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Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Christmas Prayer

On Christmas Eve, my family and I were headed to church in Chiang Mai, Thailand- where we live.  On the way to church, we drove down the main road in town that has "karaoke bars" where women, wearing tight, skimpy clothing, sit outside on bar stools as a means to recruit "business."  Driving by, our daughters (from conservative Ethiopian culture) saw a girl wearing an itty bitty red dress walk outside, and the following conversation occurred:

Daughter: "Mom, why she?  Why she wear?"
Me:  "You saw her?  What was she wearing?"
Daughter:  "Small clothes.  Mom, why?"

Me (thinking, "Ok, how mature are my girls and can they handle this?"  Then thinking, "yes, as females they need to - for the sake of the girl in the red dress, my girls need to hear this"):  "Well, there are many girls who wear small dresses in Thailand and around the world.  They wear those dresses because men pay them to.  Many of those women are very poor, and many have not been to school.  Many have had very hard lives and are actually very good people, just without many options or choices."

My daughters began to nod- they understood.  So I continued.

Me: "The men who pay these girls aren't good.  They don't treat girls as they should.  Many are not nice.  From now on, when you see girls like that, know they are good people with hard lives.  It's the men who look nice and normal and pay for the girls who are actually the bad ones."

My daughters nodded again- they got it.  No more questions...but this wasn't the conversation I wanted to have with my daughters on Christmas Eve.  In fact, this isn't a conversation I ever want to have to have with my daughters- it's a situation as a woman I wish we as humans could change.

I want nothing more than my daughters to grow up to be fierce: intelligent and brave.  I want them to be graceful, kind and loving.  I want them to feel beautiful but NEVER value that in themselves or in others.  I want them to be strong, confident and independent.  I want them to demand others see them for who they really are- not for their race, gender, or looks.  I think deep down this is every mother's wish.

To the girls sitting outside on Christmas Eve (keep in mind Thailand is a Buddhist country), my heart ached.  I'm sure once somewhere, their mothers wanted the same thing for their daughters.  But society failed these girls- we failed.  We didn't provide enough education, equality or opportunity.  We created dark holes that take advantage of such girls and fostered men who are willing to fuel this.

Studies have shown that at least 70% of girls in the sex industry do not "actively" choose that life.  Their lives have led them to it...they are often impoverished, orphaned/abandoned/trafficked, have little education, and come from cultures that do not completely value women or from broken families where love and belonging never fully existed.  Society preys upon these women (and men)- the most vulnerable, and provides an "opportunity" to feel love, belonging or self-worth, even if in the most derogatory way.  Can we blame these men and women?  I know I can't!

As an adoptive mother, this bothers me even more because I know this could have been the path my daughters would have been drawn into if they hadn't been adopted.  I know it potentially is the path their mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins or friends might have been drawn to as well.  As a female, this infuriates me that we, as a society, who theoretically believe men and women are equal, still objectify women.  As a human, this breaks my heart because I know society is failing so many.

On Christmas Eve, I had a realization.  I looked at my husband and I looked at my son.  As a mother, things for me changed.  Yes, I want my girls to be fierce, intelligent, bold, kind, strong, compassionate and brave.  I want the same things for my son.  But something clicked even more- I want my son to respect women- respect them in a way he doesn't view them as objects, bodies, or things to be lusted for.  I want him to respect who they are.

This want for my son goes beyond how he will treat women in relationships.  It will spread to my discussions regarding porn, strip clubs and magazines.  It will be recognizing that each time those are looked at or valued, women are undermined.  I hope to raise a son that can do better than that!

I know some critics will say that so many of these things are "natural."  Porn, strip clubs, prostitution.  I'm by no means prude, and I'm very realistic in this world.  But I also know we as humans are the most intelligent creatures on the planet and have a conscience, the ability to critically think and control our actions.  With those three things combined, I don't think recognizing the need to fully respect women is too difficult to do.

I've always thought girls are pretty special.  We have an extra bit of chromosome that men don't (we have 2 X-chromosomes whereas men have an X and a Y).  I know that little bit of extra chromosome makes us as women all a bit special- which should be recognized and respected- not objectified and preyed upon.

I hope you all join me in raising daughters to recognize their self-worth, and raising sons to value women as people, not objects.

And to the sweet girls sitting outside on Christmas Eve- Merry Christmas!  I said an extra prayer for you that night for strength, courage and understanding of self-worth.  And for the men who may have visited you that night- I prayed for conscience, knowledge and change.

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