i won’t teach my daughter it’s wrong to flash her boobs

February 12, 2013 | 56 Comments

Fisher family

Of course I don’t want Emma willy nilly flinging her naked body around the internet. Or, at all. Ever. If she does, I hope she waits until her forties. But, let’s be realistic: a parent is never completely in control of his or her babies. Should Emma one day decide a good ole boobie flash is on the menu, here’s what I want her to know.

Dear Emma,

Some day you may decide to flash your naked self. There are different reasons to make this kind of a decision. It could be to fill an unmet need you may or may not be aware exists. The need for love, approval, or a need to fight body shame. God, I hope you skip body shame. Maybe you’ll flash your naked self in the spirit of fun, playfulness, and in celebration of femininity, independence, empowerment and autonomous body ownership. Whatever your reasons, my sweet girl, I hope you take time to consider possible outcomes. I hope you choose someone you trust. I hope it feels amazing.

If you don’t consider consequences, don’t choose someone you trust, and if it doesn’t feel amazing, I hope you find a way to love yourself enough to let it go, learn from it, laugh about it, and ignore the assholes. I hope you don’t let others define you or make you believe your decision makes you a slut or a whore. I hope you reject the idea of sluts and whores because they’re ill-defined, subjective concepts created to control and shame what women do with their bodies. I hope you don’t let anyone control or shame what you do with your body, Emma.

What happened with Amanda Todd is the saddest. The focus was and still is on her actions, when it should have been on loving the shit out of her and calling out the cruelty of those who tormented her. As your mama, do I want you flashing the internet? Not so much, but it’s not my role to control you. You’ll do things that feel right in the moment you’ll regret later. It’s what humans do. My job is to fill you with enough love now and always that you’re able to see mistakes for what they really are—gifts to grow.

Exposing yourself isn’t necessarily a mistake. It doesn’t automatically depict weakness or insecurity. I’m not sure a 13-year-old has enough solid roots to sensibly decide to expose herself or to weather the backlash, but that’s true for women of all ages. I cringe at the thought of you flashing your body not because it’s wrong, but because what happens next is out of our control. Many of us are missing the ingredients to bear the scrutiny that comes with controversial decisions. If I had enough chutzpah, maybe I’d be naked more often. Or at least be doing less shoulds and more wants.

I’m sad Amanda felt compelled to fill her unmet needs with what she hoped would be positive attention and approval from others. I’m sad she didn’t know or believe all that love and approval was already inside her. I’m sad the very people who asked for what she gave turned her world dark. I’m sad she wasn’t able to say, “I don’t give you permission to steal my power.” I believe Amanda did the very best with what she had. I don’t judge her. I ache for her.

Yesterday you were frustrated that a boy we visited insisted on playing something you didn’t want to play. On the way home you said it wasn’t fair because I taught you that when you have guests, you are to choose activities that interest everyone. You said, “Mom, it’s the decent thing to do because it’s the right thing to do.” Remember how I said the way we do things is only one way and that our way is not The Right Way? And remember how I told you that it’s this kind of thinking that has countries and cultures at war?

I don’t possess the pluck it takes to get naked in a public way, but that certainly doesn’t make it wrong. I admire women doing the remarkable, who are resolute in the face of judgy jerkmouth groups with a vision to shame. Those tenacious women—defying conformity—make the world a little safer and more cultivated for you and I, Em. Instead of shaming them, I choose to celebrate them, and I hope you’ll join me.

I don’t know, kid. I might not have this all right. But, even though I have a long way to go in learning how to love myself and the world better, I’m much closer than I used to be.

I want you to be a safe ally for the Amanda Todds of the world. I want you to know that nothing you do is ever worth taking your own life over. I want you to know that what one person labels a mistake, another tenderly transforms into wisdom and empathy. The world has a lot to say about how women should conduct themselves and most of those ideas are total bullshit. If you want to talk about any of it, I’m your person. I don’t have the answers, but I know a shit ton of smart people we can pull together for world-dominating brainstorming sessions.

You’re not alone, little girl. Never, ever, never, never, never, ever.

All of the loves of all of the universes,

Mama.


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  • http://fiftyshadesofpeach.com Peach

    I rarely cry but you made me tear up, Shannon. This was straight from your amazing heart and filled with so much love. You are an amazing mom. Love you more.

    • Shannon

      Thanks, Peach. I’m the Barbara Walters of blogging. ;)

      Love to you, friend.

  • http://saalonmuyo.com Eric Sipple (@saalon)

    You’re wonderful. That is all.

    • Shannon

      I measure myself by the souls I surround myself with. You’re one of them, dude. So, thanks.

  • http://disorderlywanderlustblog.blogspot.com Gem

    Wow wonderful…powerful…nonmjudgemental. If I have a daughter I just might have to steal this idea.

    • Shannon

      Steal away, Gem! It’s what all good parents do (right?)! Also: thanks!

  • http://www.ludakristen.com/ Kristen

    You rock.

    • Shannon

      I’m rocking with you, lady!

  • http://bellejarblog.wordpress.com Annabelle

    Ohhhhh how much do I love this post?

    Especially this part:

    “What happened with Amanda Todd is the saddest. The focus was and still is on her actions, when it should have been on loving the shit out of her and calling out the cruelty of those who tormented her. ”

    <3 <3 <3 This made me cry.

    • Shannon

      Thanks, A. Having a daughter can be pretty scary. I hope I’m doing this right. You’re on my power team. Stand by for a world-dominating gathering.

  • Erin

    I can’t express how much I love this. It tugs at my heart-strings and makes me wish I had a better mother-figure. Emma is so blessed and fortunate to have such a brilliant and wonderful mother.

    • Shannon

      Those are words to wrap myself in. Thanks, E. xo

      • Bina

        In spite of the six thousand manuals on child raising in the bookstores, child raising is still a dark continent and no one really knows anything. You just need a lot of love and luck – and, of course, courage. ~Bill Cosby, Fatherhood, 1986

        Thank you for your blog…when it comes to our children…”By the grace of God go I.”

        • Shannon

          Mmm. I like that quote a lot. Thanks.

  • http://winoonaramble.com winopants

    That’s a great message to kids, to treat mistakes like a gift. And that nothing is ever worth taking your own life over.
    Sounds like your little girl will be just fine with you as her mom.

    • Shannon

      My little girl is teaching me all kinds of things. I’m probably going to be okay because of her. :)

      Thanks.

  • Lynne

    Love this. You are truly the best mom. Made me cry, happy that people like you exist in the world and sad that there aren’t more who are like you. I want all little girls to hear this, to understand they are enough and are wonderful. I want my own mom to read it and understand that true kindness is acceptance. Thank you for writing this, and sharing. Emma is a very lucky lady.

    • Shannon

      Thanks, Lynne. I want all the little girls to hear it, too. I’m gonna work on my corners of the world. Thanks for the love and support. xo

  • Angela Ryan

    Awesome. This is so the kind of mommy I want to be too.

    • Shannon

      Sounds like you already are, Angela!

  • http://www.iasoupmama.com IASoupMama

    As a mom with three daughters, this is a fantastic and powerful post. If my kids don’t know it by now, they should learn it quick that Mom is their biggest ally ever.

    • Shannon

      YES! <3

  • http://lickthefridge.com Jared Karol

    Beautiful message. I wish more of us could give and receive it.

    • Shannon

      Do you feel like you can’t give it for some reason? Receiving is often the trickiest.

  • http://jesterqueen.com/ Jester Queen

    Amanda Todd’s mother must be living in hell right now. Her experience is every mother’s worst nightmare multiplied by ten. I ache for that woman as much as I do for her daughter.

    • Shannon

      Her dad, too. Yes. Hell. Probably worse.

  • http://doesanyonecarewhatiwrite.blogspot.com Gina

    I know the devastation a child’s suicide can reek on a family (mother is a close friend). There is no sense in this. As you wrote and as you will be, you’ll stand right there to support your daughter no matter her decisions. Consequences can be tough but that doesn’t mean when they make a mistake, we love them less. Great post reminding me of a quote I have always had in my kitchen. “Parents need to fill a child’s bucket of self-esteem so high that the rest of the world can’t poke enough holes to drain it dry”- Alvin Price

    • Shannon

      Reminds me of the “Have you Filled a bucket” book. Very cool.

  • http://ateachablemom.com Mary @ A Teachable Mom

    You are something else! And this was beautiful. I share your beliefs and will share your words. Will you be my mom?

    • Shannon

      I’ve been wanting to adopt, actually. Sounds like a perfect fit!

  • http://michiganleftblog.com/ Kathleen

    Just the thought of my daughter, yours or anyone else’s experiencing what that poor girl did terrifies me. How can we, as mothers, give our daughters what they need to love themselves? I am doing my damnedest, but I worry that it’s not enough.

    Beautiful letter. Loved every word. XXOO

    • Shannon

      All of the love and everything we know. I don’t know.

  • http://colley-law.com/ Colley and Colley, LLP – Austin

    You know Shannon, I thought I would never cry after my divorce. But guess what I was wrong, I am reading your amazing post and crying. I am a single mother and I know how does it feel when you try to convey a massage to your kids.

    • Shannon

      Thanks. xo

  • http://kristinhastwoeyes.blogspot.com/ Kristin

    Very thoughtfully written. I would expect nothing less from a caring mommy. I am pretty sure I am going to save this and read it to my girls when they get older. Thank you!

    • Shannon

      So many big conversations to have with our kids, hey. Wow.

  • Kyla

    Insightful. Heartfelt. Powerful. A message I will be borrowing to share with my daughter!

    • Shannon

      XO to you, Kyla.

  • http://www.lemondroppie.com Ginny Marie

    I’m feeling a little out of touch since I don’t know who Amanda Todd is. But I agree with what you say.

    • http://amandatoddlegacy.org Carol Todd

      To Ginny Marie – just Google Amanda Todd.

      To Shannon – I have read your blog posting and am so glad that you have shared your perspective. I agree that being a parent is one of those jobs that ‘you just never know’ what will happen. We have to arm our children with ideas, values and thoughts and hope that they are able to use them wisely. As Amanda’s mom, I couldn’t watch or child mind her 24/7. We all wish we could but … Also building independence has been one of the goals in childrearing. Unfortunately, Amanda’s exterior was chipped away and her interior wasn’t as strong as it once had been. As many teenage girls, the need to feel loved and liked by those other than family is seemingly important. Thinking that the person on the other side of the screen was dangerous or safe is something (sadly) that teenagers don’t really think about. We try to educate and warn. Some of the warnings sink in and some don’t. For Amanda, it sunk in too late as the damage was done.

      Posting thoughts and feelings and creating discussion is a great way for more awareness and learning.

      Thank you!!

      ~ Carol Todd (Amanda’s mom)

      • Shannon

        Carol—All of the hugs, lady. All of them.

        Thank you. Really.

    • Shannon

      Sent you a link.

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  • http://itsdilovely.com Dilovely

    Goosebumps. You are amazing. And so is Carol.

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  • A

    As a teenager (17) who is blossoming into adulthood I wish 13 year old me read this. I know my mom could write something as eloquent and very similar to this, and she did in ways tell me all of these things, but to have it laid out like this would have altered some things (I like to think). At 13 sexuality (mine) first showed up on my radar and I, quite frankly, loved it. I have always been very into romantic love and sensuality, especially in and around art, and I was finding my own place in that scary, grown-up concept. But “mistakes” when it comes to a woman’s sexuality I soon learned were not treated fairly or kindly. Liking the wrong boy, admitting sexual feeling, wearing a “slutty” outfit, or simply being a sexual person ( I’m not talking about having sex, just embracing or recognizing that part of yourself) were not accepted and lead to a world of pain. I wasn’t a trouble child, I get straight As and I have never sent anyone a nude or even a provokative photo, but the simple act of admitting I was sexual in any form led to serious bullying. I was called a slut, whore, and many other derivatives of that concept and it shattered my self esteem. It was seriously harmful and negatively impacted my body image and self esteem for the next 3 years. All that and I never showed my boobs. I never slept with anyone. I simply dated boys and wasn’t coy about that or any other aspect of my sexuality.

    Learning that ones sexuality is nothing to be ashamed of is one of the most important things that a girl can be taught and if they can learn that before they turn 13 then they will be so much better off in the long run. Keep preaching acceptance and love.

    xo

    • Shannon

      Hey A,

      Thanks for writing. I’m sorry you had a rough time. I’m glad to hear you have a mom who’s been a safe place for you. You sound pretty level-headed and lovely. I’m sure you’re in inspiration to your peers. They and you may not realize it until later, but someone who is transparent and open stands out from a crowd.

      xo

  • Marcus Gustafsson

    So much wisdom! I wish more people in this fucked up world would be like you, it would be a much more beautiful place!

    • Shannon

      Thanks, man!

  • http://www.bemorenaked.com Blissom Booblé

    I enjoyed your candor in this post. Mostly, I enjoyed your ability to acknowledge the potential threat to safety so many women face, while simultaneously remaining non-judgemental. Thanks for sharing such a personal letter.

  • http://www.patticapparelli.com Patti

    Beautiful, touching letter. Every girl would love to have you as their mama.

    • Shannon

      Hey thanks, Patti!

  • suzie

    you are absolutely amazing, and this made me love being a woman even more.

    • Shannon

      Suzie! Thank you. <3

  • http://onthegobride.com/ Krisstin

    Hi Shannon. I just got done reading your article The Asshole Dynamic and loved it. I love when I come across articles that seem to appear at the perfect time. I feel like you were in my head when I was reading that. Random, I know. I hopped on over to this link and love your letter to your daughter. Looking forward to reading your future posts.

    • Shannon

      Thanks for being here, Krisstin. And for bringing such kind words. :)