Pay It Backward (Lessons For Our Daughters)
*Disclaimer* I try to make a habit of staying off of soap boxes because soap is a slippery substance and one can easily fall off the box. However, this has been weighing on me of late and I just felt the need to ‘go there’. This post will reveal a bit of my southern conservatism; for which I am unapologetic. You may not agree with everything I say, but if you have daughters, granddaughters, nieces, etc.; at least please try to hear my heart.
As many of you know, I have a second job with an event company. Part of that job includes working various concerts. This can be fun (depending on the artist), but as I found out recently, it can also open my eyes. A few weeks ago I worked an event featuring a male singer at a small venue attended by a late teen/early twenties crowd; mostly female. (I am being vague by intent.) I understand that each generation tells the previous generation that they just do not ‘get’ their choice in music. And in this case, that is correct; because I absolutely did not get it. But it wasn’t the music that disturbed me. It was the message.
When the doors opened, the floor at the front of the stage quickly filled with beautiful young women. Young women that I am sure were bright and talented and smart; with dreams and goals and probably the support of a wonderful family. They were happy and surrounded by their friends. Yes, in my opinion, many of them were dressed in outfits that a few years ago would only be worn behind closed doors, but then again, I am a dinosaur. But that is not what bothered me. What bothered me was what happened next.
After the fairly calm and harmless opening act was finished, the headlining guy came on stage and immediately commenced with singing (and I use the term loosely) the vilest string of lyrics I believe I have ever heard. I did not understand a lot of what he said, but what I could decipher was all manner of crude words and actions that he personally directed at those beautiful young women in the audience. And to my amazement, they raised their hands and cheered him on; accepting his flood of insults and degradation. The only thing I could ask myself; why?? Because if a man walking down the street were to stop and say those exact things, those girls would be devastated, indignant and possibly even report it as a disgusting verbal assault. Yet, they paid $30 each, or more, to listen to it put in music form. It hurt me to watch. And this is my response to that experience…..Lessons For Our Daughters.
The definition of class is displaying excellence, grace and poise. Let’s teach our young ladies to be classy. This is not to be confused with haughty and vain. It is my wish for every woman out there, regardless of age, to be self-confident and believe in her worth. To present herself; both in dress and demeanor that demonstrates to the world that she values herself and her place in the world. That she does not have to conform or concede to melt into the crowd. Teach them to shine as individuals. Remind them that while manipulation is within their grasp, it is beneath their dignity. Encourage them to pursue quality and caliber.
First and foremost, they should always respect themselves. There isn’t a one size fits all definition of ‘self-respect’. Part of being an individual and believing in yourself is recognizing your own personal level of acceptance. We need to teach our young women to have pride and ownership of their values and beliefs and understand there may be times when they will have to stand alone in their convictions.
A close second in respect is for the common sisterhood. “Mean Girls” is at an all-time high. As women, we can be more damaging to each other than men ever think about being. At some point in time, we decided to pit ourselves against the very ones who understand us the most; other women. We all share the same struggles, fears, desires and triumphs. Because of cultural or other influences, we may display or communicate them differently, but peel back the layers and we are pretty much all the same little girls playing dress up with our friends and dreaming about our future. Let’s teach, and show; our girls to be kind and accepting of others. To respect the challenges of someone who looks different or comes from another background. To understand that the dearest people in life that will stand with us through the storm and in the fire will oftentimes be our girlfriends. Treat them as precious gifts; because they are.
I truly believe this is the most important lesson; because it combines the first two characteristics and forms the foundation for how we, as women, take on life.
Women have fought for decades for freedom and equality. And I am a firm supporter of both. However, as we applaud our victories and explain them to our daughters; we would be remiss if we did not also explain this... With freedom comes responsibility. The ability to make our own choices and affect our own destiny brings the weight of the consequences of those decisions. Having freedom does not bring a license to become careless.
For example…Yes, we have the freedom to do what we want with our bodies. After all, they are our bodies. There are many who affirm the right of women to explore and stretch their sexual boundaries. And I am never one to judge another’s path. However, we need to have honest discussions about the cost of those explorations and the difficulties of re-defining boundaries once crossed. Just because something is ‘ok’ to do; doesn’t mean it is advisable to do. Teach your ladies to use wisdom and vision before making decisions of any kind; sexual or not.
Also as women, we have been given the most amazing and wondrous gift of ushering brand new life into this world. This is not a gift we should treat lightly or with disregard. As mature, and hopefully, wise women, we should strongly advise our girls on the importance of good judgment. Regardless of individual beliefs; these decisions will have a lasting impact. Talk about them before the emotional distress of a reality is involved.
Here is another example of freedom that I have always found interesting. There have been studies conducted on individuals released from prison after serving long sentences. A certain percentage of them will actually commit another crime with the express purpose of returning to prison. Why? They couldn’t handle their freedom. In prison, they were told what and when to do absolutely everything. They carried no burden for their decisions. It was easier to have their life led than to lead their life.
Now I am not suggesting that we, as women, should live in a prison or have someone else lead us. NOT AT ALL. I am, however, re-emphasizing that one cannot separate freedom from responsibility.
Do I have all the answers? Not by a long shot. Did I teach all these lessons to my own daughters? Well, I did try, but trust me, I struggled with good decisions myself. (I am super proud of my daughters, even if I made mistakes along the way.)
One more thing and then I’ll push the soap box back under the table. This message isn’t just for women. I know there are many men out there who are raising daughters too. And I applaud and am so proud of you for doing so. Having some of these conversations with your daughters will never be the easiest part of your day, but they are important and far reaching. As fathers, you will impact the way your daughters view men and their place in a man’s life. Model the kind of man you want your daughter to be attracted to. Teach her to be the kind of woman you yourself would respect and admire.
As a society, we should all strive to engrave these truths into the hearts, souls and minds of all our young women. Never believe you are not reaching them if you are teaching them; because you are.
My goal today is met if just one girl is told that she is beautiful, priceless, rare and worth more than she could ever imagine.
Hope With Abandon