I was thinking back to when you and your brother were little, and your father and I would read to you in the evenings before bedtime. It was a cherished time of the day for all of us, when work was done, school complete, and we could be together. The books we read to you ran the gamut from classics like The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and James and the Giant Peach. Eventually, we included those funny Captain Underpants series and early volumes of Harry Potter and other fantasies. We chose the titles, not to teach you life lessons, per se, but to have you appreciate how humanity could be described through multiple viewpoints. Certainly Willy Wonka looked at the world very differently than Professor Snape did, and we hoped by using more than one literary lens we’d demonstrate to you the importance of considering multiple perspectives.
You are a young woman now, and our cozy read-aloud's seem very long ago. As I’ve watched you grow, I’m so grateful for your generosity of spirit, and wonderfully balanced personality. You forgive others easily, show sensitivity to others’ feelings, prefer calm to chaos and exhibit genuine loyalty to your friends, family and community. You’re capable of reading those around you so well and to offering whatever is needed to make things work smoothly. You are a born diplomat, and I predict the world will be a more peaceful and productive place, thanks to you.
As you are aware, we are living in a time of unprecedented access and exposure to ideas, with technology that allows people to share anything and everything with the press of a button. Just as the books we read to you featured complicated, extraordinary and sometimes ugly characters, you are now coming face to face (and screen to screen) with all of these characters come alive! Even our country’s leader has shown himself to be petty and hateful towards others - especially women - and the most tragic part is that those closest to him are unwilling to call him out for his abhorrent behavior. You are at a turning point where you must figure out how to handle yourself in the face of blatant disrespect and negativity, simply because of your gender.
Bystanders are just as guilty as perpetrators when it comes to bullying and destruction.
I remember my first encounter with misogyny. It happened when I was a freshman in college, while rushing at a co-ed fraternity. What started out as flattery and fun, quickly devolved into manipulative and dangerous behaviors that nearly crushed me. It took me years to rebuild my spirit and regain my dignity. Thankfully though, you are not me. You are going into college less naive and better prepared, but even for a young woman as powerful as you, it won’t be easy.
In the coming years, as you pursue your education, new relationships and future career paths, I hope you’ll choose to add your voice to groups that stand up against degradation and work towards mutual respect within society. Always remember what we’ve talked about: that bystanders are just as guilty as perpetrators when it comes to bullying and destruction. Only through taking deliberate action and maintaining your commitment to exposing injustice in all its forms, can we push back the tides of division and separation that threaten to drown us all.
I love you,