A Mom of Girls on Election Day

Last week I played a web-based game with my 10th grade students, which prompts them to enter a “team name” to participate. I watched the students’ teams pop up on my interactive white board at the front of the classroom as they logged into the game, and then, to my shock, this is what appeared:

mrs [x] is fat [as fuck]

Mind you, I am 4 1/2 months pregnant with twins, and they know this. I was so stunned, I could hardly speak. I closed down the game and made them sit in silence for the remaining 15 minutes of class while I busied myself casually with quizzes I needed to grade. Never in 13 years of teaching has any student ever attacked me so personally, viciously and publicly blasting me for my physicality. As the adult in the room, I needed time to consider how to respond, so it was something I chewed on all night and throughout the morning as I formulated a measured reaction to this teachable moment. A few things came to me in this reflection:

  1. If I were not so obviously pregnant rather than fat and this comment not been so utterly absurd, it probably would have affected me in a different way. I may have let myself – if only some tiny remnant of the self-loathing and vulnerable teenager within – believe that it was true. The knowledge that these desperately longed-for babies are responsible for the changes to my body that prompted this student to try to humiliate me served as an armor against my assailant.
  2. In my many years of experience, I have dealt with every shade of crazy, but this incident was different. This demonstrated a kind of audacity I have never seen, a calculated attack on a female teacher’s body while emotions were sober and calm, and I do not believe it is mere coincidence that this happened a few short weeks after Donald Trump’s pussy-grabbing brag aired on every news station in America.
  3. While I am a grown woman who is mature and rational enough to stand solidly on the foundation of my sense of worth and dismiss a cutting remark from an angry, teenage pissant, the 15 year-old girls in my class are decidedly more vulnerable. They received a very clear and menacing message from this about their bodies and the consequences of failing to be thin. This is the Trump Effect and its impact on our girls.

I also learned not too to long ago that both Bacon and LeiLei are girls. I never imagined myself as a mom of girls, not that I ever had a preference, but my gut screamed toy trucks and trips to the ER for stitches, so this knowledge gave me pause. I am a girl. I am intimately acquainted with the realities of how complicated and confusing it can be to navigate the impossible and contradictory imperatives we bear as women, but I also feel particularly well equipped as a result of my experiences to raise strong, confident girls.

For me, today, that begins with casting my vote against this raving demagogue who has contaminated our civic discourse with his incoherent lies and emboldened the putrid underbelly of American bigotry with his toxic rhetoric on women and brown people. It feels like the most important vote I have ever cast. Today I voted for my daughters and the world I hope they will grow up in versus the dystopian vision that threatens from the other side. “May the odds be ever in [their] favor.”

11 thoughts on “A Mom of Girls on Election Day

  1. Yes to the last sentence. It is incredible to me, watching from afar, how much support this guy gets. (The same is happening here, equally incredible.)
    You’ll be an amazing mom to these girls.
    Also, we have trucks and diggers here. No ER for stitches yet, fortunately.
    I’m appalled at your student, and afraid your analysis is spot on.

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    • Well, given the outcome of last night, it sure feels like I am marching my daughters into The Hunger Games. What a disgrace! I don’t understand the women who voted for this misogynist.

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  2. I know you will handle this in the best possible way. You are also right about the ER. My two brothers and myself, only one of whom was a wild child, spent so much time in the Swedish Covenant Hospital ER that they knew us by our first names. I’m hoping, as you do, that the nation regains its balance.

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    • It seems more important than ever now to fight for the plight of women since November 8th is bound to set us back 50 years in social progress vis a vis the Trump Effect.

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  3. Wow. It just floors me that a student could be so cruel. I think you’re right about the Trump Effect and the reality it has brought. Like you, I also felt that I was casting a momentous vote yesterday against Trump and everything he stands for. It’s truly scary and disheartening to see the results of the election.

    Happy for your news, though! No doubt you’ll continue to fight fiercely for your daughters.

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  4. Ugh. I am so sorry that this happened, for so many reasons. I hope that things get better, not worse, so that your girls can live in a world where they’re not judged by their bodies. I can hope, right?

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  5. This is well said, and Trump’s unleashing of the worst of us is indeed heartbreaking (and terrifying).

    But one thought I had while reading: Perhaps your girls will like toy trucks. I know I needed a lot of stitches (and tetanus shots) as a kid! 🙂

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