I didn’t have dystopian back-to-school shopping lists on my 2023 bingo card, but here we are. USA Today recently published “Not your average back-to-school supply list,” which included contraception, fentanyl test strips and naloxone (Narcan), Covid tests and vaccines, and making sure you’ve got a mental health expert’s contact info on hand. Undoubtedly, that last one is for the inevitable breakdowns that will occur from the depression caused by your daughter’s birth control, the disturbing sight of teens dropping dead on campus from fentanyl overdoses, and the looming threat of mask mandate reinstatements — not to mention, for making sure kids with conflicted feelings about their sexuality are affirmed in their confusion, and that it’s all hidden from parents.
Welcome to the 2023-2024 school year, kiddos!
Not to be outdone, NPR is in on the fun, too. In a glowing “All Things Considered” segment on “proactive” young women ticking birth control off their back-to-school lists before shipping out to colleges in those backward states that ban fetal dismemberment, we’re treated to a serene description of the insertion of a Nexplanon implant underneath the skin of an adolescent girl’s arm in an Oakland, California high school clinic, all set to pan flute music, and complete with muted sounds of the procedure as it happens in the background.
At the end of the segment, with the young woman having been effectively, temporarily sterilized, we hear the host of the segment characterize the teen’s “relief” as one of being able to “focus on her education and revel in the freedom of college” — of course, it’s all been done to ensure that the young woman can still remain sexually available to the guy with whom she’s been sleeping “off and on, off and on,” now that he’s headed off to the same school as she is in — *gasp* — that conservative, anti-choice hellhole known as Texas. Thank God for California’s lax adolescent birth control policies that allow school nurses to write scrips for birth control (even an entire year’s worth, for free!) for kids without their parents’ notification or permission, am I right?
In all seriousness, that birth control has now been added to corporate media’s “back-to-school lists” (to say nothing of Narcan injections and the phone numbers of gender ideology-pushing school counselors) makes me incredibly sad for our girls. It calls to mind my Natural Womanhood colleague’s recent comment that we now collectively “talk about our daughters as if they’re the family pet” — you know, the cats and dogs we spay for their own health and protection, given that they just can’t help themselves from engaging in their animalistic impulses? “I don’t think of my daughters that way, and I don’t want them to think of themselves that way, either,” Jackie said. As the mother of multiple daughters myself, I agreed.
Jackie’s incisive comment came as we developed content for our Mothers of (Pre)Teens online course, geared toward empowering mothers to have essential conversations with their daughters about puberty, their cycles and fertility, and the dignity inherent in it all. Far from being a one-note “sex ed” program, our course provides what preteen and teen girls crave far more than being taught how to put a condom on a banana, or how to choose which device or pill loaded with a cocktail of hormones they should shove into their bodies: to understand the changes in their developing bodies, to know why it’s all happening (especially their periods, and the emotional shifts that occur over the course of their cycles), and how to get help when their periods feel impossible to cope with.
Most importantly, in an age where every self-styled “educator” or “counselor” is hell-bent on hiding your child’s most intimate secrets from you, the parent, we developed our course with the twofold goal of fostering a relationship of trust between mothers and daughters and empowering mothers to be the primary resource for their daughters on these deeply personal topics.
Despite NPR and USA Today’s urgings, our girls don’t need the pseudo-empowerment of birth control’s “protection” from the inner workings of their own bodies, they need an understanding of their dignity as budding young women, created with the natural ability to nurture and bring forth new life someday — and the incredible gift that is. What they really desire is not the ability to participate in the heartbreak of hookup culture, but a truly empowered body literacy, which reinforces for them the truth that they are fearfully and wonderfully made, just as they are, apart from whatever feelings they can excite in others.
So this school year, do better than treating your daughter as the family pet, and keep birth control off her “back-to-school” list. Show her the dignity she deserves, and give her the guidance she needs to navigate the realities of life as a young woman in this insane world where powerful drugs, vaccines, and antidotes dominate media pieces about “preparing” and “protecting” our children (likely written and produced by people without any children of their own). Break the cycle of shame and fear surrounding womanhood that has some girls literally shedding their flesh to ape some facsimile of masculinity, and others sexualizing, sterilizing, and objectifying themselves to earn the attention they so desperately crave, which they’ve confused for the dignity of deep and lasting love.
As women ourselves, we mothers are uniquely situated to provide this information to our daughters (but I should note that loving dads and grandparents have reached out to us about using our course, too). It’s high time we stop passing the buck on our duties as mothers to prepare, empower, and inform the next generation of women, and you owe it to yourself and to your daughter to work through whatever hangups and lies you’ve been sold about the dignity of your own womanhood first (and for that, I recommend the work of the incredible female scholars at Fairer Disputations and Theology of Home).
One thing’s for sure: If you’re the mother or other parental figure of a young girl, this is up to you — but it can be done. Oh, and know that NPR, USA Today, or your child’s pediatrician or school counselor sure won’t do it for you.