To My Sisters

I have a lot of sisters. They are fantastic people. I don’t know how I ended up surrounded with such talented, intelligent young women, but I admire them and love them and I want to talk a little bit to them tonight. And I mean of course, the three little sisters who were born into my family – the Country Mouse, the Marine Life Artist and the Swimming Angel – but I have quite a few other little sisters out there. There’s the girls I taught when they were high school and junior high kids in Xinfeng, Taiwan, who are getting into universities now and doing awesome things with their lives. I also feel like all the 50-something roommates I lived with through all the years of being a single migrant college student became my sisters, and I count them among my very best friends. My three sisters in law: I love them like they were biological. There are the girls I taught as a Young Women’s leader in China last year, the sister missionaries I worked with in Japan, the neighbor ladies, the best friends, the confidants – I’m surrounded by sisters and I love what I learn from them.

And if I had one thing I’d want to pass on, one thing I hope they could learn from me, I’m tempted to phrase it this way: You’re destined for so much. You have so much to offer. And you are so much more than the hottest bitch in this place.

Sorry for phrasing it that way, but that’s exactly how they’re phrasing it in that unbearably catchy song that’s all over the place. I loved that song the first time I heard it – I loved that they sampled “Funkytown.” I’ve got a shameless thing for pop music and it was groovy and I was into it. Then I started to see reviews. I started reading critiques of the lyrics. I wasn’t shocked, which is sad, but I was disappointed that yet another egotistical pop star thought he could get away with something as tasteless and crass as “you know you want it” and still be taken seriously. But that was the one line that really bothered me – a happy party anthem where he’s praising some woman in a club and the best thing he can think to tell her is that she’s “the hottest bitch in this place.”

I’m sad that a lot of women are going to be swayed by it. I’m sad that they’re going to squeeze into that little clubbing outfit and slip on those fantastically large earrings and head out for a night of fun, aspiring for nothing more lofty than convincing someone (preferably someone hot and loaded) that they’re the most desirable body in the room for the night. I think most of them want something more than that but I think a lot of them don’t think it’s real or don’t think they deserve it. I hope my little sisters don’t see themselves that way.

Little sisters, you’re lovely and beautiful. But those aren’t the things that are most praiseworthy about you. It doesn’t matter what your relative body fat percentage is compared to the other females in the room. You don’t have to feel inadequate because you don’t have the eyelash extensions or the glowing skin or the pristine pedicure or the ridiculously overpriced shoes that you see on the other girls. You don’t have to feel like it’s a lineup or a competition and you don’t have to feel like your value depends on the decision of some dude in a nice car who’s looking around trying to decide who to spend his money on in return for some physical favors.

You’re valuable and fantastic and amazing because of who you are, the things you say, and the things you do. Your talents are things that really matter to people, like your ability to be a trustworthy friend or how thoughtful you are when you pick out little gifts or do little favors for the people you love.

You’re lovely because you smile. You’re attractive because you’re kind. You’re the kind of person people like to be around because of the things you’re interested and the things you talk about. You have a lot of interesting talents – some of you are athletic, some dance, some paint, some can speak eloquently. Some of you are good students and some are good at teaching and explaining things to others. Some of you are particularly good with children, some are kind to older people. These are the things that good people value in you.

So please, my little sisters, my hermanitas, my imototachi, my meimei: don’t let the dudes in the music videos evaluate you and line you up for comparison. Don’t feel like the only way the world’s going to pay attention to you is if you shake your butt the right way or wear the most attention-grabbing thing you can find. If that’s what you aim for, there’s always going to be someone there to try to outdo you. It’s a big lie, really, because you’re never going to be able to hang on to that title of the hottest bitch in the place. And you’re not even a bitch at all. You’re my sister and I love you for who you are. I want to see you with the kind of guy who really appreciates you and deserves you. I want him to love and admire those things you’re good at – to smile when you read him a poem you wrote or to compliment something delicious you cooked him. I want you with the guy who is happy to describe you to his friends and family and who does it with adjectives like “fun,” “interesting,” “funny,” “talented” and “sweet.” I want you to wait around if you’re not getting that, and I don’t want you to go home with the idiots who don’t even see you for what you are.

And I want you to dance and to laugh and to love and be loved, and I don’t want you to wake up the next morning feeling like you’re anything less than the beloved lady you are.

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