I read in the news this morning about 16-year-old Taylor Townsend. Townsend
is a rising tennis star who is being compared to Serena Williams, not because of her talent, perseverance, courage and devotion to her sport, but because of her color, stature and “baby fat.” I am not surprised that her age is news (wow!), but why is the color and shape of her remarkably (fantastically!) strong and healthy adolescent body news? Really? Aargh! Ms. Townsend is not an automobile. She is not an airplane. She is not a horse. She is not a wrestler trying to make weight for classification. She is a young, very young, girl who, by the way, is a kick ass, winning athlete.
Being a feminist (an equalitist!), a teacher and a mother of two girls, this kind of news, of course, makes me crazy. In educating my 6- and 10-year-old daughters about their bodies, about sex and about equality as reflected in our current cultural values, it’s this last one – our cultural values – that is the most difficult.
I do not intend this rant to be anything other than that – a rant. I don’t have anything particularly fresh or enlightening to contribute to the equality dialog except to stay to the haters and ill-informed: Knock it Off. Stop talking about how girls look. In particular, stop commenting to girls directly. Please stop telling my amazing daughter, “Gosh – you’re soooo big! You must be the biggest kid in kindergarten! And your feet – Wow! They’re huge!” My girls (and yours) don’t need to be told they’re big, tall, blonde, brown, beautiful or even smart. Please don’t tell them anything about themselves. They’re figuring that out on their own. They will define themselves by themselves. Ha! That’s just a mother’s wishful thinking.
If you’re really curious and want to connect with them, how about you ask them a few questions about something other than their size or hair or outfit? Questions like, “What are you reading right now? What kind of music are you into? Seen any good movies lately? Snowboarder or skier? or even Do you have any pets?” Questions like this will get you some real information about these girls. If you’re not really interested, no sweat – there’s no need to say anything.
Of course, dear visitor, if you’re reading this, this rant is not for you. That’s the real problem with people who don’t think they have equality/racist/or judgment issues – they would never read something like this. Or care.
Thanks for letting me blow off some steam.
And thanks for visiting.