I was at my friend’s women’s leadership group Wednesday evening, and we talked about #MeToo the whole time. Then I went home and discussed it with my husband for another couple hours.
Here’s one thing I got clarity around:
Three years ago, just before Christmas, as my husband and I announced we were pregnant and handed each of my family members a white newborn onesie to unwrap and decorate, the conversation somehow turned to the sexual assault rate of women in college. My step sister cited the statistic that 1 in 5 college women are sexually assaulted, and my dad and brother dismissed her. They didn’t believe the statistic. My brother said something to the effect of, if that were true, women wouldn’t go to college – why would you put yourself in such a situation? My step sister was speechless. I didn’t know what to say either.
Fast forward 3 years. I brought this to the group last night, and the wise and powerful Airial Clark of The Sex-Positive Parent had nugget for me. Imagine that I had said, “What would have to change inside you for you to be able to accept this as true?”
Maybe they’d have waved me away. Or maybe one of them would engage and become thoughtful. It would be a dream come true to hear them say, I’d have to accept that women are stronger and braver than I thought. I’d have to accept that women want a college education that badly, so badly that they’ll endure that kind of risk, that kind of environment. I’d have to accept that men brush aside women’s reality quite casually, like I did just now, when I said I just didn’t believe the statistic.
A lot of men’s “not getting it” is because they haven’t learned to take women seriously. They just don’t quite believe that they have to. This article on sexism in the work place and at home captures it quite neatly. When the consequences hit, I think the surprise and regret are real.
Back to the 1:5, a college campus is an intersection of many things:
- the patriarchal conditioning that has shaped our children from 0-17: It teaches girls to question themselves, to not complain, to put other’s needs first. It teaches boys that they can be dismissive of girls, and that enthusiastic consent is best, but not required.
- adolescence: a time when we take risks and make mistakes, are passionate and sexual, with little acquired wisdom or skill
- a lack of structure: little guidance and oversight by adults; the sudden freedom to make these mistakes; the abundance of drugs and alcohol
- an opportunity that women will not cede; an absolute necessity for a woman to reclaim power that she and her sisters and her mother didn’t have; the stepping stone to bringing about greater equality
…and those things mix and pile upon each other, like small waves adding up to a rogue wave, creating the Stanford Rape case. The 1:5.
There are a lot of people you can’t influence, but you can certainly influence your kids. Our boys need to be educated to see their male privilege. Our girls need armor to protect themselves: better boundaries, access to their anger, exit strategies. And we women need to learn some strategies that have worked to rebalance everyday sexism, from White House amplification to the GenderTimer ap.
If you’re passionate about this, but don’t quite know how to go about having these conversations with your kids, building these skills, let’s talk! Click here to grab a spot on my calendar. I promise you’ll walk away with something useful.
In support of you,
P.S. The 2018 Talking To Kids About Sex Interview Series is entirely dedicated to preventing the next generation’s #MeToo experiences. Airial Clark is one of the speakers! These interviews cover how we can teach boundaries and consent, how to raise assertive and empathetic – not entitled – children. Plus preventing child sexual abuse and talking about porn and more! Join us!
Thank you for that very thoughtful treatment of a very difficult matter.
I so appreciate this piece. I haven’t yet announced #metoo, but to me it’s become obvious that no woman is excluded from sexual assault. All three of my young daughters experienced non consensual sex with influence of alcohol which happened in high school. I haven’t heard all the details, but they’re now college age and have divulged some of their experiences to me.
One of my daughters said: mom, ALL my girl friends have experienced this. The 5:1 is misrepresenting what’s really going on. She felt so strong that if we new what to say to high schoolers, she would go and speak. Boys think that if you flirted with them, then you owe them, she said. They feel like you lead them on and now they deserve to get something in return. And if you can’t say no in a strong way because you can’t or you’re under the influence, then they’ll just go ahead.
What’s the abortion rate of teenage girls? I bet it’s higher than we imagine. “Shame thrives on silence . If we tell someone and are met with empathy, it can’t survive.” (Brené Brown)
I appreciate your work! I’m a toddler teacher and I agree that empowering children (especially girls) and teaching respect and empathy can begin early.