Tell your boys, “Don’t rape.” Wait, that can’t be right.
I started this whole line of thinking awhile back. Well, it’s been a vein in a lot of my writing as I struggle to unlearn much of my upbringing as a woman in the United States. For the sake of getting to a point rather quickly, I’ll assume that we’re on the same page when it comes to rape culture. I’ll assume we agree that telling women what to wear so they don’t tempt men is stupid and outdated. If we follow the thoughts I started in Excuses, Excuses we can, among other things, stop categorizing men as the ones who assault and women as the victims. Suppose we consider what exactly we are attaching to those little words “it’s a girl!” or “it’s a boy!” when collecting information about a newborn or potential/future child as I discussed in Nevertheless. Suppose we stop assigning traits/roles/limits/possibilities to an individual once we feel confident we know roughly what their genitals look like, and just let people be who they are.
“For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.” – Virginia Woolf
A few years ago a friend attended a wedding, and she posted pictures on Facebook of her kids dancing with the other kids at the reception. The kids, dressed up and a little bit away from the adults, were obviously having a fantastic time. One of the comments struck me; it even hurt a little as a child who was picked on for everything. A guy in the feed, a friend of the family, said he was going to take the piss out of their son the next time he saw the boy. He passed no judgment about their little daughter dancing, but he is going to tease their son for it. Is this why it’s so hard to find a dance partner? Some adult somewhere makes our boys feel self-conscious about dancing so they grow up thinking it’s somehow wrong or unmanly? creating the shortage of dance partners especially for the straight women of the country? Who decides this shit for us? Why do they hate dancing? and punish others for it? Are they jealous? Is this the same asshole who tells our sons they can’t express any emotion in front of others or they’ll look weak? that feelings are a sign of weakness?
Did that man just stifle the next Mikhail Baryshnikov or Fred Astaire?
Fuck that guy. Honestly. He’s made my romantic life miserable because I suck at guessing how other people feel, what they want, what they need, but somehow we’re raising people to expect others to just magically guess. Men especially are so closed up emotionally that when I find a man who can express himself at all (other than anger/hate which men, in general, excel at) I’m reminded that men are people. Yes, I can forget. How can you not? How do we get what we need when we can’t figure out what it is we need? what other people need or want? The vast majority of us suck at guessing what others want or need, and we’re even worse at asking for what we want or need. Lacking guidance from the involved party leads to dishonest and unfulfilling (short) relationships.
Suppose a person is just a person.
That would mean that we don’t teach boys not to rape; instead we teach everyone, all of our kids, not to rape. But rape isn’t about sex, it’s about control, about power. We teach people to handle feelings of weakness or hopelessness differently based on their genitals. Why? Why is it so important for men to be in control but for women to surrender control to someone else? Why are men intelligent and serious and correct, but women are dishonest and flighty? Answer: because society teaches this. And it’s WRONG. We are teaching all of our children the wrong information, and we’re giving them insufficient coping mechanisms (or none at all). What’s more, we’re deciding who needs which information based on their genitals assuming first, that sex determines personalities/strengths/weaknesses and second, that the sexes are somehow opposite and third, that a baby’s sex is their gender when we know that isn’t always the case. Oops. Even if it was the case, all women aren’t the same. All men aren’t the same. A person is just a person, made up of a bunch of traits (including sex and gender) combined to create an individual.
What if we taught all of our kids how to win graciously but also how to lose graciously? What if instead of just doing things for our daughters when they have a problem we asked them what they’ve tried so far? Help them solve problems. Help them find their power and confidence just as we do for our sons. What if, while we taught our kids about loyalty and respect, we also let them recognize when something/someone is not right for them, to recognize red flags, and give them permission to fail, to let go, to move on? What if we showed our boys it is okay not to win sometimes, to let our only opponent be ourselves, to strive against our own best to improve? If they won’t be good enough until they’re better than everyone else how will they ever find something that can excel at?
Why do we teach our girls how to apologize (for every fucking thing even, and sometimes especially, when it wasn’t their fault)? but not our boys? Why do we teach our girls to recognize, accept, and learn from mistakes? but we expect our boys not to acknowledge when they need to try again or try another way because to admit a mistake means admitting weakness? Why is it so important for women to forgive and forget but not necessarily for men to do the same?
A person is just a person means that anyone can be a victim (which is true). So, we teach everyone about consent. From a young age, instead of teaching girls how to be to be attractive to the other sex (and stressing the importance of being attractive), how to dress, how to act, what other people expect of us, we could teach people about boundaries, their own and other’s. We could stop telling our kids to hug or kiss other people and instead ask for a hug or kiss and then respect the child’s wishes whichever way they answer. “No” needs to mean “no.” “Yes” needs to mean “yes,” and we need to help them understand that consent can be taken back at any time. We can teach our children to respect others without teaching them they have to give respect when it hasn’t been earned.
We also need to believe our children, not just our sons. We need to teach our kids why it is important to be trustworthy, and we need to learn to trust them. They need to be able to recognize and report when something is done to them, and they need to feel they will be believed. Women are unlikely to report sexual assault, but male victims are even less likely to report it. In our society, we assume women lie. That needs to change. Now. And men are afraid of somehow being perceived as less when they become a victim which also needs to change. Now. We need to put the shame squarely where it belongs instead of on victims.
A person is a person.
I’m in a closed women’s group in Facebook, and a few of the members are sexist and rude (defensive) about their sexism. Immediately after making sexist comments (for instance, about HRC) they act all offended when called out on those comments. They look right at the things they said about their own gender, traits they attributed to a women that they made up, assumptions they spelled out, and try to attack the person who pointed out their sexism. They make excuses as if the person reading their words is wrong or silly for misunderstanding their clearly shitty/ignorant/sexist comment. We have got to stop hurting each other and ourselves with our attitudes, our stereotyping and assumptions. We have to unlearn this bullshit. It doesn’t serve anyone, least of all, ourselves.
A person is a person. We need to change our thinking and society’s attitudes. It starts with us, right now, today. Stop assuming things about people the moment you lay eyes on them. Their sex is unimportant unless you’re dating them, and it certainly has nothing to do with their value to you or to society. Skin color, gender, height, facial expression aren’t who that person is. It’s a small part of who they are, a snapshot of a moment in time, and it certainly has no bearing on what they can become. You don’t know a person until they let you know them. You’re an ass for assuming so cut it out. Now.
It’s uncomfortable to face our own shortcomings, our own sexism (racism, etc.), but it’s important that we do it for the kids and for ourselves. It’s how we move forward. Most importantly, let’s teach ALL the children about consent, about boundaries, about consequences. Hug them, hold their hands, let them cry. Respect their wishes. Let’s give these precious people the tools they need to deal with stress, fear, failure, anger, shame, disappointment, attraction, success. Then we can let our children be who they are. We can trust that they’ll make good life choices, and they’ll probably be much happier, healthier, and more respectful adults than we are.
Let’s teach our children “don’t rape.” Not just our boys.
There are a lot of links here. I thought about this post for a long time and still don’t quite feel I have it right. These links, though, take the time. At least look at the headlines, and remember this is the year 2017. We owe our children and our future so much more than we’ve given. It’s time to begin the hard work. We should have started a long time ago. Our parents should have.
Link: “Lawsuit: Brentwood Academy officials refused to report repeated rapes of 12-year-old boy” – by Elaina Sauber and Dave Boucher at The Tennessean
Link: “The Younger Victims of Sexual Violence in School” Conversations about Title IX tend to focus on college, but cases among K-12 students are abundant and often poorly handled – by Mark Keierleber at The Atlantic
Link: “Most Women You Know Are Angry — and That’s All Right” – by Laurie Penny at Teen Vogue
Link: “Why do girls as young as six believe boys are smarter?” – by Hattie Garlick at Financial Times
Link: “Hillary Clinton: there’s a ‘game that keeps women in their place‘” – by Sabrina Siddiqui at The Guardian
Link: “The Silence of the Lambs” – by Kathryn Joyce at New Republic
Link: “With Ivanka Trump’s Blessing, White House Ditches Equal Pay Rule” – by Emily Peck at Huffington Post
Link: “Saudi Arabia Agrees to Let Women Drive” – by Ben Hubbard at The New York Times
Link: “Why Hillary Clinton was right about white women – and their husbands” – by Lucia Graves at The Guardian
Link: “Sam Harris, Black Lives Matter and ‘Identity Politics’” – by Ed Brayton of Dispatches From the Culture Wars
Link: Good for the Goose – by E. Brooks of Gray Matters
Link: Excuses, Excuses (first in the series) – by E. Brooks of Gray Matters
Link: Nevertheless (second in the series) – by E. Brooks of Gray Matters
This post is the third in the series by me, E. Brooks, of Gray Matters
So you've raised a lot of good issues in this thread. Let me see if I can address some. https://t.co/QsgoZnkSuN
— 5'7 Black Male (@absurdistwords) September 7, 2017
We literally tell girls and boys how they "have to be" in order to pursue intimacy with others.
Men set up terrible systems for this
— 5'7 Black Male (@absurdistwords) September 8, 2017