My almost 16-year-old stepdaughter started her junior year on Monday. She headed off to school sporting her subtle brand-new makeup, eyes delicately highlighted behind her tres chic black-framed glasses. Gamely, teenage irritation suppressed into half an eye-roll, she posed for pictures by the picture tree.
The picture – which got 60 Facebook likes faster than the one of my engagement ring – showcases the face of my Veronica. She is such an individual. She does not always know how to express it to the world, but she knows exactly who she is.
I am so proud of her, it’s hard to express. I am so frightened for her, it’s difficult to contemplate.
Her father and I sent her off into an 80-degree South Florida morning, where friends awaited and challenges lurked. We also sent her off into a world that is becoming a place I’m not sure will treat my short-haired, retro-emo, in-the-saying-fuck-phase beautiful girl with – not just the respect she deserves, but with any at all.
Tonight, on the eve of Women's Equality Day (the day the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, was certified as law), I viewed a video on MLB.com. It featured a teenage girl performing an impressive trick, twirling the bat behind her back, catching it off the bounce, and hitting a ball she served to herself off her foot. It was cool. The coolest thing I’ve ever seen? No, but cool enough that I tagged my child, who has played softball for three years, in the comments.
And then I read some of those comments.
“Yeah, but can she cook?”
“She’s right in your age range (friend tagged).”
One long hashtag admonishing MLB for appeasing feminists. What? I mean, really – excepting the uselessness of hashtags on Facebook - what the actual fuck?
I never feed the trolls, but I had tagged my child in this. I wanted her to see the cool video. Is it just part and parcel of the world we live in these days that she has to overlook abuse and idiocy to get to the good part?
It is a world where presidential candidates jeeringly suggest an unfriendly questioner may be moody because she’s having her period. It is a world where a pedophile is exposed as an extramarital cheater to boot and his wife, already long-suffering before she’s out of her 20s, is coached to shoulder the blame and Stand By Her Man. (If she had married one, that would perhaps be a different story.)
It is a world where choice is under attack, where feminism (meaning, simply, the support of equal treatment for both sexes) is a dirty word, where female joggers post about being harassed and are advised (again in the comments) to suck it up and grow a sack. (Nevermind that the lack of one, in this instance and countless others, could actually be an advantage).
It is a world where people, adult-should-have-a-brain-people, look at my stepdaughter and call her ‘sir’ because her hair does not fall from a pink-ribboned anchor in a soft waterfall to her waist. It is a world where her feelings are belittled if they don’t fit a prescribed norm. It is a world that stands a good chance of being worse for her, as she navigates the treacherous hallways of high school and self-discovery, than it was for me.
I don’t think it will be. Is it my faith in humanity that makes me believe this? It’s more my faith in her, coupled with the reality that eventually, a large cross-section of the brainwashed, lock-stepped lemmings will die off. I pray it happens before their poison spreads too far.
While we wait and cheer for that evolution, a brief message to misogynistic mouth-breathers: Get away from my baseball. You have no intrinsic right to stick-and-ball sports (or any sports) because you (arguably) possess actual balls. If you want to discuss ERA vs. WHIP and WAR and why the single-season RBI record will never be broken, go ahead and try me. But I don’t have to prove my worth to take a seat at the stadium. That vantage point has been open to me for the better part of a century now.
I’m sure there are some who don’t like that – no doubt the same individuals who are convinced our president is not a U.S. citizen but is coming for your guns while invading Texas – but, in a word, tough. Change can be painful. I understand. But it’s not going to stop out of consideration for your touchy testes.
Make all the Internet noise you want. Sound and fury, anonymous courage. Just understand that while your comments may, for a moment, get under my skin, they take up no permanent place in my mind – or in the world my child will build.