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Dear Care and Feeding,
Yesterday, my 17-year-old daughter, a junior in high school, told us she was going to her boyfriend’s house. It turns out she lied.
I only found out because today, I casually mentioned Roe v. Wade may be overturned, and she replied, “I can’t wait. So many innocent lives will be spared.” We got into an argument in which she ended up confessing her actual whereabouts—she went to a “pro-life” rally with her boyfriend.
We’ve grounded her and taken away her phone for going behind our backs, but she’s showing no remorse. I just can’t believe it. This is the girl who dressed up as Ruth Bader Ginsburg for Halloween when she was 10. She’s heading to law school in a couple years. I seriously thought she was pro-choice and a feminist. I’ve been taking her to rallies and protests since she was a baby. We’ve been educating her about safe sex and consent. We donate to Planned Parenthood every year for Christmas. I’m fine with her disagreeing with us on other topics, but I had an abortion years ago. We live in a conservative state. I don’t want her right to choose to be taken away.
And I’m furious at her for going behind our backs. I’m suspicious of her boyfriend—I know he’s a conservative-leaning Christian and I don’t want to have raised a daughter who votes for whomever her boyfriend does. How do I convince her being pro-life isn’t helping her in the long run?
— Just Trying to Raise a Feminist
Dear Just Trying,
I suppose I should say that sometimes we raise children who have different politics from our own, and if this proves to be more than a phase, you’ll simply have to respect that. Alas, I don’t feel that way; some politics are to be challenged at every turn, and there are even those that should result in one being cut off (in adulthood, of course). Luckily, she’s still in your house and still subject to both your influence and rules. Inundate her with pro-choice content. Require her to read articles and books that explain why it is important for women to have control of their bodies. Remind her that a person can choose for themselves to never have an abortion—or at least intend not to have one—while respecting the rights of others to choose otherwise.
Hopefully, you’ve already had conversations with your daughter about how your family’s politics differ from those of many of your neighbors. It’s time those discussions got more frequent and pointed. Talk about the importance of maintaining one’s own values in a relationship, remind her (as she may have heard otherwise recently) that it isn’t the job of a woman to follow what her man does without regard to her personal thoughts and needs.
This may be a long and difficult battle. Hopefully, her interest in overturning abortion rights will be short-lived and she’ll move onto another romance. However, young love can be a hell of a drug, and she would hardly be the first girl to acquiesce to some nonsense because of a boy she liked. You need to stay on top of what sort of information she is taking home from this kid and figure out how deep his influence goes.
Don’t allow her to go to with him to any conservative events or any other environment where she’s likely to face some attempts at indoctrination, especially without telling you. You may want to limit the amount of time she spends around his family. Constantly challenge their politics without attacking them as people. Help her to connect the dots between what she (hopefully) feels deep inside and how this boyfriend’s values differ. Resist any urge to just suck it up and allow your daughter to do her own thing politically; you’re fighting for her character, her humanity, and her ability to extend empathy to others. You can’t let this boy win. Good luck to you!
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I am the younger of two children. Both my older sibling and I have strained relationships with our parents, in no small part due to our parents’ intolerance when each of us came out. My older sibling has explicitly told my mother that they have no intention of ever having biological children. My mother didn’t take it well and has since turned to me as her only hope for getting grandkids.