I was in the kitchen with our cis-gendered daughter of nine years age, a few weeks back. She was eating her dinner and I was reading a post by Rabbit White. Striking up a conversation, she asks me:
“Dad, I’ve been meaning to ask you – What’s a ‘slut’?”
Now, there’s an ice breaker. Of the many lessons my daughter teaches me ongoingly, perhaps the most noticeable is that the critical moments in our lives and relationships show up with no notice, no plan and no place to hide. Intimacy, relatedness and honesty don’t pussyfoot around.
So, I closed the laptop and looked at her. I told her that it is an insult used on women, by people that want women to feel small, shameful and bad for being human and to tell women that they are not good. I said that all mammals have sex and that humans are mammals. I told her that in many cultures, women are insulted for a great many things, treated like property and denied the right to enjoy many (if not all) freedoms that men have.
I said that I know some women who embrace the word themselves, to claim the right to enjoy their own lives as their own terms.
I said that the word, like any attempt at insult is only powerful if a person believes that other people define that person. I told her that if someone insults her, the insult is not important. What is important is that she learn the many ways of dealing with insults.
Most of all, I informed her that no word will ever be who she is, whether spoken by an enemy or a friend. The definition of who she is, will always be a gift that only she can give herself. No one – NO one on this earth can ever take that away from her.
I shared this on twitter because I thought it was pretty funny. (Almost as funny as the time I used the word “orgasm” in front of her and had to explain that…to my bride’s amusement at my lump-headedness). One person suggest that I bail on the explanation and pass it off to “mommy”. That’s not really my style, though. I’ve embraced digging myself out of awkward moments for a host of reasons.
– I am this girl’s male relationship role model. If I don’t show her what an honest conversation from a man looks like, who will?
– We don’t have that kind of marriage. We don’t run from those moments. We cherish them because they will never come again. Each one is special. Rather than treat them as disasters to avoid, we hold them into our lives and share them with each other as gifts of the tales of our lives alone and together.
– In those awkward, uncomfortable moments between people – there is an opportunity for honesty and relatedness. That awkwardness catches us off guard because we don’t have scripted platitudes, prejudices, reactions, assumptions. These moments are gifts and they startle us with their immediacy, their undeniable presence and the sudden awareness that we not alone. Someone else is with us, right now and they are as aware of us as we are of them.
As I considered and digested the event and that comment, I ventured back to a familiar train of thought for me: The gift of a girl child. We only have one, so she’s the first, oldest, best, etc. I have been able to interrupt, notice and replace my own internal sexist assumptions and behaviors – every day for the last 10 years. I am fairly certain that I would have passed on and glossed over a great deal of sexism to a boy child, given the knowledge of what I’ve learned since she was born. Being married to an amazing feminist woman as I am, I’m sure these things would still have come up. But, she’s a real gift – as I believe all girl children (whether cis or trans) are.
In face of the selective abortions of girl fetuses, abandoned girl babies & murdered female infants, she is a miracle. Given what a scheming revolutionary I am, working against the kyriarchy / patriarchy / military / religious / financial model of oppression as I am…she is going to be more than capable of carrying on the family business.
Any gender is a good gender to me. That said, the presence of this girl child is the most amazing and powerful gift of all my born days. She is the promise of a life that will not be dull – ever.