|These vignettes by Carly Noble illustrate the ways in which the world around young women, including the people in their lives who should be protecting them, can let them down. Each of the six examples in this piece represent common, recognizable perpetuations of rape culture. Noble deftly highlights perspectives of guilt, blame, and consequences in subtle formative moments of growing up.|
Six Ways to Set a Bad Example
by Carly Noble
- Send your daughter to school as Princess Peach. She didn’t want to be a princess, but it will be oh so sweet when your neighbor’s son dresses up as Mario. Carefully steer her past the Halloween aisle where the fireman costumes are. Orange is an ugly color anyway. Chalk up the histrionic fit in the middle of the congested Party City to missing nap time. She’s tired. You’re tired. “Maybe next year, sweetie” you offer, passing a knowing smile at the mother nearby. Drag her out kicking and screaming as her shrill screams pierce the air.
- “If a boy teases you, that means he likes you.” That little Bryan down the street is such a cutie. Smile at the thought of youthful romance and remind yourself to set up another playdate. Wait a week. Console her after she cries for the third day consecutively after school. Promise your daughter that if she really wants, you won’t put pigtails in her hair anymore. They’re so pretty though, the golden locks cascading down her back. Can’t she just ignore it?
- Refuse consent for the infamous fifth grade health day. It’s so young, really, and she doesn’t need to be worrying about the bird and the bees. She’s only ten! Politely skirt the topic at the dinner table when she asks why she had to miss the first hour of school. Ignore the questioning eyes of your husband and the small frown on his face. “Eat your green beans, honey! You want to grow up nice and healthy!” Resume asking her about her upcoming dance recital and if Ms.Debbie told the mothers to pick up costumes yet. Pause. Stare. Frown. “No cookies today Lila! You just had a nice big dinner.”
- Swing by the school to drop off a new skirt for your pretty daughter Lila. It’s no wonder just a slip of a thigh has got all the boys’ hands down their pants; she’s got your genes, after all. “I didn’t think it was that bad, Lila. Maybe just a quarter inch longer to err on the safe side, honey, but Principal Martins said the boys can’t focus!” Check on her later, find her sobbing. Ignore the itch racing up your back. Swallow. “It’s just middle school, darling. These pubescent boys don’t know what’s hitting them. Martins just wants an academic-focused environment.” Kiss her on the forehead. Say goodnight. Go to bed.
- “She’s just a very lucky girl.” Isn’t it great that she’s going to prom as a freshman! Even you have to admit, you were worried at the very beginning that she would have no friends there to watch out for her, but it’s Bryan. You’ve known him forever. “It’ so girl meets boy next door,” you say wistfully, sipping a glass of pino as you watch her scramble to set her makeup and race out the door. “Send me pics! You look gorgeous!” Wait for the pictures. Wait for a call. Wait for her to come in telling you she had the most magical night of her life, and it’s not cliche, but is was Keep waiting.
- Say nothing. It’s too late anyway.
Carly Noble is a junior at Summit High School in Summit, New Jersey. She has been recognized nationally by the Scholastic Writing Awards and enjoys drawing in her spare time.