One the hardest things for a parent to do is to speak to their child of the evils of the world. It’s far harder to send them out into it, knowing that at some point, they will be witness or subject to some form of discrimination or violence.
Unfortunately, we can’t shelter our children forever — the best we can do is give them the tools they need to survive. For our daughters in particular, this means providing them with theweapons they need to battle everyday sexism and societal inherent violence. Here are four ways you can do just that.
Against Street Harassment
It’s not a pretty thought, but the odds are your daughter will experience some form of street harassment in her lifetime. According to a survey from Stop Street Harassment, 65% of all women have experienced street harassment. Unwanted whistling, leering, sexist, homophobic or transphobic slurs, persistent requests for her name, number or destination after she’s said no, sexual comments and demands, following, flashing, public masturbation, groping — these are the things many young women face every day when simply going about their business.
Teach your daughter to stand up to street harassers using one or more of the following tactics:
- Take a moment or two to assess safety. Every situation is different, and above all, your daughter must take care of herself first. If your she feels her life is in danger, tell her to call 911 immediately.
- If she feels safe enough to do so, she can respond to the harassers calmly, assertively, and without insults or personal attacks. Tell her to let them know that their actions are unwelcome, unacceptable, and wrong.
- If she’s too scared to speak, she can hand the harasser an informational flyer about harassment.
- If the harassers work for an company she can identify, have her call or email the company to let them know that their employees are harassing people on the job. Most businesses will take this very seriously.
- She can also reporting the harasser to a police officer. This guide includes harassment laws for all 50 states.
Microaggressions are the casual degradation of any socially marginalized group, such as racial minorities, women, poor people, disabled people and sexual minorities. Microaggressions are particularly tricky to deal with as they are deeply entrenched in our culture and society. Good people can and do engage in microaggressions — including the people we love. When your daughter is faced with microaggressions, it might be difficult for her to know what to say — especially when it comes from the mouth of someone she cares about. Here are some some suggestions you can give her for what to do when sexist microaggressions pop up in her conversations.
- She can resent another way of viewing the situation by saying “That’s not always right.” It can be very helpful to explain why a given statement is not altogether true or factual.
- She can also challenge the validity of the microaggression by saying “That’s not my experience, and it’s not the experience of many other people.”
- She can express her disagreement with the statement of, “That’s not right.” She can give explanation if she wants to, or end the conversation there.
Here’s a list of examples of microaggressions you can share and discuss with your daughter.
Against Domestic Violence
Dating has evolved through the years. With each new generation, new dating habits and expectations are formed. Unfortunately, one thing that hasn’t change is domestic violence — and teens are just as much at risk as adults. In 2013, a CDC survey found that approximately 10% of high school students had been physically victimized by a dating partner. Worse yet, 1 in 3 female homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner.
Lack of awareness is easily the biggest factor in teen dating violence is as teenagers don’t automatically know what is considered normal and healthy versus what is unhealthy and dangerous. The best way to encourage your daughter to speak up if she’s in abusive relationship is to be proactive. Talk to her about safe boundaries, respect in dating, and age appropriate dating habits. Explain that violence and abuse does not just happen to weak people — and that it should never be tolerated in any relationship, at any time. Let her know that home is a safe place, and that you will always be there to help — no matter what.
Over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year, leading to depression, anxiety, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and decreased academic achievement. These children need help — and you can teach your daughter to be far more than a bystander. It can be scary for a teen witnessing bullying to do something about it. She may fear being bullied herself or being seen as a snitch. However, ignoring the bullying only reinforces the abuse of power by supporting the bully. Tell her it’s important to speak out. There are a few different ways she can do so:
- When she sees bullying, she should blatantly state that she doesn’t think bullying is entertaining or funny.
- Offer a way for the person being bullied to leave the scene by saying they are needed by a specific teacher.
- She should tell a trusted adult in person or leave them a note.
- If she’s already spoken to an adult and nothing has happened, she can reach out to a family member and ask if they will help.
- She can can help someone who’s been bullied by simply being nice to them at another time. Being friendly can go a long way toward letting them know that they’re not alone.
The world isn’t always a nice place, but it can be if we work on it, bit by bit. Empowering our daughters to stand up for themselves — and others — gives the next generation strong female role models to look up to.
Liz Greene is a writer and former preschool teacher from Boise, Idaho. She’s a lover of all things geek and is happiest when cuddling with her dogs and catching up on the latest Marvel movies. You can follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene