Monday, January 20, 2014

selling our daughters at the Super Bowl


And now, for those who care--which would definitely not include me--we know the participants for Superbowl 2014. I won't be watching. The Bears are not playing. Although my three-year stint living in Seattle does at least give me a team to root for. 

Its advent reminds me of a conversation I heard almost a year ago while watching my daughter in gymnastics. I doubt much will have changed this year. But one can hope.

Interesting conversation among parents at the gym aren't unusual. Eaversdropping, especially for a writer, is almost required. Not surprisingly, the talk that week spun around the Superbowl halftime show. I mean, what else do people have to talk about on a snowy Monday night for 2 1/2 hours while waiting for our daughters to finish learning forward rolls and back handsprings and hurtling themselves at immoveable objects?

The ladies were noncommittal. “So, what’d you think of Beyonce?” 
“Well, you know . . . she sure can dance.” 
“Yeah.”
“But it was kind of . . . I don’t know. What did you think?”
"Uh huh. Lots of people weren't too happy."

Then one of the dads jumped in. “I thought it was great. I didn’t have a problem with it. Loved that dancing. But hey, I’m a guy. So, it’s just OK with me, you know?” 

The moms smiled, shrugged, and went back to watching the window. I couldn’t gauge their opinion.  

Meanwhile, his daughter performed cartwheels out on the gym floor just past that pane of glass. My daughter was there, too, learning giants on the uneven bars, a skill she had feared and now loved. I put my daughters in this sport partly because I knew, in a world that would attack their body image cruelly, gymnastics would teach them that those bodies were strong and capable. 

I wanted to ask. I really did. So, random guy, if your daughter out there started performing Beyonce’s dance moves instead of flips, would it be just OK with you? If she came home and informed you she had a new role model that no longer involved Olympic medals but gyrating lady parts in Victoria’s best secret, would that be just OK with you? 

I’m sorry--I didn’t quite hear your answer.

I’m guessing not. But if not, the message you’re communicating to her on Sunday staring at the TV isn’t matching up with the one you’re paying big bucks for on Monday. And I hate to tell you this, but little girls and big girls alike don’t have a hard time figuring out which message will get them adoration faster.

“But hey, I’m a guy.” Said like it’s some kind of an excuse for having a lesser moral compass than the average not-guy. Which is, if you ask me, a giant insult to guys everywhere who do seem to know the difference between their brains and their other body parts. 

Still, why does it matter? It’s just a show, just an opinion. It doesn’t mean anything.

Unless it does. The US Attorney General estimates that over 10,000 women and girls are forcibly brought to the Superbowl each year to be sold, up to fifty times a day, for the pleasure of “guys.” Some of them are twelve years old. About the age of this guy’s daughter. 

While Beyonce sells sex on the field, pimps sell it in the shadows. We create a difference in our minds, to make us feel better about enjoying the show, but there is no difference to those girls. As long as we’re “just OK” with a culture that teaches our girls their bodies have a market value and our boys that girls are available solely for their pleasure, we’ll continue to be OK with selling children and women. And for some reason, we never seem to connect that with our daughters on the other side of that window, whom we believe aren’t touched by it. 

This kind of in-human trafficking, using women and young girls like disposable sex toys, won’t stop as long as guys are just OK with “being guys.” 

The enslavement of women and girls around the globe will not end as long as guys are just OK with “being guys.” 

The chances of your daughter being sexually, physically, and/or verbally abused will continue to escalate as long as guys are just OK with “being guys.” 

Yes, women can and should play a huge part in ending this. But ultimately, it’s men who must step up and not hide behind “being guys.” It’s men who have to say, “That could be my daughter, wife, sister. It’s not just OK.” It’s men who need to stop being guys and start being men. 

And in the meantime, sir, do you happen to have a son at this gym, too? If so, keep him away from my kid. She’s been taught that her body is strong and capable. I’d hate to see him get hurt.

2 comments:

Peter Younghusband said...

Jill, I applaud and thank you for saying this. I totally agree and I have two daughters, 22 and 19 years and I have tried to help them see exactly what you have said in this blog post and also in the other post you wrote, Modesty, the Bible, and Brazilian Soccer Players.

Thank you so much for this, I will pass these two onto my daughters for reinforcement. It will be good for them to see this being reinforced not just from a Dad point of view but a woman's too. My wife has also reinforced the exact same thing as well.

I just wish there were more men to take up this mantle.

Regards

Jill Richardson said...

Thank you, Peter. It makes all my work (and negative comments) worth it if I feel some young women are helped navigate these issues. Good work, to both you and your wife.