In light of the Matt Lauer (Russel Simmons, Louis C.K., Al Franken, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and the seemingly endless list) allegations, I’m truly astounded by people’s reactions, especially of shock. I was not shocked. Not because any of these men seem outwardly particularly creepy but because, as a woman, I live the reality.
It has nothing to do with what a woman wears or how she looks. It has nothing do with her character or lack thereof. It has nothing do with any of that. It doesn’t even have to do with the man being a scummy sort, a delinquent or particularly chauvinistic or even just the little bit rapey. It has everything to do with the way we condition our children to move through the world from the time they are babies.
We teach little girls to be good, behave and learn to protect themselves. Little girls are taught to dole out kisses to any relative, however strange or scary, from the beginning. We use adjectives like pretty, cute and beautiful to praise our daughters. We teach them to sit right, act right and be pleasant and congenial.
Nobody seems to like a strong willed little girl. They label her bossy, stubborn and difficult and it is all said with a negative connotation that seethes with everything that you don’t want to be.
But our little boys on the other hand, we call them strong, stubborn and smart and all of those labels are said as praise. For some reason, we teach our boys that it is good to be these things when you are a boy but inconvenient when you are a girl.
This isn’t just parents and it’s not even willful; it’s a bad habit and we all have it. I am the feminist mom of two girls and I have to remember to change up my adjectives because I want them to know they are more than just what lies between their legs. I value everything between their ears, as well.
When little girls misbehave, we scold them. We tell them that is not very lady like. We ask them to tone down the natural fierceness that is them. It is not all at once. It starts on the day they are born and by the time they go to college, they have been broken. But, when boys misbehave we dismiss their bad behavior with a simple, “boys will be boys.” We hold our girls to a higher standard and give our boys more credit for doing much less. This is the society we live in. This is our reality and it has been forever.
I thought things had changed. We almost had a female president. But, I see now that it’s just wishful thinking. The reality is that we live in a misogynistic world and those who are not, are the minority…not the moral majority that we would like to believe.
For example, earlier this year at school, the seventh grade girls were sent home a special note about their uniforms. The boys did not receive this note.
The note was to remind us that the girls’ shirts needed to be baggy, not be worn fitted. Pants should also be baggy, not fitted. There is to be no nail polish or make up. No hair color other than their natural color. No jewelry. No adornments.
I can go on record and say that I hated the dress code before this note because I feel it gives the girls no room to show their personality and I tried to fight it but found that female board members are to be seen and not heard. But when I got the note, “the reminder”, I was livid because, you see, the point was not to remind all the children to adhere to the dress code it was a subtle way to remind the girls to hide their bodies.
Maybe you think I am reading too much into it; making fire where this no smoke. Nope. A girl wore a dress on picture day. A tween, going through puberty, developing normally and one of the older female teachers forced her to lean forward in an effort to conduct some ridiculous “taste test” to see the the dress’ neckline was too revealing when she bent over. The teacher then pulled it back and pinned it because it was “too distracting to the boys.” Take that shit in for a moment.
On warm dress down days, the children are allowed to wear shorts. The length of the boys’ shorts is not measured or considered. The length of the girls’ short is another story. My daughter has really long legs. I buy her modest shorts but, as anyone with long legs can attest, when your legs are long everything looks shorter. My daughter has not made it passed the office one time since starting middle school because even when the shorts are to her fingertips, that is still the center of her thigh and “too distracting”. The message is that she is being punished for being distracting. She is being punished for becoming a woman.
The worst part is that a lot of the times, its other women who are propagating this bullshit. Don’t wear that. That’s too short. That’s too plunging. That’s too revealing. It’s all done so boys don’t look and men don’t notice. Why don’t we just teach the boys and men of the world to control themselves? Why is it the responsibility of the girls?
You see, my response was what every mother and father of a daughter should be…outrage. Don’t tell my daughter to hide herself away, to slump her shoulders, hide her natural curves and to be ashamed that she is becoming a woman. There is nothing shameful about being a woman. We are the bringers of life. We are a force to be reckoned with.
Tell your sons to control their urges. Behave respectfully. It is not my daughter’s, nor any other daughters, responsibility to control the environment so that your son doesn’t get an erection. Tell him to learn to deal with his own body. Tell little boys that little girls are just like them, human.
I buy my daughters’ clothes to fit their female bodies. Clothes that fit appropriately. I refuse to buy them clothes that are too big and ill fitting. I refuse to be part of this problem that plagues our girls and our women. We objectify women and you can choose to embrace your body and be labeled a whore or hide it away and be labeled a prude.
If you are thinking to yourself, “Thank God I am a grown woman and don’t have to worry about that any longer!” Are you being honest with yourself. As women, we are always objectified. Maybe there’s no sister sending you home for your shorts being too distracting or a crazy teacher pinning your dress closed at the neckline but make no mistake, you are being seen and not heard.
These men in the news sexually harassing co-workers, friends, and women at large they are a symptom of the problem. Their bad behavior has been tolerated for so long that they think we are the crazy ones, the witch hunters, the wolf criers who are making mountains out of molehills. Even now, in light of all the allegations, society is crying out on behalf of the men. Where is their due process? How can we ruin their lives and careers over such a small indiscretion? Victims have to prove how victimized they were, as if one degree is valid than the other. Women are even coming to the defense of men over the victims because they think they “know a guy” better than the victim who experienced the assault.
I’m not saying every guy that appears to be normal is running around assaulting and harassing women but I can say with confidence that every man who has ever harassed or sexually assaulted a woman is not running around acting particularly like a rapist; so obviously most of them are walking around looking like normal, “good guys” until they aren’t.
I guess my point to this piece is that I don’t feel sorry for the allegations. I believe every single one of them until they are proven otherwise because I’ve lived quite a few years and I know these things happen on a regular basis first hand.
It’s not a witch hunt and I don’t feel sorry for men who are all “Woe’s me, I guess I can’t speak to women anymore because I’ll get accused of harassment.” In fact, to tell you the truth, I think most of us women would prefer it if most of you would keep your comments, hisses and mouthed dirty motions to yourself. We don’t welcome them and they make us feel threatened.
Women are finally feeling empowered enough to tell their truths; to shine a light on the horrendous treatment that women have been subject to for all their lives. How it effects your male ego is not our concern. We’re not trying to accuse innocent men of wrong doings; we are simply trying to out our assailants. If you’re not one of them, you have nothing to worry about.