I posted something on one of my Facebook pages the other day about why it is young women and girls who are sexually assaulted often do not tell their parents, file a police report, or go to the doctor. I don’t feel like re-posting here, but I’m speaking from my own personal experience. A woman commented with “Mothers, teach your daughters well,” and I believe she meant well, but this is a HUGE part of the problem. The onus should not be on women and girls to do whatever they can to keep themselves safe at all times; are we really consenting to living life on the defensive, in a constant state of hyper-alertness?! It is not just about mothers teaching their daughters well. Fathers need to model respectful behavior and think carefully about the things they say and do, and the way they treat the women in their lives, because children watch and absorb EVERYTHING. Both parents of both genders need to teach their daughters and their sons well.
I have a son and a daughter. My son is almost 12, and although he is not yet at the age and stage where this is a current issue, he already understands a girl’s body is her own and we have had frank conversations about consent. I’m talking to him about this (and have for some time) not just because I want him to be a good man, but also for his own protection. He knows when he goes out in the world he is to treat the girls and women he encounters the same way he’d want his little sister and his mother to be treated. We need to be raising better men. “Boys will be boys” is an outdated mantra that does a disservice to boys and men everywhere, and perpetuates an awful cycle for women and girls. If you are a good man (and thankfully, I know many good men), please think carefully about ideas you may have absorbed from our culture and consider whether you may be contributing to these problems in any way, without feeling ashamed about it. Our society has taught us all kinds of things that are not true, and we are all influenced by our environment. Some things just need to be unlearned.
If you’re looking for concrete ways to help, here are just a few ideas:
– Don’t participate in “locker room talk”, and if you are present when someone else is speaking disrespectfully about women, call it out. Real men don’t talk about women like they’re objects.
– Don’t tell sexist “jokes” and don’t laugh at them, either. It’s okay to say, “Hey man, I just don’t find that funny.”
– If you don’t want the government to tell you what you can and can’t do with your body, don’t vote for people who want to tell women what they can and can’t do with theirs. This isn’t about being pro-choice or pro-life, it’s about the government making laws about what individual women can do with their bodies. Try to separate those issues.
– Ask the particular women in your life if or how you can help.
Not long ago, both of my kids ate up the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series by Jeff Kinney. They were so into those books, I took them to a book signing when Mr. Kinney came to town. When the movies started coming out, my kids were thrilled. I remember sitting and watching the first one with them, and how disappointed I was when the main character mentioned to a friend that one of the girls in class looked “hot.” I had to pause the film and talk to both my son and daughter about how comments like that reinforce the idea that a girl’s value is based on her appearance, and how wrong that is. Jeff Kinney seems like a really great guy. I don’t know him personally, of course, but his talk was great and he seemed truly thrilled to be there with tons of kids, talking and signing books. I was so disturbed by this line in the movie, that I went to see if he had written the screenplay, but he didn’t. He did, however, have a lot of power: “I worked with both sets of writers and the producers and attended all of the writers’ meetings and provided notes on all of the scripts,” he said. “I also contributed some jokes and dialogue. I didn’t have approval over the final script but I did approve the basic story that was told.” I have to believe if Mr. Kinney had stated clearly in his contract that he did not want any girls or women objectified in these films, he could have flexed his power and gotten that clause approved. After all, it’s his property. This is what I’m talking about — if you are a good man and you are targeting children as your main audience, then use your power and do some good.
Women are not fragile, we are strong but we are tired. You would be, too. We don’t need your protection, we don’t need a knight in shining armor to rescue us or save the day, we just need respect and understanding, and we need you in this fight with us, this is no time to sit on the sidelines.
Sending love to everyone,