Changing the script
Before my child was born, I attended a women’s retreat with my mother. During our reflections, I admitted that I wanted to have a daughter so that I could teach her to be strong, independent and able to defend herself against any and all forms of misogyny. The facilitator looked me in the eye and asked, why not wish for a boy so you could teach him not to be a misogynist?
It’s an important question. So often we think of what we can do to teach women not to be victims or at least empowered enough to fight in the face of violence. There are seminars offered at universities that teach women how not to become victims of sexual violence. We teach girls how to keep an eye on their drinks at parties, to be aware of their surroundings, to avoid certain places and situations. We arm girls with tools throughout their lives and yet #metoo.
The world was watching Aretha Franklin’s funeral. When Ariana Grande took the stage, Bill Clinton enjoyed the performance from behind. Afterward, Pastor Charles Ellis III called Ariana back onto the stage, wrapped his arm around her and pulled her close. The pastor later apologized for being ‘too friendly’. Still, the photos remain a catalyst for conversation.
The reality is that most women have experienced this very situation. We know what it is like to be in public and feel like some man has held us too close and in a way that has us walking away feeling uncomfortable, questioning what has just happened, wanting to say something but expecting that it would be pointless. Should we teach our daughters that this is the reality, men don’t typically mean anything by it, just let it go? Or, is there another possibility?
Among the many tweets #RespectAriana about this moment are comments that affirm the length of a dress does not indicate an invitation. There are messages confirming that Ariana’s body language clearly showed discomfort. There are statements that say having your wallet open does not mean anyone can take money from it.
Conversations about women’s bodies are shifting, highlighting that we can’t simply rely on women to protect themselves, rather we need to teach men that women are not objects for their consumption. Imagine what might happen if parents and teachers used the photo of Ariana Grande and the Pastor to teach boys that when they see that look, when women appear to be wanting to move away – that is a clear signal! They have crossed the line! LET GO!
We need to teach boys the importance of respecting women. We need to teach boys to take responsibility for the ways they view and treat women. We need to help boys and men recognise that they have the ability to be allies to women, helping other men recognise the ways in which social expectations about gender continue to undermine the agency of women and perpetuate the belief that women are objects for men to enjoy. We need to teach boys and men to not rape and/or sexually assault women.
#metoo has helped to bring to light the many ways in which women suffer the consequences of a culture which reinforces norms where male sexuality contributes to perceptions of masculinity. Parents and teachers can use these tools to help provide an alternative script for relationships. It is an important opportunity. How has this been used in your experiences at home and at school? Do you see a shift happening? To what extent have you participated in these kinds of conversations? Let’s talk. Share your thoughts in the comments.
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