The election of Republican Scott Brown to the US Senate seat vacated by Ted Kennedy made last week a very bad one for Democrats, Obama and a new political agenda. And appallingly as it turned out, when Brown made his acceptance speech, it also became a very bad week for girls and young women. During his speech, Brown’s two college-age daughters, Ayla and Ariena, were by his side and dressed to kill. He introduced them and enthusiastically said, “Yes, they’re both available,” to a huge gale of laughter from the crowd. What does Brown’s comment tell us about this father’s relationship with his daughters and how he thinks about them? What does the audience’s response tell us about what has become a normal and acceptable way for men to relate to girls and young women and fathers to daughters?
If this were an isolated, albeit very public, incident, it would be disturbing enough. But it really reflects a disturbing attitude toward girls that has become increasingly normalized in the new sexualized childhood. Rather than being valued for what you do and how you behave, girls are judged by whether boys view them as “available” because they look and dress right. More and more, from a very young age, girls learn that popularity and “success” comes from being attractive and available for boys and men. And more and more boys and men learn to judge girls and young women based on having the “right” body and wearing the “right” sexy clothes.
Seeing one’s daughter as an available sex object does not bode well for father-daughter relationships or for men’s attitudes toward women and girls in general. Nor does it bode well for the lessons girls will learn about themselves.
Have you seen men react to young girls this way? What do you think it meant to the girls? Did it affect them over time? What did you do or wish you’d done? What can we do about these issues now?