Parenting Blog

Why Raising Strong Girls Is Not Enough

In a vacuum, the notion that we dads and moms and other parties involved in the childhood business will positively impact the world simply by placing more decent, kind, confident, strong, and loving girls into it is a fallacy. A utopian dream. A marketing ploy. A wish upon a star. Raising strong girls is not enough.

Raising strong girls is not enough because a strong girl, even the strongest of mind, body, will, and spirit, can too easily be fractured into a thousand unrecognizable pieces, a glass bottle of glitter shattered on a venetian tile floor, by a physically stronger, drunker, misogynistic boy. We can cobble together and restore some of the sparkle but it’s doomed to be mixed with crumbs, dust, and dirt, no matter how studious we are. A dulling of the shine. A repeal of the magic.

The world isn’t pretty in this way and wishing it were won’t make it so.

It would seem imperative then that we as a nation of dads and moms and parties involved in the childhood business must also, in addition to strengthening the core of our young girls, make a more substantial attempt to soften our boys. Maybe soften isn’t the proper word, not exactly. Does there exist a catchall word for “don’t rape anyone, asshole”? Maybe not. So let’s settle on ‘soften’ for now. One gender gets stronger of mind, body, will and spirit, while the other gets softer, becomes more tender, emotionally connected, and gentle inside and out. We shall then all meet in the middle, in a clearing, and dance. If not dance, at least we might coexist with greater decency than we’ve managed from waaaaaaaaaaay back then until right now today.

Years of good parenting, thoughtful foundation building, and a childhood most beautiful can too easily be haphazardly stripped away with clothes and dreams and hopes and love in a single moment. A bitter squeal of an old tire. A rough tug on an frail arm. A tiny pill in a cold drink. And it doesn’t matter if her favorite color was pink, rainbow, mauve or black. It doesn’t matter if she wore a ‘Girls Rock’ t-shirt or a frilly dress. It doesn’t matter if she made high honors every month or struggled to keep up in math. It doesn’t matter if she built LEGO or played with dolls or both or neither. It doesn’t matter if she traveled the world with her parents or never had the disposable cash to take a proper vacation. It doesn’t matter if she was offered a lacrosse scholarship or spent her days painting landscapes en plein air. It doesn’t matter if she listened to Frances England or Katy Perry or Lorde or The Carpenters or L7 or Sleater-Kinney. None. Of. It. Would. Matter.

None of it would matter if a random boy decided that he wanted something, someone, anyone, to make himself feel a sliver of ecstasy for a split second, to make the pain and hurt and expectations and anger he has carried inside for longer than he can remember, feel a little less permanent.

So casually. He acts and he is gone.

Before the last recoiled staccato slam of a screen door and before the pound of boots fades from the floorboards of a paint-chipped porch and before the coach light is dimmed for the night and moths scramble to find a new dive bar, a girl, who only moments prior saw the promise at the end of a rainbow with twinkling eyes and a heart full of light, is gone too.

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7 Comments

  1. This is a heartbreaking and necessary thing to say, Jeff. I hope this prompts even more voices to join the conversation in saying that efforts to combat rape *must* focus on telling men not to do it, and educating boys from the beginning to consider girls and women in ways that don’t encourage such behavior. Thank you.

  2. Thank you so much, Ryan. You are spot-on, the change agent must be the men, first and foremost.

  3. I am suddenly depressed. I get why so many parents want to shelter their children. But we can’t and can only hope that the choices they make for themselves and the choices that others make for them will not be harmful. Good luck parents.

  4. Pingback: Why Raising Strong Girls Is Not Enough - The Good Men Project

  5. As a parent of three boys it was a daunting task to make sure you were
    raising them right,to be kind and thoughtful and yes soft is a good word,
    but now as a grandparent watching my grandchildren it is downright
    scary seeing what is out in the world.
    Wonderful post Jeff (as always)

  6. Pingback: Why Raising Strong Girls Is Not Enough

  7. Jeff, is it actually a conversation?

    If I say I don’t know any rapists, that boys are not brought up in a rape culture, that rape culture does not exist, that the statistics have been shown to be phony, is that allowable here or will I be called a misogynist and rape apologist?

    Is it actually a conversation, or just a bandwagon and shibboleth?

joc