After googling Melania Trump, my daughter ran to me with questions I didn’t want to answer. Nude photos, some with her and another woman led to all kinds of questions about our values and femininity. I’ve raised my daughter to feel like she can come to me with questions regarding sexuality but often times, I find myself stumbling to find the right words. My flawed response and deeper thought on the issue may help other parents navigate these questions.
“How can our First Lady have pictures like that? Didn’t they check online before they voted?” Hmmmmm, I have to figure out a way to remind my daughter that not all public figures are role models and respond as unbiased as possible (even though I share her shock). I want her to have female role models whose most powerful weapon is their mind, not their bodies. “Once something is online, it can’t be unseen. Even if it’s deleted by the user it’s most likely been shared, retweeted, etc. I’m not sure whether she is proud of those pictures or whether she regrets them but you and I know that being famous for your mind is way better than being famous for your body. Stick to googling your favorite role models, like J.K. Rowling.”
“Ohhhhh! I looooove her! That’s so embarrassing though!” I mean people from other countries can see our First Lady naked!” “MMhmm.” That’s all I got.
“So, is she like, a lesbian?”
“No, she’s married to Donald Trump.”
“Well then why is she kissing a woman in the pictures?”
Clearly she has not been introduced to porn, thank God! My internal struggle: Men like lesbian porn but I can’t say men like lesbian porn to my 12 year old! She might think she needs to do things against her beliefs just to attract men. I could say she might have been an actress and being a lesbian was her role. – START AGAIN – “Well, maybe she acted in a movie where she was a lesbian or posed as one at a modeling shoot. In real life, you know that being a lesbian isn’t something people do to be sexy or cool, it’s who they are and it’s about love.”
“Uh huh, but why did she need to be naked?”
“Probably because that was part of the role she was paid for.”
“Uh, isn’t that called prostitution?”
Great, now I’ve somehow made my daughter believe that our First Lady was a prostitute. I can’t tell her that women sell themselves out all the time for the pleasure of men. A $12 billion dollar porn industry proves that, and since I have no idea what Melania’s motives were, I’ve got to lessen the impact of her naked photos by putting her celebrity into perspective. “No, prostitution is having sex with other people for money. I’m not sure why she chose to show her body. Celebrities sometimes do things that aren’t acceptable in real life.”
“If a girl at my school did that nobody would care why, she’d just be called a slut.”
There’s that word. The word that fills young girls with fear because it comes at the cost of their reputation. The word that elicits confusion because she’s not yet comfortable with her sexuality and can’t determine what actions make her a slut. Is it okay to like a boy at her age? Hold hands with a boy without others assuming that she’s having sex with him? Kiss a boy without him expecting it to go further? So she does nothing and eventually ends up being labeled prude, or one of today’s favorite “insults”, a lesbian, making her question her sexuality even more. Back to sending a picture, “It’s NEVER okay for a young girl, or anyone else for that matter, to post or send a naked picture of her. That’s child pornography. After college, if you want to become a nude model, let’s talk again.”
“WHAT?!?! I don’t want to become a nude model! I’m never showing my body to anyone.” Yes! I raised a strong, independent girl! Wait, is she ashamed of her body? She just got boobs and her curves are starting to fill in. Has she been harassed or embarrassed because of these changes? I want her to have the confidence to be proud of her naked body but the values not to show it to just anyone. “Trusting someone with your body is a HUGE deal. You should be proud of your body but I’m glad you’re taking responsibility to protect it. I think one day you’ll show it to your husband.”
“Ew, Mom. Gross! And I would NEVER marry someone like Donald Trump?”
“Um, he treats women like poop and only cares about their body, and business. He probably only married her because she posed naked.”
“Do you think that’s why men marry girls?”
“No, I think it’s why men like Donald Trump marry girls. I’m going to marry someone who’s as smart as me… and makes me laugh… and is home at night to brush my hair…”
One of the hardest things about parenting a tween is the complex balance between preserving innocence and preparing her for reality. It’s even more complex when reality contains social diseases that she will most likely experience but are not acceptable. I hope that she never feels pressure to show off her body, or pressure to hide her body. I hope she always knows that her mind is more valuable than her body, and that she never has to sacrifice her beliefs because they don’t fit into the traditional mold of a woman.
My job as a parent is not to pass on my belief that another human being is lesser because of their choices, but to make sure that my children understand that self respect and integrity are not only values that are important to our family, but to being a woman.