This article Lock Up Your Daughters. written by Melissa on the PigtailPals website http://blog.pigtailpals.com/ is one of a growing number of articles one can find searching through blogs and tweets written by inspiring young feminist mothers trying to bring up their children in a culture riddled with sexism and worrying portrayals about what it means to be a boy or a girl.
This one is unusual because 95 per cent of what I find in my travels through these writings are concerns about the construction of femininity – the princess pinkness, the secondary status, the focus on body size and looks and the sexualisation – and rightly so. But we all know that gender is relational and there is a growing awareness of the ways in which the war and rape culture of hyper-masculinity is increasingly part of the messaging for quite young boys.
In this article Melissa tells the story of being given a black t-shirt with the message ‘Lock-up your daughters’ and a picture of a padlock. She did not use it until one day when all other t-shirt options were exhausted, and she knew she was not leaving the house. She later found herself face to face with another sweet young child wearing this same t-shirt in the supermarket and was hit over the head with the power and horror of the message:
“On someone else’s baby, it was so obvious to me why that shirt had always made me feel uneasy.
It promotes Rape Culture. I stood there horrified I had ever put that on my son. My beautiful son, who loves his mama and his big sis and whom I am trying to raise to be a man like his father: intelligent, kind, caring, respectful, and strong. The shirt sends the message that the boy will be out on the prowl, and your daughters are not safe around him as he looks for prey. Best lock them up. It sends the message that girls are responsible for preventing sexual assault, as opposed to, you know, boys being taught never to rape.
This shirt’s message as: If those girls don’t watch out, the fault is on them. They were fairly warned, their parents were told to lock them up. Don’t keep them under lock and key, they become fair game.
On a physical level, it is making a joke of sexual assault with the “boys will be boys” attitude. That in and of itself, the excusing of rape based on caddish behavior assumed to be natural to boys, is vile. On an emotional level, it is saying your daughter will be manipulated and used, just before the boy moves on to the next girl. What an awful message for both boys and girls to get.”
My questions – to principals, teachers, curriculum writers, education policy officers, regional directors, professional learning leaders and others – who influence what is taught and how, are: as follows.
- How are preschools and schools at all levels supporting the growing number of parents who do not want to stand idly by and let the world of commerce and marketing influence children’s sense of who they are, what can be, and how they understand and relate to each other?
- Will the new Australian National Curriculum give guidance and support for teachers on how to provide students with the knowledge, understanding and skills to interrogate, discuss and co-construct different narratives about being a boy or a girl growing up today?