7

“I’m not a princess, I’m a girl!”

Have you seen the new Always ad that’s been circulating around Facebook? It’s actually quite good. Their #LikeAGirl campaign has gone viral, and I believe it’s for good reason. Here’s a link to the ad:

For too long has “like a girl” been exclaimed with negative connotations. “You run like a girl”, “You throw like a girl”, “Stop crying like a girl” are a few common phrases that have become so natural to say and so ingrained in our culture as just another figure of speech that we don’t often stop to think of the negative consequences they create in the young female mind. Since when is doing something like a girl bad? When Florence Nightingale founded modern nursing as we know it, we didn’t say “pfft…she might be a nurse, but she’s a girl so who cares”. When Annie Oakley showed the world her sharpshooter skills, we didn’t say “Yeah whatever. She shoots like a girl”. When Amelia Earhart flew across the Atlantic Ocean, I doubt people said “Yeah, but it doesn’t count cause she’s a girl”. When Rosa Parks stood her ground and refused to give up her seat, we didn’t discredit her bravery and tenacity because of her gender. We didn’t say her efforts weren’t as important because “she’s a girl”.

Why is being a girl something to overcome? Why in this day and age, do we still exacerbate these negative gender stereotypes? It isn’t just men who do it. I’ve heard many female friends, co-workers and acquaintances make excuses for their shortcomings based on gender. “Oops I’m having a blonde girl moment”, or “Uggh I don’t want to go to Biology class. What will I ever need that for? Let’s go get our nails done!”. I’ve even heard someone say “Let him look after the math portion of the project. Us girls might be better suited for the social aspect”. When we discredit ourselves, we open up the door for others to discredit us as well. When we downplay our abilities to look “cute”, we are only doing a disservice to ourselves. We unknowingly give permission for others to play up those stereotypes when we give into them ourselves.

Why would we do that? Why is that okay?

I-AM

I’m not usually one to really like advertisements, but this one I loved. It made both men and women themselves realize what they were doing. It makes you realize that there is a distinct shift, right around the age of puberty where women lose confidence in themselves, their abilities, and their worth. It made women realize that doing things “like a girl” isn’t a bad thing. It can be a truly amazing thing. Women in history have accomplished a great deal through strength, perseverance, confidence and faith in their abilities. There’s a huge list of women I could pull from. I hope that my daughter can emulate one of these courageous, intelligent and tenacious women some day.

This is the main reason I try to not only focus on my daughter’s beauty. While she is indeed beautiful, she is so many other wonderful things. She’s smart as a whip, has a memory that baffles both her father and I, she’s musical, imaginative, and curious about how things work. I’m proud to be marrying a man who when my daughter at age 2.5 asked if she could help Daddy re-assemble our computer, said “Sure sweetie, can you turn that piece right there really tight?” rather than “No sweetie, why don’t you go play with your doll”. She loves pressing buttons and taking things apart and putting them back together. She’s hilarious, stubborn and amazing. None of these qualities are gender specific. None of these qualities make her any more or less of a girl.

I often find myself saying things to her like “do you know how smart you are?” or “look how well you did that! Mommy is so proud of you!”. I’ll also tell her that she looks pretty in her new dress, because I don’t want her growing up feeling negative about her looks, but that isn’t our only focus. Why should it be? She’s so much more than her physical appearance.

Which is why the other day when I said “Oh L, you’re Mommy’s little princess” I couldn’t have been more proud that she stood up, planted her feet, lifted her head up high and said with more confidence than I could ever muster:

“Mommy. I’m not a Princess. I’m a girl!!!!”.

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4

SMU Frosh Week Rape Chant – Why I’m Now Ashamed of my Alma Mater.

Let’s lay it all out. The media may use the term “unconsensual sex”, but let’s call it what it is – rape.

You may now have heard the news of the disgustingly insensitive Frosh week chant at St. Mary’s University that has now gone viral – not in a good way.

In case you haven’t, here is a link to an article explaining how a Frosh week chant effectively condoned and encouraged the underage rape of young girls.

http://www.torontosun.com/2013/09/05/saint-marys-university-frosh-chant-about-underage-sex

It’s hard for me to know where to begin on this other than to say that while I write this I’m quite literally feeling sick to my stomach. I attended St. Mary’s University, and I only participated in about half of the frosh week activities available to us. I don’t remember this cheer being used when I attended (2001), but where I didn’t attend every event, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t used.

The lyrics to the chant are as follows:

“Y- is for your sister

O- is for “Oh so tight”

U- is for underage

N- is for No Consent

G- is for Grab that Ass

SMU boys, we like them young”

The President of the Student Association is claiming that he (and the over 80 student leaders) didn’t notice the message, that it was more about the rhythm and the rhyme of the chant. Pardon me, but presumably they’re intelligent enough to be accepted into University, so I find it hard to believe they’re unable to interpret such a slap-you-in-the-face, overtly sexually violent message. Which leads me to my next concern: We are desensitizing our youth to sexually violent acts.

This is the day and age where a song like Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” can top the charts, without question to his message. The words “I hate these blurred lines, I know you want it”, to me can only be interpreted one way. But when it comes to the topic of sex, there shouldn’t be any blurred lines. Yet lyrics such as these and the video that goes along with it that sexually objectify women are the norm – even most young women these days don’t see how it is devaluing their bodies and their right to sexual human rights.

If you watch the video of the Frosh week chant at SMU, you’ll see that sadly even most of the young women in this video are actively smiling and participating in the chant, seemingly oblivious to the connotations or implications. Either they are so affected by pop-cultures objectification of women’s bodies and the right to say “NO” that they honestly didn’t think twice about the lyrics, or even sadder, are so fearful of being the girl who says “that’s wrong and inappropriate” that they didn’t speak up and stayed cowardly safely camouflaged in the crowd.

These students, however can hardly claim ignorance. All of the student leaders, and the student President himself are at least 2nd year students at SMU. Which means, that they were around last year for yet another viral news story – that of Rehtaeh Parsons. At the age of 15, a local girl went to a party and was gang-raped by a group of young boys while she was intoxicated, vomiting, and clearly unable to give consent. They photographed the assault and distributed it around her High School where she then had to endure taunts and bullying from male and female students alike. After 17 months of inaction by the police department, she committed suicide. It made international news, but sadly the only thing ever pursued was child pornography production and distribution and not rape charges. Why? They claimed not enough evidence. Apparently the photos/videos of her nearly unconscious and vomiting, plus the boys bragging about it were not proof enough.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_of_Rehtaeh_Parsons

This story was viral, and for good reason. It was an injustice to Rehtaeh and to all victims of rape. Rather than teaching young women that these crimes are intolerable, it taught them that their assailants could not only get away with the crime, they could get away with bullying, taunting and haunting her for the rest of her life.

The media uses the term sexual assault. For some reason, the word assault doesn’t carry the same weight as the word rape. This chant is promoting RAPE. It is promoting the violation of a young girl’s body. It is promoting the degradation of a woman and completely making light of her right to say “NO” and to protect herself. With Rehtaeh’s story going viral (especially since it was in the same city that SMU is located), along with the widespread public outcry for changes in the school board for how they handle cyber-bullying and how the police force handles rape allegations, how could not one of these University students have picked up on the insinuations bragging lyrics to their chant? These people are old enough to vote for our country’s leader, but yet they can’t decipher between right and wrong? There are no blurred lines when it comes to rape.

Our daughters are being taught that their bodies are not their own. Their bodies are to be used in cheesy pop-videos and objectified. Their bodies are simply there for male domination, wherever and whenever they please. Their voice does not matter, and even if they have suffered a rape and are brave enough to report it to the authorities, their voice will still not be heard or valued. Our young girls, rather than standing united against rape, are furthering the assault by victim-blaming and bullying. Our young girls are so afraid of becoming a victim themselves, that they’ll do anything not to stand out from the crowd and stand up for what is right.

That speaks loudly as to where our society is headed. We’re regressing. We need to change how our young girls and boys alike are educated on what constitutes rape. We teach them their ABC’s and their 123’s, but it is just as important (if not more so) to teach them right from wrong. To teach them that it is okay to stand up against rape and rape culture. To teach them that our bodies are our own, and nobody has the right to violate the boundaries we set for ourselves. To teach boys and girls alike that when it comes to sex, there are no blurred lines. Rape is rape.

Even more importantly, our justice system needs to show our youth that if they are a victim of such a crime they will be taken seriously and justice will be swiftly and thoroughly pursued. We haven’t done a good job of showing them that recently. There have been too many instances in the media where a victim speaks out, and is then re-victimized and persecuted among their peers until they reach a breaking point. We haven’t shown them justice at work.

Where have we gone wrong?

I only hope my daughter and her peers can grow up to learn differently.

21

What the “Jeopardy debate” says about the standards we hold our children to.

I may get flack for this blog post, but I really don’t care. It is my opinion, and I am sticking to it.

In case you haven’t heard, there is a debate going around the internet about how Jeopardy (Alex Trebek in particular) handled an incorrect answer given by a young 12 year old boy named Thomas Hurley during “Kids Week” on the show. He made it to final Jeopardy, misspelled the answer, and as a result lost what he had wagered, leaving him in second place. I feel it is of particular importance to note that whether they had given him credit or not, he still would not have overcome the winner to attain first place, so it’s not as if this debate could even change the results.

Here is a link to the article from the Globe and Mail:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/the-hot-button/12-year-old-boy-embarrassed-on-jeopardy-after-one-letter-typo/article13608916/

It comes down to a spelling error that cost him a correct answer. Even if he spelled it correctly, he still would have been in second place, with a total of $2000 awarded.

web-jeopardy

The internet is abuzz with people saying that they shouldn’t have let a mistake in spelling cost him his answer, since he obviously knew what the correct response was. People are chastising Alex Trebek, for saying “You misspelled it badly”, saying he was insensitive. People are saying they will never watch the show again, and that Trebek was too hard on him. The young boy himself is quoted as having said “It’s just upsetting to have lost that way. I don’t know why it would have counted as the wrong answer”.

Woah, woah, woah. Hold the phone.

He thinks that’s the reason he lost? Even if they counted it as correct, he wouldn’t have overcome the total of the winner, and would have still landed in second place. His lack of spelling skills is not the reason he is in second place. It is because he didn’t have enough correct answers throughout the entirety of the game to overcome the other player, no matter how much he decided to wager. The kids and teens who are on Jeopardy know how the game works, and are held to the same rules of the game as adult players are. Sadly for young Thomas, an adult who misspelled an answer would be held to the same result.

Secondly, the article is misleading. In its title, it calls the error a typo. Correct me if I’m wrong, but he wasn’t typing. He was writing. A typo occurs when you are typing and a finger mistakenly hits a key that is adjacent to the one you intended to push. It is a mistake in the writing/spelling process of printed material. He was writing by hand, so adding in an extra letter is not a typo. It is perhaps a lack of focus. It could even be put down to nerves. It isn’t, however a typo. In the end, it comes down to the fact that he spelled it wrong. If they allowed everyone who spelled answers incorrectly in final Jeopardy to be awarded for trying, where do you draw the line? If the answer were Bill Clinton, and I wrote Bil Cantin, and I claimed to have obviously meant Bill Clinton, it is unfair to the other contestants who have spelled it correctly.

Am I finished my rant? Hell no.

We are coddling our children in today’s society. Kids these days are growing up with computers, spell check, and grammar check. They don’t have to learn how to spell because a computer tells them how to do it. They are growing up without learning how to write cursive or sign their own name. Teenagers now have handwriting that resembles those in the 2nd grade. For shame.

A famous example of how handwriting skills have deteriorated. Written by Justin Bieber, who is 19 years old.

A famous example of how handwriting skills have deteriorated. Written by Justin Bieber, who is 19 years old. Had I just looked at the printing, and not known who wrote it, I would have assumed it was printed by a student in elementary school.

The thing is, we can’t blame just teachers for this. It falls on the parents, too. Parents who don’t hold their kids accountable for their poor grades. Parents who call up an employer after their child has a job interview to try and “help them secure the position”. Parents who call their children’s University professors to explain that “Sally was busy with basketball and didn’t get to study as much as she should. Could you please reconsider her grade of ‘C’ or give her another chance?”. We are not raising kids who learn to overcome failure and adversity. We are not raising kids who will be self-sufficient and able to take on the world on their own. We are raising kids who feel entitled.

unknauthor_problem-cartoon

We are raising little boys like poor Thomas Hurley, who is obviously an amazingly intelligent kid, but who feels slighted by “the man” because he doesn’t want to be held accountable for his own mistake. And that’s all it was – a mistake. Was it an unfortunate one? Of course it was! Did it severely change the course of the rest of his life. Of course it didn’t. He still got second place and ended up learning an important lesson. Double checking your work is important. His Mom and Dad won’t be able to secure everything for him for the rest of his life. It sucks. It’s embarrassing. It’s life.

Now do I feel that Trebek was slightly harsh by saying that it was badly misspelled? Of course I do. It wasn’t BADLY misspelled. It was one extra letter. It might have been more fitting to say “It’s regrettable that you didn’t double check your spelling. Unfortunately you did spell your answer incorrectly, therefore it cannot be counted as correct”.

Is all of this enough to make me stop watching Jeopardy? No. Life is hard, and the lessons we learn are hard.

Hopefully this boy will eventually look back on this event as simply that – a lesson learned.

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