The City Summer 2013

Page 34


Paul D. Miller


y daughter turned three in April. She is gorgeous. A few months ago a fellow dad looked at her and said to me, “You know, your daughter is really pretty.” I felt proud, but also defensive—it was the first time a man had noticed my girl’s good looks. My friend meant it as a perfectly innocent and genuine compliment, but it reminded me of the unsettling truth of what my girl will go through as she grows up and begins to understand how the world perceives beauty. It made me realize how rare it is, in our sexualized culture, to distinguish beauty from sex. Complimenting a girl on her beauty is often taken as an expression of sexual attraction. Tell a woman you like her dress, and she might suspect that you want to take it off. I contemplate this hyper-sexualized atmosphere with growing horror each day my daughter steps closer to adulthood. It seems almost hopeless: the world will teach her that her body is an object for men’s lust. She can accept this fact and dress and act in a way to manipulate men, but only at the cost of being manipulated and used in turn. Or she can try to reject it, and become some category of discarded other—tomboy, prude, or worse. These are the choices for young women created by men who manage the entertainment industries, who manufacture the images we consume and admire. She can wear a miniskirt or a burqa. In the face of their trillion dollar empire, what can I do? What can a daddy teach his little girl about her feminine beauty so that she 33