Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them. -Margaret Atwood

This was the quote that ran through my head all last weekend, assisted by Twitter, reinforced by The Atlantic and my Facebook feed.

Another news story of misogynistic violence followed by responses like the one below. I wish I could say this tweet shocked me, but even in all its callousness, it was predictable. As was the clench in my jaw and wave of nausea in my stomach when I read it. 

Every time another news story breaks, outlining the myriad ways men abuse women (shooting sprees, prisoners, abduction, rape, slaves, chained to the wall) my first protectionist instinct is to hide my daughter.
I want to school her in fear and wrap her up in things that will keep her invisible. Marry her off young, to be protected by a man, of course and teach her to be a silent little thing who doesn't ever draw attention to herself.
But if you knew my daughter, you'd laugh at me. None of that will happen. And you probably already know I would never really want that.
During and after September 11, 2001, I was living in New York City. After those towers fell and our world changed forever, we were constantly reminded to go on with our lives. Not to let the terrorists win. I think about that now because the acts of the gunman (no, I won't say his name and give him yet another link on any kind of media) are another form of terrorism. Terrorism against womankind. And terrorism against the people who love womankind.
Instead of hiding my daughter and teaching her the language of fear, I'll continue to expect her to be outspoken, opinionated and reject people who believe she should be anything else. Because, clearly, it's a battlefield out there and we all have to do our part to destroy the environment in which this kind of terrorism breeds and grows strong.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Build her up to be strong and she'll be able to handle it.

D.G. Hudson said...

What Alex said.

Educate your daughter as much as you can. Build a feeling of knowing what to do, rather than fear of the possibility.

Joanne Noragon said...

When the DC sniper was active in northern Virginia I was scheduled for a show in Chantilly. Many artists dropped out and questioned those who remained. It simply was my job to show I was not afraid. I was so proud of all the patrons who queued in long lines outside Dulles Expo. My mother used to say Kill them with kindness. It really is the only antidote to terrorism.

Irishredfox said...

Nitpicking comment, but it was September 11, 2001.
Preparing someone for the world and giving them the tools to deal with the unexpected is a much sounder strategy then to hide someone and hope that bad things never happen. Strong women are impressive forces,and I've seen the confidant one do just fine caring for themselves. You've got the right mindset.

Johanna Garth said...

Good advice, Alex and DG.

Joanne, thanks for that antidote.

Samuel, OMG!! I also happened to be pregnant at that time and it's like hangover pregnancy brain...edited to reflect the correct date! Thanks :)

Carol Kilgore said...

Good for you teaching your daughter to be strong. I wish all mothers did the same. Sadly, I don't believe that's the case.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Todd Kincannon's post makes me sick for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is -- if Todd and his butch son were shooting back, the likelihood is more people would have been injured or killed. Why do gun-lovers believe that a shoot-out with the bad guy results in good overcoming evil instead of just more innocent deaths?

After Newtown, I cut off all contact with people who suggested I should pack a gun to protect my students.

And I'm not even addressing the misogynistic b*tch comment in that tweet.

I, too, watched the #YesAllWomen feed all weekend and cried more than once.

Mark Koopmans said...


As you know, I have three boys and they already know the most important woman in their lives is their mom.

As they grow older, one of my jobs will be to make sure they *know* a woman is to be treated with respect and honor.

PS: I spent much of the weekend reading about Memorial Day and the people of the Greatest Generation.

There was no need for #YesAllWomen in the '30s, '40s and '50s.

What happened to us - as a society?

dolorah said...

Yes, I taught my daughter to take care of herself. No, not to get a gun and learn kick-boxing (though I would have if I thought it would help), but just to be aware of herself, her boundaries, and to not act like a victim.

Like you, I taught her to speak up for herself, let others (not just men) know she is intelligent and informed and not willing to take crap from anyone

Showing respect for authority and her elders, of course :)

I also taught my son's to know that women are just a capable as them of taking care of themselves. Boys need to be taught how to respect girls also.

Tammy Theriault said...

strong women are needed! keep building her strong. I expect my daughters not to take crap from anyone. show some heart, with a little gun behind it :D

Misha Gerrick said...

Amen. We need to be strong enough to say when things are not okay. We need to be strong enough to stand up an make sure those things don't happen again.

And we can't do that if we avoid confrontation.

Barbara Watson said...

Well said, Johanna. I'm raising my daughter the same way.

Beylit said...

That is how my mother raised me and should I have daughters how I will raise them.

Very well said.

Stephanie Faris said...

I'm reading a book called "Faking Normal" about a young girl who is raped and blames herself, but it's all too true that young girls often feel helpless to defend themselves against aggressive males. It's important young girls know it's okay to say NO and stand up for themselves, even if it means that popular football player guy will tell all his friends you're a tease or whatever. It's a dangerous world out there.

Gina Gao said...

Strong women are needed not only in America but all around the world.


Michael Di Gesu said...

All children need to know how to take care of themselves. Girls especially. Sadly we live in a very aggressive and dangerous society, BUT AWARENESS is the key. Hiding is NOT the answer.

You're doing the right thing Johanna and letting your daughter become strong, be aware, and fight for injustice.

Nicki Elson said...

I'm sending my baby girl off to college in the fall. The "be aware" talks have begun in earnest...