To my little sister,
I’ll start by saying that I am not sure how to write this letter to you. This was a letter I never wanted to write you. This is something I hoped that I would never have to write at all. I don’t want you to read this, yet I feel as if it needs to be said.
I am sorry.
Mom and Dad and everyone who loves you will tell you to dream without limits, to reach for the sky and that anything is possible. But I am your big sister, not Mom and Dad. The way that I see it, as your big sister it is my job to be real with you. You are growing up and you are going to learn things about this world that will change you. These things are not nice, They are not pretty, easy or simple to understand, but they are important truths you need to know. Some of your innocence will leave you once you know them, and I am so sorry for that too. I am more sorry for that than you will know. As much as I want to preserve your belief that the world is a good, fair and just place, I need to tell you that is not always true. I feel as if it’s my job to prepare you for that. The world is not always fair, just or kind. The world has always been a scary place, but recently it seems our eyes have been opened to just how terrifying and unsafe it really is. I am sorry for that.
I am sorry you have been alive for more mass shootings than you have birthdays.
I remember when you came home from school on December 14, 2012. You were so young, way too young to understand something like that. It was the very first shooting you ever saw televised. You came home and asked why your school had a lockdown, even though nothing had happened to you personally that day. I watched as Mom and Dad tried to explain to you, as gently as possible, what had happened somewhere in our home state that day. They wanted to be honest, but they didn’t want to make you afraid of going back to school. I remember you walked away from them, and you asked me why somebody would want to shoot a little kid like you. The children that died that day were your age, first and second grade children….
I am sorry I couldn’t find an answer for you.
Most of all I am sorry that our government stands by without providing stricter gun protection laws. I am sorry that more people will die, and I am so sorry that more innocent kids like you may continue to be victims of senseless gun violence until we step up and do some serious work to stop it.
I am sorry that while you’ve grown up with parents and older siblings who have told you that you can do whatever you wanted to do, you are now in a world that will try to tell you that this isn’t true.
There are people in this world who will try and tell you what you can and can’t do with your own body. There will be people that may try and force you to do things with or to your body that you don’t want to be done. Though the world may try and tell you there is much to fear, please do not be afraid to use your voice, your actions or, in cases that are necessary, your fists to stop people from trying to force you to do something you don’t want to do.
You, and only you, are in control of your own body. Do not let any man or woman tell you any differently. I am sorry if I have not made this clear to you before, and I vow to do better now.
Recently a slew of sexual assault and harassment allegations have to come to light within the world of Hollywood, along with a #MeToo movement that is giving the chance for victims to speak up and use their voice to call out the perpetrators and rapists and hold them accountable for the unspeakable acts they’ve committed against countless women of all shapes, sizes, colors and sexual orientation. This movement is impactful and wonderful, but it is not enough. I am sorry for that. I am also sorry it has taken this long for action to be taken against people like this.
I am sorry that we live in a world that wants to keep women silenced.
I am sorry we live in a society where for years, women have been kept quiet, afraid of being fired, ostracized, threatened, caused physical harm or even worse for speaking up and speaking out against sexual harassment and assault and other injustices.
I am sorry that a college student convicted of three sex crimes (all of which are felonies), after he was seen, confronted and ultimately stopped by two witnesses sexually assaulting an unconscious woman was only sentenced to six months in jail. I’m also sorry he only actually served half of that time for “good behavior”. I am sorry cases like that make headlines and set a terrible precedent for survivors of sexual assault and abuse, that they cannot expect our justice system to help them and make things right in their time of need.
I am sorry for the police brutality that causes women, especially women and people of color, to continually suffer at the hands of those who’s supposed job is to keep us safe. I am sorry that you have grown up (as have countless other children) being told that you have nothing to fear from police officers, and that they will help you when in trouble. I am sorry that one day you’ll see violent officers in the news, on television or in person that will prove this is not always true. Now this being said, I want to warn you, please do not develop a prejudice against all officers in uniform. Many are there to help us, and many officers do their job and do it well each and every day. Do not let the actions of a few publicized terrible cops who do not deserve their badges make you believe that not all police officers have the best interest of the public at heart.
I am sorry that growing up, you and countless other young girls across our country have been told that you are important and that you are equal to men, and yet the person elected to the highest office in our nation, one who has publicly admitted to grabbing women by their genitalia, continually states that this isn’t true. I am sorry that by rewarding one sexist, misogynistic man, we as the United States have somehow opened the gateway for behavior like this to become common place, no matter how old or young women seem to be.
I am sorry that at eleven years old….you experienced your first catcall.
I am not sorry, however, for the new swear word you learned from me when I called that man out for his behavior.
I am sorry that the glass ceiling still exists. Yet I am not sorry that one day your generation will come along and smash it to pieces, leaving it in the dust where it truly belongs, as you go out into the world to do great things. Your generation will be the ones to write and create laws that put rapists and assaulters in prison where they belong. You will be the ones who will empower others, who will accept that love is love, and will treat everyone as they deserve to be treated. Your will be the generation to look past skin color, gender and sexual orientation to see people as they really are. You will be the next generation of lawyers, teachers, doctors and Presidents.
If this letter has left you scared, I am sorry for that too. I do not mean to frighten you, in fact I want to do just the opposite. I hope to inspire you now to go out and leave the world better than how you found it. The world is stacked against us as women, but that does not mean it is impossible to accomplish everything we dream and more. Look for the women that are doing good, the women that are helping to make the world a better place. They prove to me, and to you, that it is not impossible. They prove every single day that if we stand tall, strong and proud, if we use our voices and our privilege to fight for those who have none, we’ll make the world something that we can be proud of. We can make our country truly great again.