Please be aware that we are discussing some heavy material. Topics in this blog post may be triggering.
If you look at any current news feed right now there are endless reports of sexual offenders on trial, victim shaming, victim blaming, and perpetrators victoriously grinning.
A month ago, the American presidential elect got caught lewdly boasting about blatantly sexually assaulting women and then casually brushed it off as “locker-room talk”. Since then, multiple women have come forward, detailing assault at the hands of this man, who refuted their accusations by saying that they were liars and weren’t attractive enough to warrant their claims.
I seriously wish there was a vomiting emoji to display how gut-twisting this is to me.
This is the very definition of rape culture.
IT. HAS. GOT. TO. STOP.
Rape culture is a real thing
…and not just some media attention grab.
After the president elect’s hot mic comments were released, writer Kelly Oxford asked her followers on Twitter to tweet stories of the first time they had been sexually assaulted. Within hours she had started a global conversation of women exposing the everyday realities of being women. At one point she had 50 women a MINUTE tweeting their sexual assault stories to her. Within days over 30 million people had interacted with her request. The hashtag #notokay, in response to the outpouring of assault stories, trended worldwide.
1 in 3 women are assaulted.
Rape culture is something that all women, throughout history have had to deal with their entire lives, and it only has been recently been coined as a “culture” because that is exactly what it is.
So why do we call it a culture? We can easily lay the blame on an “ill society” but society is made of communities, and when you break it down further, communities are made up of families.
I’m sure there aren’t individuals out there actively saying: “Women are objects and should be subjugated”.
Ok. Maybe there are…. And that’s the easy part. It’s easy to point to the offenders and shake our heads, but what is harder is looking at our own lives.
I think some forms of female subjugation ARE hard-wired and so entrenched in our world view, that it takes sometimes torturous contemplation and personal reflection to survey our actions and attitudes to see where we may be contributing innocently and inadvertently to rape culture.
My parenting skills are always evolving and in the last several years my world view has expanded. In my attempts to grow into a more enlightened person and shed harmful ways of thinking, I realized that I was not only allowing the ideologies behind rape culture into my home, but I, often, was the perpetrator.
It’s time we take a very hard look at how we practice care-giving to the children in our lives. We need to figure out how to teach consent in our homes, AND we also need a renewed mindset on combatting the effects of “rape culture.”
It starts with us. Ask yourself if you need to reflect on any of the following 4 areas:
1. Gender stereotyping
Gender and its confines is a man-made construct and is the result of the evolutionary theory that strength dominates. Men, on a purely physical level, do typically have larger and longer muscles than women. It’s simple physiology.
Go back a few millennia and we see why. Men used their strength and endurance for hunting large prey, whereas women were limited to a secure area to give birth, nurture children and gather food where they could.
Somewhere along the line, the differences between men and women were capitalized on when it was realised that we could be systematically dominated by being reduced to property.
It’s only been in the last 50+ years that 2nd wave feminism* was born, roughly 40 years after women were generally even given the right to vote!
That’s right, in the whole existence of human history, women have only been recognised as members of society for the last hundred years!
Despite how far we’ve come, even in this modern age: MEN MUST BE unemotional, strong, heroic, and WOMEN MUST BE pleasing, demure, and nurturing. This is the box and you must fit inside it. There is no flex room. Most cultures to this day, are firmly entrenched in this division.
Ok. So anyone looking at my family from the outside right now would narrow their eyes and be like,
From the outside, we’re pretty much poster children for the 1950’s, but looks can be deceiving.
Andrew and I, together, came to the decision of him working and me staying home based on our career circumstances. It looks different for every family but this is what works best for us.
Andrew has a 2 great jobs as a social worker with amazing benefits and can support us. I didn’t/don’t have a “career” to return too after having babies. The only job I have ever wanted since I knew what a job was, was to be an artist/entrepreneur. That’s my passion and I feel so blessed to have a partner that supports that.
So while our career situations may be a little on the “Leave it to Beaver” side, how we divide household duties is particularly telling of how we dismantle stereotypes.
We both take on parenting responsibilities. In fact, while I dealt with hyperemesis gravidarum during my last pregnancy, Andrew actually took over most of the childcare and household duties. Andrew has never “baby-sat” his own children. He is as active in our children’s care as I am.
I’m the one who attempts minor construction, plumbing or electric repairs, while Andrew sticks to handling technology repairs. I’m the one who renovates our house and operates tools and machinery. I prefer to be outside designing and building the newest garden structure, while Andrew prefers to be inside cooking and tidying in the kitchen.
This happened entirely organically early in our relationship because we both knew we weren’t married to the gender stereotypes prevalent in our culture. Andrew and I both naturally gravitated towards household duties that we like and enjoyed doing, we played to our strengths.
There is equal say in every single decision big, or small. There is no “Head of Household”, there is no “Hierarchy” or “Wearing of the Pants”. The fact that we decided to live our lives together doesn’t mean that the ‘leadership’ role falls to Andrew by default for the mere sake that he was born with a penis and I was born with a vagina. We are HUMANS who made a partnership, and that is how we act in our partnership, AS A TEAM.
We are displaying to our children that our strengths and talents are independent of our genders and that if there is a job to be done around the house, it should be done by whoever is capable of doing it – NOT because this is (or isn’t) what is expected of their gender.
If there is a decision to be made, it doesn’t automatically become the sole responsibility of Andrew; it is something that we figure out together, and if necessary, compromise on.
Basically, we want to model for our children, a home life without the harmful stereotypes that put a serious chokehold on the ability of our children to express themselves free from the jail of gender confines.
Andrew and I discourage “gender-izing” play. There is no such thing as a “boy” toy or a “girl” toy. There is no such thing as boy/girl colours. We encourage our children to play what they like, regardless if it is typically associated with their gender.
Aurora delights in her body’s strength and athleticism, Auggie is a study in sensitivity, Asher loves his baby dolls and wearing lip gloss and my daughter Alice loves her hammer and soccer ball. Why would I try to influence them away from who they are or the things they love just because it isn’t deemed “normal” or “acceptable” by society?
We also discourage games where the children are excluding based on gender, you know the – “this is a girls club – no boys allowed” kind of thing. We practice inclusion, no matter what.
There is no such thing as “BOYS WILL BE BOYS”
This excuse is the prayer of patriarchy; the mantra of male chauvinists’ everywhere. THIS. This reflection right here is why we don’t place an emphasis on gender roles. We are rebelling against the destructive ideology that gender dictates your actions.
2. Forced physical affection
How would you like to be forced to kiss someone, when you didn’t want to, just because it was expected of you? Would you feel repulsed? Taken advantage of? I would.
That’s what we’re doing to our kids every time we force them to kiss goodbye the Grandma they see once a year or hug the cousins they just met, or even as loving, well-intentioned parents, force a hug or kiss on them.
Why are we teaching our children to overcome their hesitancy when in these situations?
We’re basically telling them, “even though it feels wrong for you to do this, you HAVE TO because someone expects it.”
Why do we live in a society where our concerns over an adults feelings of ‘rejection’ supersedes our children’s ability to say “no” to forced physical contact? It doesn’t make sense.
Physical affection should come organically because of a close bond shared and a desired mutual need to show that platonic love through a hug, kiss, or cuddle with a family member.
Let your kid lead the way on this one. If they don’t know how to verbalize their hesitancy with PDA, then make sure to look for physical signs of their aversion and advocate on their behalf. If you’re in a social setting and your child is expected to give PDA(public displays of affection) and looks:
- like they are trying to step away from the person
- basically, like they don’t want to (you’ll know this look for your child)
YOU can say something along the lines of: “(insert name here” is not really feeling the hugs today, how about we do a wave or high-five instead?”
Your kid will most likely not know how to articulate that they don’t want to share a PDA, so it’s YOUR JOB. Doing this models for our kids how to advocate for personal space. With time, and when they are ready, they will be able to advocate for themselves.
One of the first words I taught all of our children was “please stop” with their hand outstretched in front of them. This was more than anything a way to stop the siblings from “over-loving” each other, but it has really helped with their sense of self-autonomy over their bodies when in situations they are uncomfortable with and it comes in handy when they are on the recieving end of an unwanted kiss. Trust me. I know. When I ask Alice(2) for a kiss, about 66% of the time, she will “hand to the face” me and bark “STOP!” sigh. 😉
3. Gender inequality
I’ve always had strong female figures in my life and I’ve always felt an intense rebellion towards patriarchy(the idea that women should be excluded from having any form of power), even though I was raised in a conservative evangelical culture.
My dissatisfaction with the limitations that society placed on girls/women started at an early age and I always looked up with awe at formidable females, determined that I would join their ranks. Now as a grown woman, I wouldn’t describe myself as ‘formidable’, but I am extremely passionate about this cause.
Andrew, a ‘live and let live’ type of guy, also grew up in the aforementioned conservative culture, but remembers being aware of the inequality between men and women. He would say now that his adoption of feminist ideology really started permeating in his 20’s while working as a child and youth care worker for a non-profit organization.
The social service sector has a high population of smart, compassionate females, and liberal ones at that. So, besides seeing my personal struggles as a woman, Andrew was also enveloped in a culture of women fighting against inequality and injustice.
In his early days working with at-risk-youth, Andrew witnessed and advocated for girls as young as 12, who were being groomed for sexual exploitation by their brothers and friends. As you can imagine, the horror of this reality was enough for him to start advocating for the rights of girls and women everywhere.
As my favorite Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai says, “feminism is another word for equality.”
Feminism ISN’T burning bras and being super crunchy. Feminism ISN’T about hating the opposite sex and saying that women are better. Feminism ISN’T about trying to wrest power away from the men.
Feminism IS defined by one’s belief that women and men are equal and should be afforded equal opportunities and right’s.
Feminism is acknowledging that gender bias is alive and well and constantly rebelling against any instance of accepting this as the norm.
The most important piece of advice I can impart on this topic is to discus this issue with your parenting support. Ask where they stand on gender equality, and have a dialogue about how to impart gender equality ideals in the home.
Because Andrew and I are aligned in this concept; we are raising our daughter’s AND our son’s to advocate for gender equality.
4. Emphasis on romance and public displays of affection
We need to let our kids BE kids. I’ve failed at this one in the past. I’ve asked if my kids think there is anyone cute at school, or if they have crushes. I would twitterpate when I saw my kid holding hands with another kid. I’ve joked with other parents about “arranged marriages” (yes, I was that mom), I’ve referred to my boys as being “ladies men”, or my girls as “little flirts” and every other seemingly innocent euphemism for projecting adult relationships onto my kids.
I began to realize that it is not my place to inject these adult concepts into my kid’s lives. Not only do they have no idea of romantic feelings (the only love concepts they can truly grasp are familial and platonic); I know that in time, right around puberty, they will start wondering about all this “love” stuff and if I’m careful not to embarrass them (anymore) they will hopefully feel comfortable asking me to figure it out with them.
Basically, it comes down to this. I don’t want my kids to feel like there is an emphasis on romantic feelings and displays of affection as if that is the only thing worth looking forward to in life. I want them to know that having a boyfriend or girlfriend ISN’T the ultimate goal and the only way to feel complete. We need to impart on them that hugging or kissing is NOT the only way to show affection and the ultimate level a relationship can be taken too.
Obviously, my kids and toddlers have questions about being married or having a boyfriend or girlfriend, because they see it modeled in our lives and the lives of our friends and family. So when we talk about romance it always includes a discussion about how when two people love each other it’s based on mutual respect (we break this down according to age) and kindness. This mutual love makes people want to spend all their time together and that’s why some people get married or have partners/boyfriends/girlfriends.
I want my kids to know that love and physical affection is based on a relationship and bond born from mutual love and admiration. Anything less, will most likely be unhealthy and detrimental to long-term happiness.
5. Not teaching our children to respect the rights of others
If you know a toddler, you can agree that their world revolves around themselves. The only concerns they have is making sure their needs and wants are met. This isn’t a bad thing, in fact, this protective instinct has ensured humanities survival. Where our problem lies, is when we don’t encourage our children to grow beyond this self-involved mind-set.
We all know adults who have never grown into the emotional maturity of thinking beyond their own bubble, and it’s heartbreaking to watch as this negatively affects their lives and the lives of their support system. Our responsibility as caregivers is to ensure that we teach a worldview of universal respect as early as possible.
If we trample on others rights, in the guise of ‘maintaining’ our own, individually we suffer, and so does humanity. One of the most important ideas we can pass down to our children, is that ensuring the rights of all, is the only way humans will ever live in peace.
Respecting another persons right is something that is taught, just as homophobia and racism is taught. In order to combat the “isms” and “obias” of our society, at my daughters school, the entire first grade curriculum foundation was based on learning about human rights and respecting everyone’s right to
- live in safety
- be loved and choose who you love
- access to healthy food and clean water
- permanent shelter
- vote in a democratic society
- express ones self
- freedom of choice
What an incredible curriculum, and should be taught in every school and every grade!
Even if your children’s school isnt teaching this, it should be a constant topic of conversation in every home.
The best way to teach small children is letting them know what their rights are. Use self-centered framework they exist in. As they get older, broaden their view by helping them understand the golden rule as it relates to human rights:
Respect others rights as you would have them respect yours.
Once they grasp this concept, the next level of maturity is to teach them how to advocate for the rights of the oppressed, but that’s a whole other post. 😉
Thanks for venturing into this very heavy topic with me. This is a hard subject to discuss, and by posting these political stances, I may be alienating some people who read this.
Here is the thing.
My purpose in life is to try to make a difference through this blog. I only write what I am passionate about, because I only get one chance, one life to use for GOOD. This platform is my voice, and one of the ways I can contribute to making the world a more loving and accepting place. I welcome civil discourse, so if you disagree with me and would like to discus this topic with me, please don’t hesitate to privately contact me!
If you agree with this post, what are some ways your family dismantle’s the ideologies behind rape culture? Comment! I would love to start a conversation on how we can repair broken societal standards and set new ideals for the next generations.
*Nay’s Coles notes on feminist movements:
- 1st wave: 18 century during the good ol’ Enlightenment which paved the way to the suffragette movement and women being recognized as legal citizens
- 2nd wave: starting in the 60’s with the introduction of birth control, women started taking more of their lives into their own hands, specifically in the areas of: careers, family planning, sexuality, and changes in divorce and custody laws.
- 3rd wave: An all-encompassing ideology firmly entrenched in inclusivity of all women, regardless of sexuality, culture, color, or religion. This movement addresses a wide range of women’s concerns but focuses on: pursuing individual ideals of feminism, closing the gender wage-gap, abolishing stereotypes, body positivity, and inclusive representativity in media portrayal.