The other morning, when I was taking Nikki to the bus, the news was referencing this tweet from the POTUS:
It’s the one that said, “Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me “old,” when I would NEVER call him “short and fat?” Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend – and maybe someday that will happen!”
I then proceeded to make the comment, “I mean, he sounds like a mean girl on the playground!”
To which my 12-year old daughter replied, “Or boy! Let’s don’t be sexist.”
I – of course – did what I always do when I’m called out: I got defensive and justified myself instead of pausing for a moment, reflecting, and then responded. I think I said something dumb about how, “You know what I mean, girls say that crap, not boys!” And a bunch of other similar nonsense.
And then yesterday I briefly stumbled upon something shaming the use of the “mean girls” trope and OF COURSE I can’t find it now but it shook my brain a little and I reflected back to that car conversation with Nikki and thought, Crap. That’s exactly the trope I was falling back on.
She’s right. I was insulted by boys at my summer day care MUCH MORE than girls growing up. (My school was fine and loving, my after-school/summer care was where I got bullied.) Why was I using some sort of Mean Girls on the Playground stereotype to classify that comment from our President when it makes NO SENSE. And it hurts women as a GROUP and it perpetuates these Nagging Bitchy Girl myths we all try to fight so hard as adults. Someone making snide comments about another person’s appearance is not a “girl on the playground” response. It’s an “asshole” response and assholes occur in all genders and by associating that behavior with young girls I’m feeding into these societal stereotypes. I DID A BAD THING.
So last night I apologized. I told her she was right. I shouldn’t have said that. It was sexist.
My point? Thank you, POTUS, for giving my daughter an opportunity to teach me about feminism.
And for reminding me what I tell people ALL THE TIME as it relates to conversations about racism and privilege. If your response to getting called out is to get defensive, pause and reflect on that for a moment. Sit in the discomfort. Try to learn from it.
I need to take my own lessons once in awhile.