Kids can be schmucks. Teenagers, in particular, have a talent for saying and doing things that adults would never consider reasonable.
When Brock Heasley’s 13-year-old daughters came home and told him quite a few boys were talking about her appearance – particularly her butt – he was not shocked, but was driven to do something.
He posted the following letter on his website:
“To all the Boys of the World:
Stop talking about my daughter’s butt.
When my 13-year-old gets in the car after school and I ask her how her day went, there are certain things I expect to hear. A brief sample:
‘The test was hard.’
‘I got my report card back and I’m not ashamed to show it to you.’
‘I have sooooo much homework. Can we get Slurpees?’
What I don’t expect to hear–what I don’t want to hear is that she got made fun of in first period for her clothing choices and that in second period she got ‘catcalled.’
‘What do you mean ‘catcalled?”I asked her just today. ‘What did they say to you?’
‘They cussed at me,’ she said. ‘Something about my butt.’
‘Was it positive or negative?’ (This doesn’t matter. I asked in the futile hope for a silver lining.)
‘I… I don’t even know. For some reason, people like to talk about my body.’
Make no mistake here, “people” is (mostly*) “boys.” This isn’t the first time something like this has happened as these reports are growing all too familiar. My daughter has heard assorted, sordid opinions on the relative attractiveness of everything from her hair to her knees (yes, knees). And who knows what else. It’s not like talking to her dad about this stuff is the most fun thing in the world. I usually have to drag it out of her.
My wife and I are doing our darndest to raise a daughter with a positive body image. We kind of have to, and we all know why. From magazine covers to Kim Kardashian Instagram photos to pornography (and I realize I may have just written ‘pornography’ three times), it’s almost impossible to not have an unrealistic view of what women should look like.
It’s a lot of work combatting all that garbage–and it’s important we do. We’d rather our daughter not have, say, eating issues or think badly of herself for entirely superficial reasons that don’t have one single, solitary, stupid thing to do with who she is as a person. Boys of the World, would you please stop trying to screw up our efforts?
When you say my daughter’s knees look like ‘baby faces’ (they don’t–and what does that even mean? I guess if you’re an 8th Grade boy it’s a bad thing) or that her butt is too whatever (it isn’t), you’re not only being disrespectful to her (which I know you don’t care about), but you’re messing with her mind. You’re shaping what she thinks of herself–digging at the most obvious, surface level part of herself that she has, for the most part, no control over–and you’re telling her what a woman should REALLY look like.
I guarantee that whatever image you’ve conjured up in your still-developing brain is pretty dang unrealistic. Unattainable, even. And that’s dangerous.
Do you know what a woman should look like? It’s so simple, I’ll tell you in three words:
However. She. Looks.
You, Boys of the World, are not entitled to an opinion on the subject. Not one you can voice, certainly. You don’t get to contaminate my daughter’s mind with your girl-of-the-month ideas. As stupid as those ideas are, they stick around. They infect.
Luckily, my daughter is one of the most self-assured people I’ve ever met. When I asked her if any of these garbage opinions bother her she said, ‘No, not really.’ She’s strong like that.
But I wonder… as she gets older and starts dating and going to dances and living more in the world… I wonder if these comments won’t come back to haunt her. And I wonder about girls who aren’t like her who are dealing with insecurities or struggling with their weight or who don’t have parents working as hard to build them up when others seem to only want to tear them down.
This is such a uniquely feminine problem.
Exactly two comments were made to me about my appearance in high school and I’ve never forgotten them. My daughter gets more than that in one day.
Look, I get it. I was in Junior High and High School once, too. I was obsessed with girls and their bodies. It’s what happens. But I remember also having a healthy fear of girls and a sense that I had to be, y’know, decent towards them. All my friends did. Did something change, or did I run with a gentler crowd?
Either way, who cares? You’re commenting on girls’ bodies and it’s not okay. Any specific comment–good or bad–my advice is to just stay away from all of that. You’re not equipped, Boys of the World. You’ve got no idea how to do it appropriately. You want to know the first time you can actually comment on a girl’s appearance, safely? I’ll tell you. It’s when you pick her up for a date, and here’s what you say:
‘You look nice.’
That’s it. That’s your how-to manual for not being a misogynistic jerkface.
And, just in case you think you’re getting away with it, I’d like you to know I know who you are. You’re the unthinking punk and the meathead jock, sure, but you’re also the boy in my daughter’s Sunday School class who runs with the wrong crowd, and the kid at school who has a crush on her and doesn’t know to express it. You’re the class clown who makes everything into a joke and goes too far. You’re the nice boy who just doesn’t know better.
I invite you to know better. I invite you to value the feelings and long term self worth of one of God’s daughters over the laughter of your friends. There’s no reason you have to continue on like this, Boys of the World. I’ll grant you’re still learning. That’s cool. Consider this a small lesson from me to you:
Stop talking about my daughter’s butt.
Some Girl’s Dad
This is hardly the first time someone has made this observation. A 2011 study showed that nearly 50% of teens reported being sexually harassed in some form while at school – usually by peers. The study’s definition of harassment was somewhat controversial, because of the vagueness: “unwelcome sexual behavior that takes place in person or electronically.”
The study ‘s survey of 1965 public and private school students from around the country showed that 87% of the students who had been harassed reported negative effects such as not wanting to attend school, physical illness due to stress, and even thoughts of self-harm.