selling our daughters at the Super Bowl

And now, for those who care–which would definitely not include me–we know the participants for Superbowl 2014. I won’t be watching. The Bears are not playing. Although my three-year stint living in Seattle does at least give me a team to root for. 

Its advent reminds me of a conversation I heard almost a year ago while watching my daughter in gymnastics. I doubt much will have changed this year. But one can hope.

Interesting conversation among parents at the gym aren’t unusual. Eaversdropping, especially for a writer, is almost required. Not surprisingly, the talk that week spun around the Superbowl halftime show. I mean, what else do people have to talk about on a snowy Monday night for 2 1/2 hours while waiting for our daughters to finish learning forward rolls and back handsprings and hurtling themselves at immoveable objects?

The ladies were noncommittal. “So, what’d you think of Beyonce?” 
“Well, you know . . . she sure can dance.” 
“But it was kind of . . . I don’t know. What did you think?”
“Uh huh. Lots of people weren’t too happy.”

Then one of the dads jumped in. “I thought it was great. I didn’t have a problem with it. Loved that dancing. But hey, I’m a guy. So, it’s just OK with me, you know?” 

The moms smiled, shrugged, and went back to watching the window. I couldn’t gauge their opinion.  

Meanwhile, his daughter performed cartwheels out on the gym floor just past that pane of glass. My daughter was there, too, learning giants on the uneven bars, a skill she had feared and now loved. I put my daughters in this sport partly because I knew, in a world that would attack their body image cruelly, gymnastics would teach them that those bodies were strong and capable. 

I wanted to ask. I really did. So, random guy, if your daughter out there started performing Beyonce’s dance moves instead of flips, would it be just OK with you? If she came home and informed you she had a new role model that no longer involved Olympic medals but gyrating lady parts in Victoria’s best secret, would that be just OK with you? 

I’m sorry–I didn’t quite hear your answer.

I’m guessing not. But if not, the message you’re communicating to her on Sunday staring at the TV isn’t matching up with the one you’re paying big bucks for on Monday. And I hate to tell you this, but little girls and big girls alike don’t have a hard time figuring out which message will get them adoration faster.

“But hey, I’m a guy.” Said like it’s some kind of an excuse for having a lesser moral compass than the average not-guy. Which is, if you ask me, a giant insult to guys everywhere who do seem to know the difference between their brains and their other body parts. 

Still, why does it matter? It’s just a show, just an opinion. It doesn’t mean anything.

Unless it does. The US Attorney General estimates that over 10,000 women and girls are forcibly brought to the Superbowl each year to be sold, up to fifty times a day, for the pleasure of “guys.” Some of them are twelve years old. About the age of this guy’s daughter. 

While Beyonce sells sex on the field, pimps sell it in the shadows. We create a difference in our minds, to make us feel better about enjoying the show, but there is no difference to those girls. As long as we’re “just OK” with a culture that teaches our girls their bodies have a market value and our boys that girls are available solely for their pleasure, we’ll continue to be OK with selling children and women. And for some reason, we never seem to connect that with our daughters on the other side of that window, whom we believe aren’t touched by it. 

This kind of in-human trafficking, using women and young girls like disposable sex toys, won’t stop as long as guys are just OK with “being guys.” 

The enslavement of women and girls around the globe will not end as long as guys are just OK with “being guys.” 

The chances of your daughter being sexually, physically, and/or verbally abused will continue to escalate as long as guys are just OK with “being guys.” 

Yes, women can and should play a huge part in ending this. But ultimately, it’s men who must step up and not hide behind “being guys.” It’s men who have to say, “That could be my daughter, wife, sister. It’s not just OK.” It’s men who need to stop being guys and start being men. 

And in the meantime, sir, do you happen to have a son at this gym, too? If so, keep him away from my kid. She’s been taught that her body is strong and capable. I’d hate to see him get hurt.

Jumping on the Bar

I watched my daughter do something courageous this weekend. Let me explain first–she is a gymnast. Right there, most of you are now saying, “Duh, she did something courageous. She does things on a daily basis I have no intention of ever doing.” Which is true. The only sane adult I’ve ever seen attempt these kinds of moves was my Uncle Jim. But it was the 4th of July, and he was verydrunk, and it was NOT a good idea.

One year ago at her high school championships, she jumped on the uneven parallel bars to do a routine that should have been fairly, well, routine. But it wasn’t. It ended in a fall and a concussion that left her disoriented, weepy, and in pain for two weeks.

She’s been haunted by that fall ever since. She’s relived the feeling every time she even thought about performing that dismount. She hasn’t been able to mentally get past the fear of trying it again.

Fast forward to this weekend. Same competition, same apparatus, even harder dismount. I watch her chalking up, and I know she’s afraid. I know she’s remembering. I know she’s thinking, “What if?” And I watch her unhesitatingly jump anyway.

At that point, her score didn’t matter. Whether or not she stuck the routine didn’t matter. The most important thing she accomplished all day was simply jumping on the bar.

How many of us have fallen on our face off the bar and are terrified to try again? You got fired, or had a business fail. Your marriage fell apart. You alienated yourself from a parent or a friend because you behaved like kind of a jerk. You sent out a manuscript you’d poured your heart into and had it rejected 26 times. Ouch. And now you feel like it’s too late or too scary to try again.

Maybe you can relate to this guy. Remember Peter, the guy who promised to stand by Jesus until the end and then, when the soldiers came, decided that was end enough? Um, yeah, Jesus. That’s far enough; we’re done here; you’re on your own now. He swore on a stack of Bibles he didn’t know his Teacher. Afterward, he was terrified, with good reason, to go back and face the resurrected Jesus. His was a pretty big time failure. So Jesus specifically tells his friends, “Hey, tell Peter I really want to see him.” I want him to try again.

Was the hardest thing Peter ever did to walk on water, start the church, or face martyrdom? No. The hardest thing Peter ever did was go back to Jesus and face down his fear of rejection and failure. It was to resist the temptation to crawl into a box of anonymity and never try that scary thing again.

What’s the scary thing in your life you don’t want to jump back into? Take a few steps toward it today:

  • Live in the present. Whatever happened last year or yesterday is old news. It doesn’t define you today. It can’t hold you.
  • Pinpoint the problem. Exactly what scares you about trying again? Isolate the real source of the fear.
  • Objectively decide how realistic that is. What’s the worst that could happen? Not that you imagine could happen but what could really happen? Will it kill you?
  • Do it anyway. Unless it’s, say, a fear of jumping off a building and you realize that is extremely realistic and a bad idea. But chances are it’s not, and you should just jump onto that bar.

Let me know how it turns out. I’d love to cheer you on in trying again. Just leave a comment about it here.

And yes, that’s my kid. Second place, uneven parallel bars.