I want to begin this post by saying that I am in no way fear-mongering or dramatizing the reality that young girls live in today. There are so many well-adjusted, wonderful people in this world.
That being said, as a parent, there is often that delicate line between reality and danger.
How far down the street should you ride your bike? How young is too young to go to the park with a friend? How soon do I allow her to date?
I remember when my oldest daughter was six years old and I tell her that being a girl is awesome. She has just found out that she is getting a baby sister and she wants to know if we are going to do “girl things” together.
I wonder, what are “girl things?” Eager to avoid the obvious stereotypes, I wonder, what are the things that a young girl needs to know?
First, I tell her that ladies need to work together to be successful. Our bodies are different and so in our lives we have different expectations of ourselves and of others. I don’t tell her that these things can keep her safe, successful, and alive. We call these “girl rules.”
Often these are learned from experiences that myself, her or both of us have had. Sometimes they are silly. Often, they are serious. I’ve listed our rules and experiences below.
Six Weeks Old:
The age of my daughter the first time a man made a blow-job joke about her. She was mouthing a toy.
Girl Rule #1: Mommy will always defend you. We always defend other girls in need.
Four years old:
The first time someone makes an “oo-laa-laa” joke about seeing my daughter’s underwear.
Girl Rule #2 We wear skorts or shorts under our dresses. Do not show the world your panties.
Girl Rule # 3 We do not take our clothes off anywhere but our bedrooms. If someone, anyone, friend, family, teacher — anyone who is not mommy or your doctor — asks you to take your clothes off you get to be mean to that person. As mean as you want. You yell, scream, kick, bite, and let them know it is not okay. Then, you tell mommy. (This is also a “boy rule” for our son.)
Girl Rule #4 The same rules apply for someone who tries to take their clothes off in front of you. This is NOT OKAY.
Six years Old:
The age my daughter is when someone makes a comment about her being “topless.” As if her prepubescent body needed to be covered.
Girl Rule #5 It is not okay for people to make comments on your body or your clothes. If your clothes were too small mommy would tell you. Please tell that person “It is not okay for you to make comments on my clothes or my body.” Say it, and mean it.
10 years old.
A GROWN ASS MAN feels the need to point out, in front of me and my daughter that she is “budding” under her shirt. That is a thing that happens. It is natural. Why the fuck are you pointing it out?
Girl Rule # 6 Your body is changing. It’s scary sometimes but natural. You and I ARE going to talk about it. It’s not weird. You should never be ashamed.
12 years old.
The age I was when my boyfriend asked if he could see my boobs and broke up with me when I said no. “You’re the only one with boobs in our grade though…”
13 years old.
The age I was the first time someone called me a “slut.” I was wearing a tank top in the 90 degree heat in the dead of summer. It was an adult.
Now my oldest is a pre-teen. She is at that delicate stage between girlhood and womanhood. I truly fear teaching my daughters the rules that I was taught as an adult.
Often, these rules are taught in women’s self-defense classes all across the country. Rules I learned from experiences that never should have happened.
If you park driver-side along a curb and it’s dark, climb in through the side closest to the street so you don’t get abducted or mugged or worse.
If you park in a dark lot, have a man walk you to a car. Another woman isn’t necessarily a deterrent.
Be aware of how much you drink and who with. (No matter what happens, if you’re a drunk woman you’re at fault. Even in a court of law.)
Drive yourself to the first date. Don’t be alone in the car with someone you don’t know.
Carry your keys in-between your fingers. Throw your purse in the opposite direction that you’re going to run if you’re attacked. Scream “fire” not “help.”
The list goes on and on. They are rules to my girs, but lessons learned by women for years.
I sit tonight looking at the innocent smile of my four year old. I reflect on these rules and I know my intention isn’t to create fear or mistrust. I want my girls to feel strong and independent. But the line between reality and fear is so, incredibly narrow.