Daughter Delivery: Discussions With A Teenage Girl About Rape And Objectification

Photo courtesy of GovernmentZA

Photo courtesy of GovernmentZA

By Darlene Vanasco
Last night we had daughter dinner conversation.

Daughter, Philadelphia and I are nearing the end of our pasta fagioli meal. I am not sure how it happens, but somehow the topic of rape comes up.

Daughter says, “Did you know a reporter said (in reference to the rape of a 16 year-old girl): The two boys had such a bright future. Can you believe that? THE TWO BOYS WHO RAPED HER had such a bright future?! They RAPED her!”

Daughter is rightly outraged.

This leads to a discussion on rape. On blaming the victim. On what is considered “appropriate” attire.

And on the whole: She was asking for it as a conceptual flaw.

“Rape as an act of violence and power, not of desire.” she says.

I open my mouth to say something, but daughter is really going. I can hardly get a word in.

Secretly, I feel like clapping: GO DAUGHTER!

She takes a breath and says, “Anyway, I should not have to worry about whether some guy will not be able to control himself if my skirt is short.”

I say, “Ah yes. Having to hide oneself away so as not to entice the males.”

This naturally leads to the discussion of the power of using one’s sexuality to sell:
Records
Movies
Everything else

Philadelphia is asking some provocative questions which I will attempt to paraphrase into one statement here:

“Aren’t the women who use their sexuality to gain power hurting the cause of true equality?”

Ok, mostly I feel like ducking. I think daughter might throw a shoe at him or something. I think about this question: Aren’t the women who use their sexuality to gain power hurting the cause of true equality?

Ugh. I don’t know. Yes. No. Isn’t that what Madonna did essentially? One step forward, two steps back? Or Vice versa?

Photo courtesy of MissChampers

Photo courtesy of MissChampers

I am listening. Daughter feels strongly she should be able to dress as she wants and not have to always consider herself automatically sexualized. I am caught between agreeing with her and the knowledge of the reality of the society we live in, and of the many other societies where women dare not show an ankle.

I tell her, “These things run deep and wide. Power is never given. It is TAKEN. Women are a minority. We do not have the same access as the majority. And so we need to be very mindful about how we gain access to that power as we move ahead.”

She nods.

We talk a long time. When I look at the clock it is  8:30. I think about growing up female. I think about women and access to education and how it was not so long ago really we could not even vote.

Then I think: At the heart of the expression of oppression is fear.

I feel a little sad.

But we ARE making progress. Daughter is sitting here, at this table, with a strong voice, discussing a subject many daughters around the world dare not speak of. Discussing an incident many daughters would have no access to even know about.

I look at her. So beautiful and strong in her opinions and ideas.

And I think: For every female, everywhere, who is struggling for access, keep talking daughter.

Keep talking.

DarleneDarlene is a teacher-mother-designer-writer who is recently transplanted  to Philadelphia from Brooklyn. Her writings on mothering and growing up  female emerged as a sanity-saving device and productive alternative to crying  on the kitchen floor. She can be found at darvana@yahoo.com or you can  read the antidotal stories of insanity, reality and progress on her blog:  violet915.wordpress.com