Conversations with My Future Daughter

Hello,

It’s me. Your mom. At the time I’m writing this letter, I’m 26. I am awesome. You are not born (or even possible) yet, so I can spend all my money and time on myself. It’s a wonderful life. I assume by the time you’re old enough to read this letter, I will have fallen into the category of Lame Mom. It’s okay. I thought my mom was awful until I got old enough to know better.

The fact is, this is a message I never want to have to give my daughter. I want to live in a world where this is not an issue. Where the only thing you have to worry about if you drink too much is the inevitable hangover. (And sorry, kid, but if you got my genes, you get hangovers. And they are a bitch.) I want to live in a world where if something happens to you, it is not your fault. Where if someone commits a crime, we blame the criminal, not the victim. And hopefully, by the time you’re around, we will live in that world.

But I don’t.

In the world I live in, rape happens. God, I hate that word. I hate that one day I may have a daughter and that word may become a part of her vocabulary. I’m 26, you don’t exist, and I can’t breathe at the mere possibility of it. And the sad fact is, all too often, when a woman is raped in the world I live in, it is her fault. Her fault for wearing a skirt that is too short. Her fault for doing that last shot of tequila. Her fault for being out too late. Her fault for walking home in the dark. Her fault for being fourteen and hanging out with eighteen-year-olds. Her fault.

That’s what they would have us, and one day, you, believe.

They would have us believe that by covering our knees, we can control the impulses of people who want to hurt us. They would have us believe that rape only happens to drunk girls.

It’s not true. We can’t stop people who want to do bad things.

And here is where I’m torn, (unborn) child of mine, because I want you to stay safe. I want you to know that I will always come for you. And I want you to understand that having your wits about you at all times will keep you safer more often than not. I want you to just spend your last twenty bucks on taking a cab home. I will send you more money. I want you to never leave a girlfriend behind — tell her she’s coming home with you. Give her space on your couch and a glass of water. I want you to wear whatever you damn well please, but be aware that people are going to look down your shirt and think it’s an invitation.  It’s the world I live in, and I suspect you will live in this same world one day, too.

But if something happens, it’s not your fault. You did NOTHING wrong. You are not the gatekeeper to anyone else’s behavior. The harm done to you has nothing to do with what you drank, what you wore, or where you walked. There are people in this world with evil intentions. Avoid them, but don’t stop living.

And always wake me up when you get home.

Love,

Your Mom

**This letter”is part of a series of letters that I have written to people I have never, and may never, meet.

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amandamarieg

Amandamarieg is a lawyer who does not work as a lawyer. She once wrote up a plan to take over the world and turned it in as a paper for a college course. She only received an A-, because she forgot that she would need tech geeks to pull off her scheme.

7 thoughts on “Conversations with My Future Daughter”

  1. I’m not a parent, and I can’t pretend I know what that experience is like. But, one of the most difficult things about watching my young cousins grow up is knowing that I can’t protect them from the world in the ways that I’d like. I can do my part to arm them with the knowledge and confidence I think they’ll need and have their back whenever I can. This touched on so many of those fears, especially with regards to the young women and girls in my family.

    In my Tribe, as in many Tribes, we abide by what is called the “seventh generation” vision. When we make decisions, we make them while keeping in mind what kind of world we want to leave for not only the next generation but the next seven generations. That is what motivates me to push back against rape culture and other injustices.

    Thanks for sharing your letter.

  2. Oh gosh. Talking about rape is something I’m finding difficult to contemplate talking to Juniper Junior about. We’re open about so many very difficult/horrible things, but when it comes to rape, progressing from “someone did something very bad and hurt someone else very badly” to the – for want of better phrasing – “specifics” of rape seems almost impossible to imagine discussing. But we will. I know we will. Given Juniper Junior is only six, we certainly have time for that conversation to progress at a natural pace, at least.

    1. I can’t imagine having this conversation with a child without allowing muskeg to cross into victim-blaming language. I find myself torn here, because on the one hand, bad people do bad things and they’re not the victims fault, BY ANY MEANS. But, if I had a child, I would be begging her to protect herself as much as she could all the time, and I think that conversation is a real balancing act.

      1. From all our other discussions with Juniper Junior, I think two of the most important things are to use age appropriate language and to be led by them. I don’t think it has to be all or nothing – child or adult – conversation. I think it’s a conversation that can grow and I can easily imagine there wouldn’t be some aspects of rape being discussed until Juniper Junior was consierably older (ie when he was a teen) but there is a lot we can work on. It just breaks my heart a ltitle to think it’s something we need to talk about. It’s definitely a balancing act.

      2. I’m working with this on my daughter, too. She has seen things in her short life that I need to reframe for her and it is so difficult. Right now I’m still working this out, and here’s what I’ve got:

        1. We do our best to protect ourselves from bad guys.
        2. We can’t always do that. Sometimes bad guys do bad things.
        3. When bad guys do bad things, it is ALWAYS their fault.

        Then I ask some questions about whose fault it is when a bad guy steals from your backpack if you leave your backpack on the playground, if you have it next to you, if you ask the bad guy to hold your backpack so you can tie your shoe, and so on. The answer is always, “It’s the bad guy’s fault.” I do this regularly, and I hope it takes.

        (BTW, the kids are non-native English speakers and the term “bad guys” is a cartoonish term they are most comfortable with. When I’ve tested out “bad people” on them, it freaks them out — I mean, terrifies them. However, I try to make it clear that bad guys aren’t necessarily male.)

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