An Open Letter to Dads of Daughters

This article originally appeared in Encouraging Dads last October but I am reposting today and wishing all dads a happy Father’s Day! Game On!

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When I was six years old, family friends gave us their old ping pong table. On day one, my dad handed me a paddle and it was game on. Games were to 21 and in the beginning, he would spot me 19 points.  That meant I had to score only 2 points before he could score 21.  He won every game.  As I got bigger and better, he would spot me only 10 points.

And still, he won every game.

By the time I was 10, there was no more spotting of points but still, I could never beat him.  The battles were fierce and I would often take the lead.  But I would get so excited or nervous when I was about to win that I would inevitably miss a serve or send a slam halfway across the basement instead of straight down onto his side of the table.

It wasn’t just ping pong. My dad taught me how to body surf in the ocean before I was five. We would catch the same wave and see who could ride it farther. But even when my belly scraped up onto the sand after holding my breath for the impossibly long ride, I would look up and there he was, always in front of me.

When we played cards, Gin Rummy or Casino, I would lose every game.

Seen from the outside and certainly through today’s “everybody wins” mentality, my father’s unsentimental thrashing of his child in every arena might be seen as harsh or even psychologically damaging. But that’s not how I see it. My dad was just having fun.  And it was simply more fun to play ping pong against a 6-year-old when the stakes were set so that he could only lose 2 points. And wave riding was way more fun when he could look back at his competition and know for that one moment, on that one beach, for that one wave, he was the best in the world.

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As a girl growing up in the 1970’s, before Title IX, before Flo Jo dominated in Seoul or Mia Hamm lead her team to victory in Atlanta, I was included.  My father never let me win but he always taught me how to play better, think smarter and want to win. It never crossed his mind to exclude me.  Why would he?  He wanted to play and I was always willing and able to join him. Simply by including me, by not telling me that I couldn’t or shouldn’t participate, my father taught me to stand tall.  In the 4th grade, I was the only girl to play in my town’s basketball league. In college, I was the only woman on my intermural softball team.  I have never shied away from raising my hand in class nor stating my opinion in a business meeting.  I grew up never questioning my own right to pursue any of my dreams and I never feared the hard work it took to achieve them.

If I may make one request to dads of girls everywhere it’s this: Please take the time to hand your daughter a ball, a paddle, or a deck of cards and say “Come on.  Let’s Play.”

I Feel Bad for the Bull

Here’s an article that I wrote for OTV Magazine when the Fearless Girl first appeared on Wall Street.

These days it’s all about the Fearless Girl, that adorable little figure secretly installed in lower Manhattan by an investment firm to celebrate (and advertise) its “Gender Diversity Index” fund. The 250-pound bronze statue by artist Kristen Visbal, stands head held high, shoulders squared, hands on hips, in the direct path, and in brazen defiance of the most famous beast on Wall Street, the Charging Bull. The four-foot-tall effigy has certainly made her presence known.

The little child and the telltale swooshing of her dress and ponytail informs onlookers that she has just arrived on the scene; but her high-top sneakers are rooted to the cobblestone insisting that this little lassie is here to stay. The diminutive figure is a symbol of female power, a message to every girl that from now on, nothing, not even an 11 foot, 7,000-pound charging bull, can prevent her from reaching her fullest potential no matter the field, no matter the norms and restrictions of the past.

There has been an outpouring of enthusiasm for this little sculpture and its colossal reproach of the present sorry state of misogyny and glass ceilings that dominate, especially in the world of finance. Since her arrival on Bowling Green an endless parade of parents can be seen live-streaming videos of their daughters posed by her side, copycatting the hands-on-hips stance, aiming to convey a matching attitude of confidence. A family pilgrimage to the southern tip of Manhattan represents nothing less than one generation’s promise to the next that the hopes, dreams, and ambitions of every child are not only attainable but worthy of society’s unwavering, and unconditional commitment to a level playing field for all.

Of course, this instantly iconic statue is not popular with everyone. For some, it feels dangerous, irresponsible, and gratuitous to foist an undeniably naïve child in the direct path of a frightening, out of control, testosterone fueled raging bull. Armed with only her admirable gumption, this child is not prepared to fight the fight.

She has not spent decades battling her way into board rooms only to be overlooked for her less educated, less experienced, and less qualified male colleagues. Why would an image of a pre-pubescent waif ever be used as a symbol of women’s equality? Would the world embrace a statue of a fully realized, fully actuated woman sporting a custom-tailored Boss power suit, with fists planted firmly on her hips?

Likely, that statue would be derided as threatening to men and as glorifying an overly-ambitious bitch who dared to stand up and say to the world “I got this.”

But that’s not what I want to talk about.

I want to talk about the bull.  I feel bad for the poor creature.  For 28 years, he stood alone on an otherwise unremarkable traffic island, a symbol of hope and strength and possibility for the economic future of our nation. Arturo Di Monica’s guerilla art installation was so popular when it made its original debut on Broad Street that one week later the city moved it to its permanent residence anchoring lower Manhattan.

The Charging Bull is an imposing figure of bulging ribs, sculpted muscles, massive sharp horns, a wild tail, and enormous anatomically correct testicles. From every angle, this beast represents power and virility. He leans back on his haunches, body angled to one side as if ready to leap off the cobblestone and charge up Broadway, demolishing any car, bus or vending cart caught in his path.

For almost three decades, this creature and his unapologetic display of machismo was one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of New York. But then, last month, under the cover of night, a little bronze girl was artfully installed in such a way that instantly morphed him from a positive symbol of fortitude into one representing all that is wrong with Wall Street, the world of male domination, and the tyranny of power.fearless jill

The poor bull.

He has not changed. He is simply a bull, doing what bulls do. Sure, he is known as the charging bull, but he has been rooted to the same place for years – so rooted in fact, that generations of pranksters, miscreants, unevolved frat boys and true believers have rubbed his gigantic cojones to a glimmering shine. If he hasn’t attacked anyone after all that inappropriate touching, how much of a menace could he possibly be?

I know that’s not the point.  I understand that the bull is merely a symbol and symbols change with time and circumstance but my heart still goes out to the newly vilified creature. I keep wondering how he must feel when the throngs of tourists turn their backs on him to snap photos of his new rival. Which is worse, being branded a bad guy or being overshadowed by a precocious child he could eat for lunch were he not a vegetarian?

It has been announced that the Fearless Girl will remain where she stands for one full year. After that, she will be removed and likely given a permanent home on her own corner somewhere in the Big Apple. The bull will once again stand alone. But even in her absence, will he ever be viewed the same way again? Will a lingering shadow of mistrust hang over his bronze form? Will he ever be beloved as he once was?  Is it possible to resurrect the hope and optimism he once represented when we now realize that he was never intended to be a symbol for everyone?

I find myself mourning the loss of his innocence. Yet, I am moved by the impact that one tiny statue has already had on the psyche of all who have paid their respects. And if one unblinking child, standing in stark opposition to the ferocious beast that is Wall Street can eventuate real and meaningful change then I willingly embrace the sacrifice of the stellar reputation of a once exalted bull.

I pray that the Fearless Girl will grow into the Indomitable Woman, able to reach her full potential as a valued and respected equal member of society. If not, if it turns out that Wall Street remains unchanged and the Fearless Girl is remembered as only a brilliant publicity stunt, then the blood of an innocent, albeit bronze, creature will be on all our hands.

By Jillian Green DiGiacomo

Featured Photo Credit:  Jen Hawkins on Instagram

Inserted photo “Backs to the Bull”:  Jillian Green DiGiacomo

Link to OTV article

GAME ON!!

I stumbled upon the Encouraging Dads Project on Twitter. It’s a lovely site that does just what it’s name implies: It invites contributors to write short memories of how their own father, or father figure influenced their lives.  Here’s an article I wrote about how my dad never let me win at anything….Enjoy.

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Game On

When I was six years old, family friends gave us their old ping pong table. On day one, my dad handed me a paddle and it was game on. Games were to 21 and in the beginning, he would spot me 19 points.  That meant I had to score only 2 points before he could score 21.  He won every game.  As I got bigger and better, he would spot me only 10 points.  And still, he won every game.  By the time I was 10, there was no more spotting of points but still, I could never beat him.  The battles were fierce and I would often take the lead.  But I would get so excited or nervous when I was about to win that I would inevitably miss a serve or send a slam halfway across the basement instead of straight down onto his side of the table.

It wasn’t just ping pong. My dad taught me how to body surf in the ocean before I was five. We would catch the same wave and see who could ride it farther. But even when my belly scraped up onto the sand after holding my breath for the impossibly long ride, I would look up and there he was, always in front of me. When we played cards, Gin Rummy or Casino, I would lose every game.

Seen from the outside and certainly through today’s “everybody wins” mentality, my father’s unsentimental thrashing of his child in every arena might be seen as harsh or even psychologically damaging. But that’s not how I see it. My dad was just having fun.  And it was simply more fun to play ping pong against a 6-year-old when the stakes were set so that he could only lose 2 points. And wave riding was way more fun when he could look back at his competition and know for that one moment, on that one beach, for that one wave, he was the best in the world.

As a girl growing up in the 1970’s, before Title IX, before Flo Jo dominated in Seoul or Mia Hamm lead her team to victory in Atlanta, I was included.  My father never let me win but he always taught me how to play better, think smarter and want to win. It never crossed his mind to exclude me.  Why would he?  He wanted to play and I was always willing and able to join him. Simply by including me, by not telling me that I couldn’t or shouldn’t participate, my father taught me to stand tall.  In the 4th grade, I was the only girl to play in my town’s basketball league. In college, I was the only woman on my intermural softball team.  I have never shied away from raising my hand in class nor stating my opinion in a business meeting.  I grew up never questioning my own right to pursue any of my dreams and I never feared the hard work it took to achieve them. So, if I may make one request to dads of girls everywhere it’s this: Please take the time to hand your daughter a ball, a paddle, or a deck of cards and say “Come on.  Let’s Play.”

Game On