In the wake of yet another mass shooting of young women and men in Isla Vista, the hashtag #YesAllWomen took off, as a way for women to share stories about the ways that male violence and harassment have impacted their lives. Odds are, you've probably seen this in your Twitter and Facebook feeds—and the stories I've read were harrowing. Horrific stories of domestic abuse, rape, even murder—and even the more typical tales of girls groped on the subway, women who don't feel safe walking around alone at night, women who are told they should feel flattered when they get catcalled on the street. And really—should it be considered "typical" for a woman to feel like a walk around the block is too dangerous to risk? (If you want to just get the Cliffs Notes version of this debate, check out this list of some of the most thought-provoking #YesAllWomen tweets.)
But even though the tweets themselves are scary, scarier still is the backlash and comments these statements have provoked from a few men, who have harassed and even threatened women who chose to speak out. Because what we all should be doing is coming together and figuring out how to solve this issue—not intimidating people who are brave enough to share their stories. And who better to start on the path toward solving this than parents like us, who are raising daughters and sons.
I want my daughters to be smart and strong and kind and loving. But because I also don't want them to be victims, they've been taught stranger danger, instructed not to trust adult men, and sent for years of karate and jiu jitsu lessons, so they can fight back if something does go terribly wrong. These are not the lessons I want to be teaching my daughters.
I'm hoping that my friends with sons will be teaching them a different set of lessons—how to honor and respect the women and girls they meet. That no means no, no matter what a girl is wearing or whether she's had a few margaritas. That women aren't conquests—that their opinions, thoughts and feelings matter more than their level of hotness. That sometimes, "manning up" means stepping in when your friend is crossing the line with a girl—and not staying silent. Because that silence means that you're supporting whatever actions your friend is taking.
But I'm worried, because I can already see it starting. Lately, the girls in my daughter's fourth grade class have been complaining nonstop about the boys, who keep trying to boss them around and put them in their place. Right now, it's "kids' stuff," fights over kickball games and whose turn it is to lead the line. My daughter comes home angry about the latest boy-related slights to her and her friends, and tries to work with me to come up with strategies to deal with it. I've been telling her to just ignore the boys and they'll probably stop. But maybe that makes me part of the problem, by teaching her to stay silent and not speak up about the issues, like we've all been doing for far too long. Maybe we should be supporting our daughters as they fight to be treated like equals.
Tell us: What do you think of the #YesAllWomen movement? What lessons and values are you hoping to instill in your kids?
Manners & Responsibility: Getting Your Child to Listen