Out of the Mouth of Babes
“Mrs. Ojeda, Lenny called my momma a hoe!” The little one tugged at my sleeve, her voice indignant and outraged. “Whatcha you gonna do about it?”
I responded with the first thing that came to mind. “Why did he say that, Susie? Did you call his daddy a rake?” Clearly, I had gardening implements on my mind.
“Of course not! I didn’t say nothing!”
And so I told her what I told my children when they tattled on each other. “Why don’t you go back and tell Lenny how it makes you feel when he calls your mom a hoe.” I patted her on the head and turned to find the other duty teacher doubled over with laughter.
I thought my first weeks teaching English as a Second Language at an inner city public school had gone well—but another teacher evidently found me amusing. “What?” I asked her. “What did I do wrong?”
When she finally quit gasping for breath, she said, “Lenny called her momma a H-O.”
As if that helped. I thought that was a sound that Santa made right before he said “Merry Christmas!”
She burst into giggles again, and shook her head in disbelief at my confused expression. “You really don’t know, do you?” She patted my arm. “’Ho’ is short for ‘whore.’”
I blushed. Evidently, my sheltered, conservative upbringing and four years teaching in a private school hadn’t prepared me for the reality of working with inner city children.
Little Girls Don’t Want to be Whores When they Grow Up!
Nineteen years have passed, with six of them working in public schools, 11 of them working for a private school with upper-middle class students and two working at a private school for very underprivileged minority students. Each experience has educated me in ways colleges and universities never can.
And that word? It’s been cropping up more and more lately. Little boys wander around campus muttering nasty lyrics to the latest rap song under their breath. I don’t think any of the songs are about Santa Claus or gardening, either.
And that makes me sad. Especially when I know that no little girl ever says, “I want to work as
a prostitute when I grow up.” I’ve known a few little girls who came from unstable homes with violence and neglect. One thing led to another and now their sad eyes stare out from their Facebook profile pictures while their status updates sound sexy and forced. Their boyfriends are pimps and their lives are a mess.
That word stopped me from buying a piece of pie back in September. On a trip back from my husband’s 30th high school reunion, we wanted to stop at a bakery for some sweets. The first little bakery we came upon had closed five minutes before we arrived, so when I saw a sign for a pie shop and restaurant in the next town, I thought we had found exactly what we wanted—although their spelling of ‘homemade’ caused me to shake my head at the way people abuse the English language. They must have shortened it to ‘ho-made’ to save space on their sign.
Or not. But we really wanted something sweet. So we stopped. Incredulous, I hopped out and snapped some photos of the sign. I wondered how they found bakers for their restaurant, given the implications of their advertising.
What might have at one point been an old-fashioned rendition of ‘homemade’ obviously had changed over the years. Yeah. I know she’s not a ‘real’ woman. I know she’s just a cartoon character. But still. It felt more like sexual harassment than a good place to eat pie.
Several months later, on our way down south, I finally noticed the exit where a colleague had told me about another wonderful pie shop (you’re going to think we have an obsession with pie shops—but that’s another story). I had planned on pulling over and buying some pie, but the pie shop’s billboard turned me off. Once again, I felt harassed instead of hungry. If their pie is so good, why do they need to use sex to sell it?
We Don’t Have to Buy!
We all know that sex sells. But that doesn’t mean we have to buy. We can make a decision to not support businesses that exploit women in their advertisements.
When my favorite department store started selling clothing in their children’s department that looked like it belonged in Frederick’s of Hollywood, I let the store saleslady know (in a very nice way) that I wouldn’t be shopping there any more because I didn’t think my five-year-old needed to wear fishnet stockings and a mini skirt to school. I explained that I’d bring my business back when their buyers started purchasing appropriate clothing for their children’s section, and asked her to please pass my customer complaint on to her supervisor.
Of course, upholding my standards meant it got a lot harder to shop for my girls because just about every store had a scarcity of appropriate clothing.Objectifying women and men cheapens a gift and confuses our children—causing them to buy into a… Click To Tweet
A Different Kind of Sex Education
We all know that sex drives television ratings. But that doesn’t mean we have to watch. When women on television show up for work in provocatively plunging blouses and scanty skirts, who’s buying the message that that’s how women should dress? Our daughters. We, of course, understand that no woman in her right mind would show up for work in a skirt so short that her legs would stick to her chair.
We all know sex sells magazines. But we don’t have to buy them. Years ago I cancelled my subscriptions to magazines I’d enjoyed since my youth when I realized that even though many of the articles were good, the advertising amounted to soft porn. I didn’t want those magazines to desensitize my daughters into thinking that objectifying women was ok.
What if all of us protested and stopped buying stuff sold with sex? What if we gently explained that we want to boycott the objectification of women (and men) in advertising? I don’t need to see a guy’s half-naked body to convince me to purchase a perfume. I’ll buy the perfume if it smells good—not because I think it’s ‘sexy.’
In all the things we don’t do, it’s important to let our children know the reasons behind our choices. We need to talk to our sons and our daughters and let them know that sex and sexuality are wonderful things in the context for which God created them.
Sex might sell, but if we join together and quit buying, maybe we can start a quiet revolution. Maybe one day Santa will be the only one saying, “ho-ho-ho,” and it will always be followed by, “Merry Christmas!”
Maybe I’m a dreamer. Maybe I can inspire you to join me in a quiet revolution.
Inspire Me Monday Instructions
What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:
1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week (just ONE, please).
2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.
3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer–just do it!
Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).
So, go ahead! Take the plunge and share your most inspiring post with us!