips for Dads Watching the Superbowl Together

The Dad Man: Dads Can Help Daughters w/Body Image

What Kids Learn From Their Fathers: Family Health Digest

Zero to Three’s Fatherhood Tip Sheet

Great Dad.com

Families and Work Institute: (Fatherhood Project)

National Center on Fathers and Families (U.Penn edu site/policy-programs)

National Fatherhood Initiative (Fatherhood.org)

National Father’s Network (special needs)

Promoting Responsible Fatherhood (U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services)

Responsible Single Fathers (singlefather.org forum here)

Between Fathers And Daughters.com (enriching/rebuilding adult relationships: Linda Neilsen Ed.D)

Visual Credit: Lead Photo: One Angry Girl.net (great resources there too!)


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Comments

  1. This article, and especially your ‘personal anecdote’ above bring back some memories that ring true about the attitude of some men towards women. My wife was looking for a serious relationship at the time and was doing the normal dating progression (as was I). She’s fairly attractive and very intelligent and not afraid to disagree with anyone. With this in mind, she’d turn off a lot of guys. Her neighbor, an old Italian man, would tell her to just smile and keep her mouth shut. I don’t think that he was trying to be degrading but that it just had more to do with his upbringing and background. But the truth is that it reflects the attitudes of some of the men that you present here.
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