This election season has stirred up many feelings with one surpassing the others: fear. If Republican candidate Donald Trump’s vulgar comments about forcing himself on women in a leaked 2005 conversation with Billy Bush, claims that he intentionally walked into the changing area during the Miss Teen USA pageant, or his outright bullying of women aren’t enough to persuade voters in his camp to stop supporting him, then what will? What once seemed unfathomable — a Trump presidency — now appears to be a possibility. And it’s terrifying.
If anything his comments, and those of his supporters, serve as a reminder of the state of the world our daughters are growing up in — prompting us to prepare them for potential discrimination and sexism. As parents we try our best to prepare our kids with the proper life skills and people skills — self defense and how to be good people. But with each passing day leading up to the election, and each alarming leaked tape or statement made by Trump, the reality of what I need to be focusing on with my daughters has begun to set in.
1. Your reproduction rights belong to you and only you.
While I cannot instruct my daughters to be pro-choice or pro-life, I can educate them on a woman’s right to choose by explaining Roe v. Wade (despite Trump’s plan to overturn it) and discuss with them what it means to be able to have a choice on whether or not having a baby is the right decision for them.
Nobody should be able to make this decision for a woman. Ultimately, it is a woman’s right to decide for herself. As a parent, all I can do is provide answers to questions, provide a reality check when required, and allow my daughter to live with her decision, even if it was not the one I wanted her to make.
2. Don’t be ashamed of exploring your sexuality.
My daughters could locate their vaginas at a very early age, which required a shift in how I thought about private areas. In society, boys can touch their penises in public and not be shamed for it; however, a girl is taught not to touch her vagina, and if she does, not to talk about it. This backward way of thinking is just not acceptable because essentially we are teaching girls to be ashamed of exploring their bodies and discovering their sexual needs.
What they need to learn is that they set their own guidelines. If they decide to have one sexual partner or 10, that’s their decision. Having sex with multiple people does not mean they are “easy” or “sluts.” It simply means they are satisfying their individual sexual needs and it’s nobody’s business but their own.
3. You decide what you consent to.
Girls need to understand about consent, how to say yes or no and that these words have meaning. I want my daughters to understand that if a man makes an advance on them, that they have every right to say no. Just as they have every right to say yes when deciding whom to sleep with. And, if for some reason they want that person to stop kissing, flirting, having sex with them, our girls have every right to speak up and make that known.
4. You are more than your looks.
Women’s bodies are objectified and sensationalized in the media time and time again, yet we are shamed for showing too much skin because that means we’re slutty, begging for attention, or worse, asking for it. In a Trump-led country where being beautiful determines whether a woman should be fired or allowed to keep her job, it is possible girls will focus more on their looks and less on forming their own opinions as they worry their thoughts and intelligence will be ignored.
Girls need to understand that being smart is beautiful and there is value in intellect. Teach them to value more than looks, which runs counter to Trump’s beliefs.
5. Your body belongs to you.
My husband and I have instilled a rule for our girls about hugging: if it doesn’t feel right, you don’t have to do it. Greeting family members or friends with a hug is not a requirement. This is showing them that their opinions and gut feelings matter to us.
6. Strong women are everywhere.
In a world where a misogynist is praised for his ability to tell it like it is, it may be difficult for our daughters to see the women standing up and advocating for change. Teach them about strong, capable, intelligent women who fight everyday to make the country better for our girls just as others have before them.
A better idea is for parents to lead by example and be the advocate that their girls surely need.