Updated: Jul 3, 2019
Over the course of 2 weeks I read a newspaper article and a Facebook post where 2 different people were referring to someone's daughter as "trouble" and neither of the comments sat right with me. In fact, they bother me.
The newspaper article was about a local Marine who was the first female Marine to graduate from an extremely difficult program. I saw the headline and shared the story to my timeline before I even read the article. And just as I expected, the article was incredible. Her story was so motivating to me. One part, however, stood out to me and as much as I tried to ignore it, it bothered me. Her father was mentioned in the article and he said some wonderful things but one comment he made lingered in the back of my mind. He said his daughter is "very tough and very beautiful--a father's worst nightmare!"
I'm sure many people will read over that without thinking twice. I actually read over sentences like that many times in the past and didn't think much about it. But as this topic was brought to my attention in some of the classes I took in college during my time earning my minor in Women's and Gender Studies, I can't ignore comments like this anymore. It is confusing to young women to hear people saying that their beauty or talents cause trouble.
The second time I heard this type of remark in the past 2 weeks was a comment left on a Facebook post. A father posted a picture of his daughter with the caption mentioning how quickly she is growing up. The first comment on the post said, "She's SO fabulous and you're in so much trouble."
I have said this 100 times and I will continue to say it forever: Language is SO important. As a little girl, I remember my dad talking to a neighbor who was walking. I was nearby shooting hoops in our driveway and I remember hearing him ask my dad how old I was and then saying, "oh, she's gonna be trouble for you!" I remember feeling uncomfortable hearing that, but didn't even exactly understand what he was referring to.
Why? Why are women in SO much trouble for growing up? Why are women in trouble for being tough? Why are women in trouble for being beautiful? I never once heard someone refer to one of my brothers as "trouble" because they were aging. In fact, I never once heard someone look at a male and tell their parent that they are in trouble because of the way they look or their strength. In fact it has always been the exact opposite. They are encouraged and admired for these traits.
The way someone looks is "scary" because of the way others are reacting to it. Is this because men ARE the trouble that adults are referring to? If so, instead of instilling fear in women, why don't we starting teaching men respect? Using language like this teaches girls that their existence causes trouble and it teaches boys that their existence defines trouble. Are people referring to your daughter's independence as scary because they are afraid of how men will react to her independence? Do we realize what we are teaching young women AND men by referring to young girls as trouble? You are saying that women need to be ashamed or fearful of their talents and boys? Well they'll just be boys, right?
People will shrug this off as being sensitive and that these are just words but words create society. What we read, see, and experience create a culture. This is why words are so valuable. We can change the world to be more mindful if we can craft our language differently. We shouldn't be normalizing shaming women. Stop teaching women to box themselves up into a safe space. This language teaches women to be quiet and behave in the corner while men flourish. We need to teach women to take risks, open businesses, run for that political position that means something to them.
I often hear men say that they don't understand why women have such low self-esteems and lack of confidence. THIS is why. Dialogue like this teaches girls from a young age that they need to choose the "safe" options.
Dads: your daughters don't need protected as much as you think they do, they need you to lift them up and set them free. Teach them to use their voice to change the world, not to shut their mouth and let the world bury them. We can't change what has happened in the past but we can learn from it and make every generation better than the last.
Start small. Think about the things that come out of your mouth. Towards men or women. Really think about what you're saying. It's never too late to be better and that's the gift of life.