If you’ve been watching the news recently, perhaps you’ve already seen the story about the girl, Claire Ettinger, getting kicked out of the Richmond Homeschool Prom because the parents and teachers claimed her dress was too short.
But it wasn’t simply getting kicked out of prom that made this young girl’s story go viral on the Internet. It was her guest post on her sister’s blog that brought about the wave of attention and controversy. You can read her post here.
I happened to join in on a conversation at work about this particular story the other day, and we ended up in a debate about whether her post was “appropriate” or not. When I first heard the story, I thought it was great that a young girl felt empowered to speak out about what she believed in. Then I looked at the title (“F@#k the Patriarchy”) and wondered if maybe a well-intentioned attempt at speaking her mind turned into a childish rant.
Now don’t misunderstand, I was certainly hoping to find her blog post was a well-written piece. I love it when children and young adults speak up in such a way that reminds adults that they’re not just “children”, but blossoming, unique human beings, each with their own intelligence, perspectives and insights. But too often I see children who have grown up surrounded by bad examples and lack of guidance on how to deal with intense feelings and end up reacting in ways that reinforce the idea of children being “ignorant” rather than intelligent.
I appreciate the power of the F-word as much as anyone. But titling a post as such doesn’t give me much hope about the intellectual quality of the content of the post.
However, I was pleasantly surprised. The post was well-written and clearly expressed her point. When I expressed that opinion during the conversation at work, a fellow coworker asked me, “What would you do if it was your daughter?”
It was a question that stopped me in my tracks. Because I hadn’t thought about that at all. And yet, why hadn’t I? In a digital world, these are the challenges we will face as parents. Would I make her take it down to avoid the controversy and negative publicity? Or would I applaud her ability to express her beliefs? Would I make her change the curse words in the title? Or would it inspire a conversation about the ways–both good and bad–to make your message go viral? Perhaps it would start an entire conversation about the power of language and how people perceive you. Now wouldn’t that be a powerful writing lesson?
The truth is–I have no idea what I would do if it was my daughter. In my attempt to “prepare” for these parenting situations in the ever-changing world, I understand more and more that we can never truly prepare for the unknown. We can only prepare to be present.