Every girl deserves to live safe, nourished, loved. She deserves a quality education, a childhood free of sexual exploitation and abuse.
She deserves to know the truth- that she is not less than, not a commodity, not simply a work horse.
As women, are we clearly modelling and communicating this truth to the younger generation? Are we permitting abuse or bullying or shaming behavior in our own lives? Do we treat (and speak about) ourselves with dignity and respect? Do our daughters know that our worth is not in the size of our skinny jeans? Do we tear down other women all the time? We are the ones who will truly shift things- change begins at home.
The U.S. leadership race and Donald Trump’s attitudes towards women have sparked outrage amongst women – and rightly so. But more than this, we see a judge sentencing a disgusting pedophile with a mere 5 years in prison after raping an 11 year old over and over. “The physical injuries to the girl were so severe that she was unable to walk for a couple of days afterwards and couldn’t take a bath or sit down to wash herself.” This could have been my daughter or yours! A judge sets another college age rapist free because “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him.” The message to women all over? Her life, her violation, meaningless.
Women share their stories of catcalls and molestation and ass smacking.
There are other stories, too – I was never the subject of inappropriate touching but was moo’d at more than once. Told my legs were ok but the rest of me needed work. Laughed at. Asked by certain men in my family why I was not more like my big sister (thin) or why, if I was dieting, I was always eating (he saw me eating a salad that day). P.S. I no longer believe in dieting.
Just the same, the messages were loud and clear: 1) my worth to men was limited to my physical appearance and 2) men had every right to talk to or about me, in no uncertain terms, in any way they wanted.
I’m calling bullshit. Can you get that I am a little riled up?
We do not yet live in a world where women are safe or free. Not in the Western World and not in the Developing World. And this is an issue that, in my opinion, begins at home. Change begins at home.
It begins with the way that we talk about and to ourselves; the way that we treat our bodies. Do we attempt to shame ourselves skinny or bully our bodies into submission? Do we spend most of our waking hours hating our appearance and forgetting that we are far more, so much more, than our outer casing?
It begins with the media we choose to consume and permit into our homes; the companies we support; the messaging that permeates our conversations with our girlfriends and daughters. And our sons.
When your son and his friend “rate women” they drive by, you need to speak up and tell them that is degrading to women (listen, they are imperfect and learning – this is not about shaming anyone – it is about lovingly educating).
If your son is an illustrator or into video games it is about engaging in dialogue about the way that women are represented in media and cheering him on when he chooses to represent varied body types in his own art.
It is about listening well when he expresses his frustration with questions of feminism or racism in the gaming or film community and his perception that sometimes things get carried too far. Or when he is supremely frustrated with all the talk of “micro-aggressions” and trying to figure out what the heck women want from him as a man in this age? Does he open the door, pay the bill, or what? A safe place for dialogue is critical!
It might begin with calling out your teenage daughter on Facebook when she uses the hashtag #bitches to talk about herself and her basketball buddies. I just don’t get this.
This might involve respecting (and not panicking over) the daughter who prefers sports bras, no makeup and a muted style and the one who adores glitter and belly shirts and super high-heels.
This could involve noticing how one child, from a very young age, regularly makes remarks about the size of her body and how much she cares what others think of her and loving her up and affirming her and doing your best to keep the conversation open. Also modelling loving your body and eating yummy, nutritious, nourishing food.
This may very well look like teaching your daughters to listen to their minds, bodies and spirits and to do whatever they need to if ever they feel threatened or unsafe, even if this looks and sounds like disrespecting authority. Telling them you will have their backs.
It begins with removing the shame of talking about our bodies and their functions with our kids – naming parts appropriately, being willing to field questions that make us squirm a little, helping seek out answers if we are not sure ourselves, celebrating our daughters’ bodies as they blossom into womanhood.
This can look like not tickling or touching bodies in any way when they say stop, not forcing kids to hug their extended family members, teaching your kids to have a strong voice and not getting mad when they use it.
It might involve letting the women in your life know, if they don’t, that sex is meant to be amazing for her. Not just her partner. That she does not have to do anything that she is uncomfortable with and that she is not ‘bad’ for wanting to enjoy sex, wanting to try something new or for teaching her partner what she likes.
It might look like trying to figure out how to educate your daughters to keep them safe (self defense courses, regular conversations, healthy practices like travelling with friends) without crippling them with fear and making it all about them covering up their bodies “enough” so those helpless predators don’t accidentally rape them or the boys in class don’t get turned on by her pink bra strap or a glimpse of her seductive elbow.
It might equally mean standing up for the woman in her burkini getting bullied on the beach.
It might mean standing up for the woman breastfeeding her hungry baby in the mall; God forbid you get a tiny flash of skin as she positions her child. You don’t seem to mind the naked pre-pubescent teens making out on the gigantic Abercrombie & Fitch advertisement behind you!
It might look like you, as a 20 year old woman, fighting at University for healthier messages – less teaching women how to avoid getting raped and more unequivocal “don’t rape” education for the guys. Doesn’t really seems all that difficult a concept if you ask me.
It might also look like you, as a 40 year old woman, unfollowing friends who are constantly posting lewd or derogatory images or comments about men. Why should respect not flow both ways?
Maybe this should look like owning up to all the ways we slam each other as women, tear each other down, talk behind each other’s backs. You’re a slut, you’re too fat, you’re not a good enough mom, you think you’re all that.
Perhaps this will look like you standing up for yourself in the work place by telling that lewd co-worker to shut up or move away from you or requesting the raise that you deserve because you found out you are being paid less than your male counterparts.
It might begin with finally, truly making the declaration that you are beautiful. Imperfect as we all are; maybe you have never come close to the idealized beauty standard of this culture, but who the hell cares. Why do “they” get to step into your home, your mind, your life and push you around, anyways? Why do we continually hand our power and worth over to “them” day after day and year after year?
You can make a decision to end all that now. Change begins at home.
You cannot control what some “boys” say in the locker room and all the ignorance, perversion or abuse that permeates our world. But you can bring about change by starting at home and then moving out into the world not just advocating for equal rights and fair treatment for all women, but showing us the way.
Every woman deserves to be treated with kindness, dignity, and respect.