Street Harassment pt. 3: Tell Your Daughters They Are Smart & Strong / by Sarah Schwartz

Welcome to day three of our series on street harassment. (Check out parts 1 & 2 here and here.) Today's post comes from a dear friend who had the courage to email me her story after reading posts from earlier in the week, & has asked to remain anonymous. Her words are beautiful and strong and heartbreaking, and it's an honor to share them with you.

I was first catcalled by my next door neighbor, flanked by his 2 friends, all on their bikes. They were 16 and I was 12. That same day, hours later, my neighbor became my first french kiss. It was consensual, and in hindsight, disgusting. 

When I was 21, I was yelled at by a man who later bought me a drink and took me to bed before midnight

This is the uglier side of objectification we, as strong & liberated Christian women, don't talk about. 

I'm so proud of these women sharing these stories of being verbally assaulted by men and feeling an immediate intuition that something wasn't right. This was not my experience. Every whistle, every stare, every semi-aggressive shout was building up this false sense of self--this idea that I was so beautiful and worthy. Worth was my immediate intuition. 

We blame men who have been conditioned from birth to be terrible, but there's so many other factors. It could be our fathers calling us beautiful and making what seem like appropriate comments about our bodies from a young age (read: any comment about your daughter's body at any age will be damaging). It could be our mothers warning us about how dangerous that body is. It is definitely the church, telling us that our worth lies in two things: our virtue and our "beauty". 

I was conditioned from a young age to see my body as a powerful weapon in a war against other women with prettier faces. I was taught that it was the best thing I had going for me. Now I'm married to a good man and aware of myself, and it's the hardest thing in the world to let him touch me. 

This is important. It's so f*cking important. It's so good that there are women out there who are smart and healthy, and it's so easy to come along side and nurture that health. But what about the women who already see their bodies as tools to solicit love?

This whole "love the sinner, hate the sin" bullshit isn't cutting it. Teaching young girls that their worth lies in the preservation of their bodies and at the same time telling them that men won't be able to help themselves sends a very confusing message. It sent me the message that the only way I wouldn't be a victim is if I liked it.  I always felt like I was in control. Do you understand? My prepubescent body was being sexualized by a high school senior and I thought I was in control. 

We can do better. Stop commenting on your daughter's looks. Stop telling girls at church camp that they need to save themselves for their husbands. Please stop shaming women that don't. 

Instead, tell your daughters that they're smart and that they're strong. Teach young women in the church that their sexuality is part of their whole self and that their whole self belongs to Christ. Love women who are broken. Love women who don't know what love is.