An open letter to my daughter about men, women, and the fact that she must never conduct herself like V. Stiviano
I can’t protect you from seeing women like V. Stiviano, the 30-something whose questionable relationship with billionaire Donald Sterling revealed as much about Stiviano as it did about Sterling’s racism.
We’ll someday learn exactly what Stiviano did to get a married old man to give her millions. When we do, you’ll draw your own conclusions. You’ll form your own opinions. You’ll use that brilliant mind to think and reason for yourself.
But before you conclude that Stiviano’s tactics are admirable; before you decide that it’s reasonable to treat yourself as a commodity; before you determine that a woman should auction herself to the highest bidder, please allow your father to explain a few things.
Females are undervalued
Before you conclude that Stiviano’s tactics are admirable; before you decide that it’s reasonable to treat yourself as a commodity; before you determine that a woman should auction herself to the highest bidder, please allow your father to explain a few things.
We live in a world where females are not valued as they should be. We’ve seen it in the disappearance of scores of Nigerian girls. We’ve seen it in the acid attacks on female students in Afghanistan. We’ve seen it in the unequal pay that women still receive in America.
But, you, my beautiful princess, you have the ability to change all that. That’s why I’ve told you from the time you could walk that you would attend a university like Harvard. That’s why I’ve pushed you to attain the honor roll grades you’ve consistently achieved. That’s why I’ve urged you to think about world affairs in ways that stretch your mind. It is your mind, you see, that sets you apart, just as surely as your unfolding beauty.
In the next few years, the tightly wound petals of girlhood will open up, and we will see you as a budding flower. Reddish brown and lovely, with a smile that shines like stars. Thick black hair framing high, angled cheekbones. Eyes that absorb the beauty in a room and reflect it like the moon does the sun. You, my dear, will be as stunning as your mother—my wife. Every sidewalk will be a runway, every floor will be a catwalk, and every day will be a showcase.
Men will wonder how you came to be so beautiful, and when they are through staring, they will happily crowd around you, and seek to cast their bids.
But in that moment, you will have choices that women in the past did not. You’ll be able to set the market. You’ll be able to determine the price. You’ll be able to reap the benefits, but only if you recognize that your body is not the product. Your body is simply the package.
What women must demand from men
When men vie for your attention, they should never believe they are bidding for the chance to touch you with their hands. They should know they are bidding for the opportunity to take your hand, and hold it for as long as you will allow them.
When you find such a man, you won’t need to guess about it. You won’t need to consult a book. His words won’t need to be interpreted, and his actions won’t need to be decoded. He will show you, in no uncertain terms, how he feels. And you will recognize it as love, because I’ve shown you what love looks like.
In years to come, when men try to catch your eye, they should know that you are much more than a pretty face. You are a life partner, a trusted advisor, a shoulder to cry on, a source of encouragement. But more than that, they should know that you are a woman who can be trusted with a man’s love. If a man knows that, he will give you more than you could ever possibly give him.
That’s what most men want—a woman who can give as well as take, who can support him when he needs it, who can receive his kindness with grace, and return it with love and affection.
Years from now, when you find such a man, you won’t need to guess about it. You won’t need to consult a book. His words won’t need to be interpreted, and his actions won’t need to be decoded. He will show you, in no uncertain terms, how he feels. And you will recognize it as love, because I’ve shown you what love looks like.
Until then, please know that you have much more to give than just your body. I know that might seem hard to believe when the music you hear tells you otherwise, and the women on television do, too, but trust me on this one. Women who give themselves for material things lose something money can’t buy.
They lose themselves.
I don’t know if V. Stiviano realizes that yet, but as my daughter, I pray that you do.
Photo: In this photo taken on Friday, Oct. 25, 2013, V. Stiviano, left, watches the Clippers play the Sacramento Kings during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles. The NBA has banned Sterling for life based on an audio recording in which Sterling makes racist remarks while speaking to Stiviano. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Solomon Jones is an Essence bestselling author and award-winning columnist. He is the creator and editor of Solomonjones.com. Click here to learn more about Solomon