Dear Not A Cowgirl,

I looked it up, the definition of a cowgirl. After so long in the city, and it seems particularly in this city, I’d forgotten what a Cowgirl really is. Perhaps you desire to be one (from what I’m seeing in my city anyhow), so let me remind you. A cowgirl is a girl or woman who tends cattle or horses; a girl or woman who is a rodeo performer. Did you hear that? A cowgirl is caught up in farm animals and horse tricks. This is her life. This is who she is. But perhaps you’ve never desired to be a cowgirl… and in this case, I wonder after first impressions, what do you want to be?

There I was stuck in traffic yesterday, and more frustrated than normal. I cannot tell you how difficult it is for me to see young girls followed by their father and mother walking to the Stampede grounds like perhaps they are taking their girls to an erotic club for an interview rather than an evening at a rodeo. There’s something floating out there about women’s rights and burning bras as though that were called progression… but to be honest, it’s hard for me to grasp the concept of something specifically geared towards the visual pleasure for men being progression? And who, I wonder as I sit there in that hot car blasting lesser hot air, is this serving? Is it for themselves, those girls? Is it empowering them towards respect and honor for themselves? In no way is it a ways burden to bear if men can’t keep it in their pants. But in no way is it honoring for a woman to induce dishonor for herself, and her gender for this weird ten day event that looks more like a public porn convention than a celebration of a farming community. As we all know, I’m a huge advocate for justice, but I wonder what injustices we implode on ourselves. During Stampede I sincerely have to clarify more often than I’d like to our newer volunteers who is a sex worker, and who just so happens to be going to Nashville North. In fact, the sex workers tend to have more respect for their appearance.

I took an office poll from the guys I work with today asking this question “What do you think about the girls at Stampede time?”. I intended to keep it pretty general, to hear their immediate response. Here is what they said (keep in mind these boys LOVE to party & have a good time. They are young, old, single, divorced, married and/ or have kids. They made it clear to me that these are generalizations, and not every girl who goes to stampede is like this… however, these are the first things that popped into their head.)::

  • “Trashy- but still fun to look at”
  • “Cheap”
  • “Money hungry- they’ll do anything to get free drinks, free tickets, free entry…”
  • “Scantily Clad”
  • “Little Tiny Whores- they don’t resemble cowgirls at all… how could you do chores dressed like that?!” (grew up in a rancher family)
  • “I’m honestly more attracted to the woman in sweats jogging by the river than the daisy dukes and your big cowboy boots” (when another co-worker heard this, he said, ‘pffft, Liar’)
  • “You can tell when you see a real cowgirl- proper shirt, wranglers over her horse-s*^% covered cowboy boots, and they walk a little bow-legged from all their time on horses… they have this confident air about them; not a sexy catwalk down the street”
  • “They wouldn’t wear curled Corona straw hats, the real cowgirls”
  • “Naughty-Nurses; dress up time”
  • “Nice lookin’ butts- tight jeans and skirts and a good hat… good to look at”

It’s interesting to hear that the identifying qualities of ‘girls’ becomes something like this during Stampede season. Interesting, and really too bad. I know it sounds harsh. That’s because it is harsh. Really, it breaks me a little because these don’t quite seem like qualities to me. This post isn’t a shaming; it’s a reclaiming. Once we are privy to to the truth, it is time to choose character again. I know there will be some backlash with this post, but I’m ready to defend your honor. You don’t need to wear baggy turtlenecks, and I won’t need you to rebuttal me about your freedoms either. I know it’s your choice, but your outfits look more like conformity to pop cultural pressures than freedom anyhow. I’m just asking the intention of your outfit… the intentions of your heart.

Stampede can be such an amazing time. There are so many ways to participate and still have self-respect. Still have a little honor, and a whole lot of fun. There are incredibly cute outfits to wear, and not be included in the generalizations. There are carnival rides, cotton candy and red velvet mini-doughnuts. There are games to play & stuffed animals to win. There are incredible concerts and the coolest of events. So before you head out, check your head and heart out in that mirror. How’s it look ladies?

With a sincere heart,