In the world of celebrity courtroom dramas, Taylor Swift's showdown with ex-DJ David Mueller, who allegedly sexually assaulted her during a meet-and-greet, might not rank among the O.J.s and Martha Stewarts of the world, but it is fast becoming a lesson in how to conduct yourself on the stand — and what it means to raise a young woman in this society.
Though Taylor was eventually dismissed as a defendant, her mother, Andrea, remains one, and they both had the opportunity to speak out on what Mueller allegedly did in court last week. Taylor's testimony was, as we mentioned, a lesson in standing up for yourself, while Andrea's was an observation on how parents might be failing their kids, even while trying to do their best.
"[Taylor] couldn't believe that after the incident, she thanked him for being there," Andrea said on the stand. "She said 'Thank you.' It was destroying her. It made me question why, as a parent, I had encouraged her to be so polite."
And plenty of parents knew exactly what she was talking about.
Almost every parent tries to instill in their kids not only the "pleases" and "thank yous" that make society a more pleasant place to navigate, but also the silent nods and acceptance of uncomfortable situations that are eased out of with manners.
As many people have noted in the past, this goes double for girls, who are socialized to be polite, and told they're "bossy" or "aggressive" if they defend themselves.
Writing in the Washington Post this weekend on this subject, Allison Slater Tate, a mother of three boys and one girl, notes the differences she already sees between her children with regards to following the rules and even how she reacts to her daughter's anger vs. her sons'.
And she realizes — along with the many parents who echoed her sentiments after it was published — that politeness isn't the best lesson.
But thinking about Andrea Swift's words and about what happened to her daughter, I think maybe I have been mistaken in what my parenting goal is. What I really want for any of my children is not for them to be 'polite' — which somehow erases their own needs from the equation completely — but to show respect to those who give them respect in return, and to be unafraid to call out those who don't.
There have been plenty of stories of parents already adopting this mindset in various forms, from refusing to insist their daughters dress "modestly" to telling girls that they aren't "bossy" — they're leaders.
And that difference — raising a daughter who has all the foundational manners, but also the knowledge of appropriate behaviour and the confidence to call it out without worrying about backlash in any form — could be exactly what distinguishes this generation from previous ones.
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