carrying on with the vulnerability theme, I'm going to talk about some of the challenges that I perceive to exist around being a woman, and get into some of my parenting inadequacies. I am not a woman, and I am no doubt coloring outside my lines here, but, I wanted to convey an observation, and vulnerability around being a father to a daughter. I do not purport to truly understand any challenges that women face.
whenever I travel to non-"Westernized" cultures I see beauty in women to a degree that sadly often feels foreign at home in the U.S. (and Europe). when I pause and wonder why that is, I'm reminded of just how powerful media can be. sure it can contort our political views and understanding of information, but it can quite literally transform a gender's understanding of itself. it can literally change what a gender believes is valuable and what is desirable in relationships and society.
this has hit me the hardest on two particular trips. one was to India around a decade ago, and the other is on this trip to Mexico I'm currently on. after several days of being away from Western advertising and media, the brainwash starts to rinse off a bit, and you "see" beauty and sexiness in women that goes against everything we, in the Western world, have been taught to be beautiful and sexy.
as an example, you see "normal," and "plus," sized women behave with an underlying confidence in social settings that you just don't see in the West. and you see men throw themselves at them accordingly. the measures of physical attractiveness are simply different. as an observer, it's neutralizing and refreshing.
while I selfishly enjoy the shift in understanding and perception, an expansion of understanding of what constitutes beautiful, it reminds me of just how particularly brutal it must be to be a woman in the West. of course there are cultures that treat women in downright inhumane and torturous ways; I'm certainly not trying to draw a comparison to those horrible dynamics. however in the West, it seems, from the moment a woman is born, they are held to impossible physical standards (standards that I undoubtedly perpetuate, despite my best efforts to be more enlightened than that). all of this resonates with me on a new level now that I have a daughter though. I catch glimpses here and there of the absolute bullshit she sometimes consumes on YouTube or Instagram. tweens doing makeup tutorials... beauty product evaluations at age ten... Musicly music videos of young girls mimic'ing hardcore sexual acts portrayed by adult models in the actual music videos. it's just so un-fucking-real when you immerse yourself in a non-Western culture for awhile and see how much of the rest of the world works.
as a father I struggle like mad with how to parent my daughter. she is physically beautiful to me, just as my son is handsome. her value in life is independent of her physique, and I tell her that (and get the commensurate eye-roll in response, and then an "I knooooow Daaaaad."). she has an enlightened mother who is unbelievably confident and strong in her Self, and she parents from that position of maternal strength every waking moment (thankfully). I don't make comments about women's looks when I'm around her. I emphasize her mind, her creativity, and her studiousness when I talk to her. yet, I just don't feel like I'm doing enough as a father. I want to "fix this." I'm frankly scared to say "you're beautiful just the way you are" even though I think it, because I fear she will lock onto something in her world that she thinks caused me to say that (say... a new haircut or something), and if that thing becomes un-true (a change in said haircut), she may subconsciously start thinking that she's suddenly not beautiful. and on and on.
doing what I can here, and grateful she has the mother she has to help guide her, and me, through this mess. having a daughter continues to be one of life's greatest joys for me; it is also the scariest thing I've ever had to try to get my head and heart around.