One thing I love about Facebook is keeping up with friends, relatives, and old neighbors that I no longer get to see on a regular basis. I especially enjoyed scrolling through the shots of all my kids’ former friends dressed up for Homecoming this past weekend.
But one gave me pause. Well, not the picture itself, but what followed. It was a photo of one of Mary Claire’s adorable former classmates standing beside two fresh-faced young boys. Her father had posted the picture, and there were a few comments.
But this is the one that made me do a double-take (paraphrased): “I can be there in twenty minutes with a shotgun and a shovel.” Then it closed with this: “Vermin.” Right there under the picture of this beautiful freshman girl and her equally cute freshman friends… who happened to be male.
The father who posted the picture made no mention of the boys being a “threat,” just that they were in his house, ready to accompany his daughter to the dance. Yet multiple Facebook friends — including the one I mentioned above — responded with casual mentions of gun ownership.
I realize these comments were meant as jokes.
I get it. I still have my “Class of 1988 Best Sense of Humor” award. Of course I do.
But I just don’t think it’s funny. (And don’t even get me started on our nation’s gun obsession.)
I kept thinking about how it would feel to see Sam and Gus labeled as “vermin” by a complete stranger who was also “jokingly” offering to help kill and bury my boys… simply because they were born with penises.
I said to Chris, “It’s like those t-shirts that have ‘The Rules for Dating My Daughter’ and ‘The Rules for Dating My Son’ lists printed on them. There’s not funny. They’re offensive on all kinds of levels.”
If you haven’t been privy to these high-minded works of art, the lists include bulleted items such as:
~ Understand I Don’t Like You
~ I Don’t Mind Going Back to Jail
~ My Daughter Is An Angel, You Are the Devil
~ I Own a Glock
~ Don’t Show Up To My House Looking Like a Stripper
I’m also appalled by the shirts that read, “Guns Don’t Kill People, Dads with Pretty Daughters Kill People” and those with pictures of dads holding guns next to their daughter and her date.
Of course, my husband’s response was, “Honey, if you’re going to use screen printed t-shirts as your basis for what’s right or wrong in this world, you’re going to end up on the losing side every time.”
But my own point is this:
I don’t want my daughter to inherently be seen as a victim, nor do I want my sons to be assumed predators. And “jokes” that insinuate either of those assumptions are on the wrong side of the conversation.
We’re the adults. We need to choose better.
Better words, better pictures… and better t-shirts.
Perpetuating these myths of boys as conquerers and girls as those-to-be-conquered is damaging for everyone — for girls, for boys, for society in general. It is a disservice, and it keeps women locked into the weaker-sex-who-needs-to-be-protected stereotype many of us have been trying so diligently to eradicate.
We all say and do dumb things, often in an attempt to be humorous. I’m the line leader of sticking my foot in my mouth. But we have to remember that when we make statements in person or online, real people stand on the receiving end. And death threats for innocent teenagers — no matter how much you hee-haw and knee-slap while you’re making them — are simply not okay.
I don’t have any “rules” for dating my daughter, just this request: Respect her. Respect yourself. Same goes for my sons.
I, in turn, will expect the same of each of them when they date your kids.
That’s a win-win… without the threat of bodily harm.
AMEN. I thought the “application for dating my daughter” was funny when my mom gave it to my future BIL a couple decades ago. Now, as a parent, both a woman and the mother of sons, I feel so differently for exactly the reasons you’ve stated.