Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Post I Wasn't Going To Post Until My Daughter Unblurred My Lines

I didn’t really want to write about this or talk about it anymore. But sometimes things come up. Sometimes, discussions take a certain turn and I feel the need to navigate my thoughts to a destination. This is one of those times and I’m taking the time to write my feelings.

A few weeks back I made a post on my Facebook page addressing Miley Cyrus’s recent comments regarding her song ‘We Can’t Stop.’ She stated that it was indeed about drug use. The lyrics “everyone in line in the bathroom, trying to get a line in the bathroom” and “dancing with Molly” were indeed about using drugs (probably ecstasy as the reference is normally used). She stated it was time for people to stop viewing her as a child. As in, adults can use drugs, it’s our bodies, lay off. This upset me and I stated drug use was a stupid way to express maturity.

I am a sobriety advocate. Sobriety, for me, is in no way an immature choice. On my page and in my life it is a reoccurring theme. I am fully aware many adults choose otherwise, whether it’s getting high, drunk, tipsy or the many other points in “under the influence”. I know and love many people who use some substance or another to cope, medicate or release tension. But, I advocate sobriety. It could be the next door neighbor, the 8th grader at my daughter’s lunch table, my good friend or even a pop star, but when someone makes a blasé statement about drugs, I respond. It’s kind of my THING. So, after I read her statement, I made my post. While some people agreed, quite a few attacked me for being “judgmental”. Being that every opinion is a judgment and I stand fast to mine, especially when it comes to my “thing”, I let it go and moved on with my day.

A couple of weeks later we were at home listening to the radio. “Blurred Lines” came on and immediately we all started moving our hips. My 12 year old daughter came over to me and said, “mom, do you know what this song is about?” I replied “yes”, instantly feeling a bit bad about enjoying the beats. By age 14, I was a self-proclaimed feminist. I heard “you’re a good girl” the first time I heard the song and knew the lyrics would irritate me. It was the good girl vs. bad girl categorization that I had fought, as an outspoken woman, most of my life. “Yeah, I know.” I told her. “Mom,” she continued, “do you REALLY know?” I turned down the music and I looked at her, “what do YOU think this song is about?”

She told me the kids had been talking about it at school. She told me it was about date rape. “It’s about getting a girl drunk and talking her into doing things. So she won’t know what’s right or wrong. So the lines get blurry.”

I smiled, “but it has such a fun beat!” She didn’t smile back.

Now, I have been aware, for 20 years, that the best way to make racism, sexism and all other forms of hate OK, is to make them a joke. Tell a joke, people laugh, and those who don’t are haters. “It’s just a joke, get over it” is how the stereotypes are able to flourish. Blonde jokes, man jokes, Polish jokes, women jokes- they perpetuate a much deeper expression of hatred. I could mark this up to “just a song”. But this song was teaching my child, and her peers, about dating, about boundaries and about the blurred lines. And it was making them cool and acceptable. In fact, the easy beats and “hey, hey, heys” were blurring my lines as an equality advocate and parent. I was missing the bigger picture. She was right.

Those who enjoy the song can make excuses; it’s actually about infidelity or it’s actually a parody of women pitting themselves into “good girl/bad girl” roles and how they should just do what they want. Certain people could even make us think the song PROMOTES equality. But not to our children. To our children it is a song about date rape.

Perceptions are where we derive our reality.

Fast forward to the night of the VMA awards. My husband went on Facebook and immediately turned to me, “woah, Miley Cyrus did SOMETHING.” We went to YouTube and looked up the video of her performance. As we sat and watched it on his Kindle, my comments went like this, “what’s up with the teddy bears”, “this song is about ecstasy,” “I like her new haircut,” “she’s dressed like all pop stars, what’s the big deal?” We continued watching, “why is he dressed like Beetlejuice?” And then, I was hit with that sinking feeling…”this song is about rape.” Then I giggled a little about her boning him with giant foam finger.

Because that’s something I would do if given a giant finger.

The next day the internet was in uproar. The same people who admonished me for being judgmental were hoping Miley could find Jesus. She was vulgar and disgusting and her parent’s must be ashamed of her. It was everywhere in Facebooklandia. I, like so many others, brought it up. But I wondered 3 things:

1. Which female pop stars DON’T use sexuality to promote their careers? Was her outfit all that different from what we’ve seen on Gaga, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Brittney Spears, Christina Aguilera or Madonna? Why was it even an issue?

2. It’s a performance. On a stage. If you have ever been in a stage performance or SEEN a stage performance, they are supposed to be over the top. Especially at the VMA awards.

3. Why was no one discussing the guy in the Beetlejuice suit? But I didn’t state it like an asshole. I made it a joke. Easy to accept. WHY? He was as much a part of that performance and HE has the song that blurs the lines of rape. HE was the one the kids at my daughter’s middle school were talking about. Why was HE cool and SHE not? Why was HE good and SHE not?

She was not a good girl. We all knew she wanted it. We all knew she was animal. He was cool. These are all the factors that blur those lines. Our anger at her propagated the lie that the “cool” guy was in the right and the “bad” girl doesn’t get our support. No, we judge her. We know she’s bad by the way she dresses (or doesn’t dress). We know she’s bad by the way she dances and sticks out her tongue. She’s a bad girl and she deserves to be judged. Her parents should be so embarrassed.

Have you ever been on a date or in a social situation where after the fact you aren’t sure if you were just raped? It’s a weird feeling, knowing you said you didn’t want to, but were just so uncomfortable that you went along with it all. I mean why the hell not? It’s 2013 and you’re not a virgin waiting to give your goats to some man. Plus, you were horny. You kind of did want it. Just not there with that guy. One thing leads to another and eh, you said no, but finally you just said, “fine”. That happened to me once. “No, no, no, FINE.” It’s a weird feeling, the feeling of shutting down. Blurred lines are strange, even when you’re completely sober. Because we don’t want to fight. We don’t want to hear, “it’s just a joke, lighten up.” We don’t want to be judged. I don’t want my daughter to ever think I will make light of blurred lines.

I continued to read about what a poor role model Miley Cyrus was for our children, so when my daughter got home from school I asked her, “was everyone talking about Miley Cyrus?” She looked at me strangely, “no, why?” I was kind of surprised. I told her what happened and she told me no one cared. If anything, her age group likes Miley better now. No middle school child is going to be interested in Hannah Montana, after all. “So, do you think your friends view her as a role model?” She laughed, “uh, no mom.” I wondered why all the parents online were so concerned. Their children saw Miley Cyrus for what she was: a performer. Why, as adults, could we not? She wasn’t a role model, she wasn’t out to become a role model and our kids don’t care for her to be one.

Over the next few days, today included, I explored this subject more with my daughter. “who in the entertainment business, WOULD you look up to as a role model?” She told me no one. “Mom, most of them have made mistakes, or tried drugs or done other “bad” stuff. Some worse than others, they are just people, but I don’t look to any of them as role models, even if I like them.” I asked her, “well, who influences you and how you decide to act and how you make decisions and stuff? Anyone?”

She answered, “you.”

“Maybe it sounds corny or whatever, but I learn about stuff from you and think about what you’ve taught me when I make decisions. I guess, you are my role model. Not those people, I don’t even know those people.”

And it was that simple. Just because our children LIKE something doesn’t mean they want to BECOME that. The main role models in our children’s lives are not singers on a stage or musicians in a studio. They are US. They aren’t formulating strategies as to how they will conduct themselves for the rest of their lives based on what they read in magazines. UNLESS WE LET THEM. If we, as parents, decide that we will let entertainment icons be responsible for the role modeling of our children, if we let them see or hear, without discussion of moral and social consequence, then entertainment icons will fill the role. But our children will first turn to us. They will turn to us to learn if they are supposed to judge a person by the color of their skin OR the clothes they wear. They will turn to us to determine who is “good” and who is “bad”. They will turn to us to learn what qualities are most important to us, to know WHO we judge and why.

And if what we teach them has blurred lines, eventually they will turn away.

She's always helping me see more clearly

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Character Building with Pickles

Rain poured outside. My five year old stood in the kitchen smearing peanut butter on a piece of bread. Lightning flashed and the power went out. The kids looked at me to do something. So I yelled, “COME BACK ON, POWER!!”

Nothing happened. So I shrugged. My eldest shook her head at me, “sorry, mom.”

The lights came back on.

I did a HAHAHAHA dance, “that’s right! Mama has the……”

The lights went back off.

My son looked at his sandwich and pouted. Food is important to him and for a moment it seemed that this sandwich wasn’t going to happen. “Shit.” I declared. I swear in front of my kids. Not all the time, but often enough that they know I am grown up and I can do what I want. Most importantly, I can do things they can’t. I earned that right by surviving my parents and one day they will also earn the right to establish superiority over their kids. It is the cycle of life. Like lions and giraffes and the word “shit’. Anyway, we needed to get this lunch show on the road, because I had to get to work.

I turned to the kitchen shelf and saw the dill pickles Mr. P and I had canned the weekend past. “We are ready for this, guys!” I exclaimed to the kids. “We are PREPARED. We have canned goods! We can handle an outage! You can bring pickles to school!” It was obvious to me, at this point, I am a professional homesteader. I was ready to go off the grid. I imagined my bonnet. As long as I could charge my phone in the car I would be OK. “We don’t need electricity!”

My daughter gave me the ‘da fuq?’ face. “Or, Mom, we can finish making the sandwich.” Well, that was hardly fun. But she was right. So, he smeared on the last of peanut butter and stuck the sandwich in a bag as the lights came on. The children and Mother Nature collaborated to dash my Little House on the Prairie dream.

“It’s POURING out.” I declared as I gathered my car keys. “And I have to get to work.” I eyed the children who were getting their backpacks. “I could take you with me, then drop you off, each at school, then go back…. But…” The frontierswoman inside of me said “NO. They can get wet.” I told the kids to get umbrellas. “Get umbrellas. You can make it to the bus and get wet if you must!” I felt good. I was not going to raise children who were scared of water. Or bugs. Or mud or sweat or hard work or the word ‘no’. That’s right. I. AM. MOTHER. This was good.

I nodded my head, empowered by my parenting decisions. Damn straight. This is what we call “CHARACTER BUILDING.”

I squatted down and looked the kids in the eyes, “I will drop you off at the bus stop, but you are going to wait in the rain for the bus. OK?” I searched their eyes for fear. “This is what we call ‘CHARACTER BUILDING’” My daughter put her hand on my shoulder, “we can walk mom, it’s no big deal.” I turned to her, “No. I could drive you to school. I could. You wouldn’t have to stand in the rain at all. I could even pick you up a donut at Tim Horton’s. But I AM NOT GOING TO. I am going to make you stand in the rain. You will thank me one day.”

I smiled at her and took her hand. She smiled back and said, “OK, Mom, whatever.”

“Grab your umbrella!” I enthusiastically pushed them toward the door. And we exited the house. We exited into a new day, filled with opportunities and lessons. Ready to take what comes our way and roll with it. A day of silver linings to dry our doubts.

A day where the sun was shining down on us as soon as we got in the car. The kids chucked their umbrellas in the back seat.

Thanks, Mother Nature, thanks for the support.