Now that rally day has officially come and gone I can finally take a breather and relax…somewhat. I mean, I can’t TRULY relax since I have a toddler who has all the qualities of both me AND my husband. In other words, he does what he likes, won’t take “no” for an answer, and will totally go and do the thing you told him not to do (for the hundredth time) just to show you that you don’t have the right to tell him what to do. Yeah, this is going to be a fun 18 years, for sure. But hey, if it means he grows up to be as stubborn and driven as his parents, then at least I won’t have to worry about society destroying his spirit. At least he won’t grow up thinking that any of this oppression is okay.
And really, that’s all I really want. If my son grows up to be mindful of the fact that NO ONE has total authority of him, and that he in turn has no authority over anyone else, then at least I’ll have done my part to raise one less asshole human being.
Because seriously people? There are WAY too many assholes in this world right now, and we as mothers of the next generation of tiny humans need to make sure that these humans don’t grow up to be assholes like our current generation.
How do we do that? Well, for starters, how about we look at how we’re treating others; specifically other women.
See, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but women are pretty much treated as lesser beings in our world, and it’s not just the men who are doing it. WE ARE DOING IT TO EACH OTHER.
Every time a woman wears something “provocative”, she is told to “cover up”. Every time a woman chooses to whip out a breast, sans cover, to feed her infant, there is a very good chance that someone, somewhere, has something to say about it.
“Why can’t she go somewhere else/be more modest/have some decency and not expose us to that?”
If a mother speaks out about abuses or mistreatment in the delivery room, or refuses to comply with her care provider’s orders, she is a “bad mother”, “willfully endangering her child for her birth experience”. She is expected to lie down, shut up, and submit to whatever the “expert” wishes of her “for the sake of her child”.
If a woman takes naked photos of herself to send to her husband and those photos are stolen and put on the internet, it is “her own fault for taking them in the first place”.
If a mother chooses to share a photo of herself breastfeeding her child, someone will “warn her” that there are perverts out there and that she shouldn’t be doing that.
We are taught from an early age not to ever walk home alone after dark, to never go to parties or a club without a group of friends, to never “invite” unwanted attention in the first place. We are taught that what happens to us is entirely based on how we act, dress, or present ourselves to the rest of the world.
We are expected to remain chaste, innocent, modest, and demure. Those of us who do not fit into this mold are branded as “bad girls” or “fallen women”. We’re “damaged goods”. We’re “sluts” if we enjoy sex without necessarily wanting a commitment. We’re “immodest” if we choose to embrace our bodies and flaunt our curves instead of covering up. Yes, even in the summer, when less clothing means more comfort, we’re expected to be “decent” about it. There are entire dress codes based around this premise that a woman showing “too much” skin is indecent.
Worse, we are taught to shame women who do not conform and fall into line. When a story is shared of a woman being victimized, be it rape or mistreatment by a care provider, the growing consensus seems to be that it was “her fault”. “If she’d only done her research/hired a different provider/not worn that revealing outfit/not consumed alcohol/not flirted with those guys/not been so “difficult”/ not had such unrealistic expectations, maybe it wouldn’t have happened.” Or they will say “there has to be more to this story than what’s being said here. There had to be a reason this happened.”
No, there is no REASON for any of this to happen other than the fact that the attacker, be it a rapist or a doctor, is an asshole who thinks that woman’s body belongs to him (or her). There is no other explanation for the fact that too often society seems to assume that a woman is to blame for what happens to her.
And you know the real horror in this? OTHER WOMEN ARE THE ONES BLAMING THE VICTIMS. It’s not men who are saying “she should have known better.” If it were only men, then at least we would be able to unite against our oppressors, but it’s not. It’s other women, our sisters, our mothers, our friends. It’s other women who are saying “just be good and obedient and accept that this is the way things are.”
Well I’m calling bullshit on all of it! I’m here to say that the problem is not women not doing what they “should be” and it’s not men being evil. It’s PEOPLE. PEOPLE are being evil and cruel and it’s not because we were born that way and it’s not because this is how it’s always been. It’s because we, as a society, do not value women as human beings. And as much as I hate to blame the parents, in this case it IS the parents who are to blame.
We are the ones teaching our kids to de-value women. We teach our daughters to de-value themselves every time we put the responsibility on THEM to protect themselves from rape. Instead we should be teaching our sons not to rape. We should teach them not to oppress. We should teach them to respect women, not for what they can do for them, but simply because they are human beings.
Instead of teaching our daughters about body image, we should be teaching our sons that women are not here for decoration. We do not OWE them something pretty to look at. Our sexuality does not belong to them.
We should teach our sons that breasts have a real and important function. They exist so we can feed our babies. Breasts are not inherently sexual; our society has simply made them that way. Every time we tell a mother to cover up, we are further instilling that belief into our children. Every time we insist that nudity on TV needs to be censored, that it’s inappropriate, we make it a forbidden fruit. Instead we should be desensitizing our society to nudity, making it so commonplace that a naked woman is no longer a big deal.
Imagine, for a moment, if nudity was so common on beaches and on TV that people didn’t even bat an eye. Imagine if we were so saturated with naked breasts that, much like after watching a couple seasons of HBO, we no longer reacted at all to their display. Imagine if a woman could whip out her breast in a crowded, public place to feed her child and no one even noticed. Imagine if no one cared.
Imagine if nudity was so commonplace that no one would bother to steal photos of naked celebrities. Imagine if there was never a mention of a nip slip or accidental exposure. That seeing a naked breast on screen or in real life was as exciting as seeing an elbow or a knee cap. Imagine if no one cared?
Imagine if a woman in labor was treated as the sole decision maker, supported in whatever choices she makes, and that any violation of this by care providers was met with public outrage and a cry for that doctor to be fired immediately. Imagine if no one ever said “I’m sure there’s more to the story” or “that mother was being selfish”.
Imagine if a woman could wear a low cut top or short skirt or even just pasties and a thong and not once have a man catcall her.
Imagine if we stopped telling our daughters not to drink at parties/flirt with boys and lead them on/dress provocatively and instead taught our sons not to assume that just because a girl is talking to them it mean that she owes him sexual access to her later. That sometimes when a girl wants to be his friend she really just wants to be friends, and that’s okay. What if we taught our sons to simply be nice to women without expecting anything in return. That being chivalrous is a good quality NOT because it will ensure he gets a girlfriend, but because it’s polite! What if we taught our boys that no matter what they do or how “nice” they are, or how handsome they are, the world does not owe them a beautiful woman. That women are free to make their own choices and that one cannot “win” someone else as a mate because women are not prizes to be won.
What if we taught our children that men and women are deserving of the same rights and privileges, regardless of how they act or look. Regardless of whether they are mothers or fathers, husbands or wives, and regardless of whether they are promiscuous or celibate. What if we truly taught our children not to judge, instead of merely paying lip service. What if we stopped blaming the victims and taught our children that while it is always a good idea to be careful, that they are never to blame for an attack or violation. What if our daughters never felt shame over their bodies due to the comments of someone else? What if they grew up with the freedom to embrace their sexuality without also fearing an attack from a man? What if instead of being told to “save themselves for marriage”, girls were told that they are in control of their own sexuality and it is THEIR choice whom they share it with. What if we stopped expecting the oppressed to behave a certain way and instead focused on the behaviors and expectations of the oppressors?
It may seem like I’m talking about a utopia that could never exist, but it could. It could easily exist in just a few generations if we as mothers took the responsibility upon ourselves and stopped attacking one another. If we stopped assuming that the victims are to blame for their situation, stopped condemning other women for their choices, stopped insisting that some women are just “asking for it” and instead turned to our sons and told them “this will never be okay” in response to a story of abuse. If we told our children that their bodies belong to them and them alone, that they don’t owe anyone anything and that in turn no one owes them anything. That being kind and considerate is expected of them not because it will win them friends or a mate, but simply because being an asshole won’t be tolerated.
I know it’s not going to happen. I know I’m delusional to think that things could ever change for the better. After all, we’re still far too busy hating each other and condemning our sisters for choices we could never make for ourselves. We’re too busy assuming that other women don’t care as much as we do, or that they’re selfishly only thinking of themselves and their comfort over that of everyone else. And again I must point out that we don’t owe anyone anything. I am not responsible for your comfort or your happiness. I do NOT have to cover up and sacrifice my comfort for yours. If you do not want to see me breastfeeding my child, then don’t look. If you wouldn’t make the same choices I make in how I birth my child, then don’t make those choices. No one is forcing you to agree with anyone or make the same decisions they made, but for crying out loud show a little compassion! Stop focusing on what the victim could have done differently and instead focus on the attacker and how wrong they were to violate a fellow human being.
And then maybe we’ll actually manage to raise a generation of kids who don’t all grow up to be assholes.