Rape culture, parenting and lessons for my children.

Reposting a blog from a few months ago, but always, unfortunately,  relevant.

A couple of days ago on Twitter, there was a guy spooling out a thread of tweets about how he now realised, where he had not before, that he had been complicit in the misogynistic environment women find themselves in. When other guys were making jokes at a woman’s expense in the bar, he would laugh along , or smile and nod. But now, all hail the hero, he has had a change of heart. He has realised that a crude joke in the bar is a link in the chain of society’s rape culture, that leads to a Judge worrying out about the impact on the swimming career of a convicted rapist over the emotional and life-changing impact on the survivor.

This guy was getting a lot of plaudits and slaps on the back from women for seeing the error of his ways and encouraging other men to speak out against misogyny and violence against women. This guy is 44 – what has taken him so long ?

As women, we are afforded no such luxury, our awareness of our place in this system starts early. Too early. Much earlier than our understanding allows. For me it started with a P.E class. We were hula hooping and the teacher shouted out , ‘come on Beth, move those hips, they’re big enough.’ I think I must have been around 11 or 12.  At the time, I was mortally embarrassed. Now, looking back, I’m furious. A few months ago Victoria Coren wrote a brilliant piece in The Guardian on the back of the footballer Adam Johnson’s rape case. It was about how rape has for so long been seen as a grey area; not so bad if the girl is nearly 16 , not so bad if she’s drunk, not so bad if she’s in a relationship with her rapist. It contains this line, which was a light bulb moment for me, ‘There’s barely a girl on Earth whose sexual awareness started with her own desire, rather than the creepy stare or touch or comment or otherwise intrusion of a third party. Who knows what that does to us?’ So my sexual awareness started with my P.E teacher embarrassing me infront of the whole class, leading me to be ever so slightly ashamed and embarrassed about my body all through my teenage years, and , to be honest, beyond. Thanks, man.

It’s great of course that more men now are starting to speak up in our defence; we need men on our side to affect a real cultural change and patriarchal structures harm everyone. Going back to Twitter guy,  what rankles me about his epiphany is that it took becoming a father for him to come to this realisation; and not just a father, but a father of girls. I think this is quite a common phenomenon, and it makes me feel a little uncomfortable , I think, because it has shades of ownership and perpetuating the objectification of girls and women. Not being at all concerned about the constant shadow women live under until the thought it might affect his own daughters.Make dirty jokes about other women all you like, but not my daughters.

I do confess, though, that becoming a parent heightened my sense of the inequality that still exists and strengthened my feminist tendencies. I feel a weight of responsibility of what I can teach and model for my son. I am absolutely rabid about pushing the notion of consent at him. He is six – what can I teach him about consent? That even tickling can be a lesson in respecting other people. He has what we might call boundary issues at times, and I always remind him that if someone says no or is in distress you must leave them alone. So I will teach him respect, and the importance of asking, and listening to the answer. He will see in our family that everyone’s feelings count equally; he will be allowed to be sad and angry and will be encouraged to talk to us about his emotions. So he doesn’t become either a victim or perpetrator of this patriarchal society that says boys have to conform to masculine stereotypes. Pressuring them to be ‘tough’ and making them feel to be a real man, they have to treat girls as less than, as objects for their consumption.

My daughter is three. What will I teach her? Don’t go out with your friends late at night; don’t wear the short dress you like; don’t have that extra drink; don’t stay late at the party;  don’t walk home alone; don’t, don’t , don’t.

I won’t tell her that. Be strong, my girl. Be smart, be clever, be funny, be serious, be pretty, be active, be wild, be loud, be quiet, be everything; be, be, be.

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54 comments

  1. Thank you for this brilliant post. Raising kids is the best/hardest job on the planet, and it all starts there. Looks like you are very good at this. Keep it up and #stayclassy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you , Lisa. I’m giving it my best shot anyway !

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s what we have todo, right ? At least it’s on our radar and the conversation has started. Let’s keep it alive.

        Like

  2. YES! I think motherhood has just brought my feminism into focus ad heightened my awareness of the everyday sexism we’re all exposed to.

    I remember a couple of months ago I was getting my daughter changed after a swimming class and there was a couple of parents also with their kids (a boy and a girl) no older than 2. They were both trying to get their children to kiss and when the girl didn’t want to the mums were like ‘go on, you just said you would, don’t be a tease’ and then basically forced then to kiss even though the little girl was crying. It made me feel sick to my stomach. I wish I’d said something but I didn’t. Next time I’ll be braver. #stayclassy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh that’s awful , poor thing. My daughter , two, has been called a minx and a flirt. Mind boggling. Thanks so much for commenting .

      Like

  3. I also see the strong connection with tickling. That’s a big one for me as I absolutely hate being tickled, and my dad never understood that I really did want him to stop. It’s a great place to start teaching our sons that no means no.

    Like

  4. Fab post I like your style of writing. Brilliant topic, and I completely agree with you. I realised how blind men are to it because they don’t experience it themselves (common theme there) when I saw how surprised my husband was when I told him “I guarantee that by age 15 every girl has dealt with comments of a sexual nature from older men in some form.” He didn’t believe me. I was surprised at how surprised he was if that makes sense. There is a brilliant Ted talk by a man about how men need to get involved to stop this being the norm. Not congratulating themselves on not being rapists would be a good start I personally think. #stayclassy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment. Funny how all women experience it , but men don’t even notice it. Numbers don’t add up there . Goes to show its perceived as normal part of life. And yes, there’s no medals for not being a total douchebag.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. We will live in such a frightening culture! Honestly it scares me that I need to start this conversation with my kids. Parenting is definitely the hardest job I have ever had! But the most rewarding as well! 🙂 #brillblogpsts

    Like

  6. Yes, I am raising both a son and a daughter and I am trying to be extra mindful of the messages they both receive. I want them both to be feminists but my words of caution to my daughter are going to be different from what I say to my son—I realize that. It’s a difficult line to walk. #stayclassy

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is such a wonderful post, and beautifully written. I completely agree with you, I would like my son to know his boundaries and I would love to tell my (hopefully future) daughter to be who she wants to be! I worry that as you’ve said, men only come to this realization when they have a daughter, but why aren’t mothers or sisters considered? There is something wrong with this. Thank you so much for sharing such an important topic, love having you over at #StayClassy!

    Like

  8. Another great post and all points I agree with. The Stanford case in America is horrendous I just hope that could never happen here but then as you say the ones with the footballers and people supporting them just because they are ‘famous’. Trouble is women need to start advocating for women, stop contributing to this sex sells society. It doesn’t been you have to start being boring and serious and burning your bra – its means that you have to start teaching your daughters and sons about self respect and respect for others. Thanks for linking #stayclassy

    Like

  9. The hairs on my arms are raised reading this. YES, yes and yes to every word. You are a wonderful, strong mother and it is our duty to both sons and daughters to raise them equally and with a view to respect everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you , I was a bit nervous to post this but have had great response . Thanks for taking time to read

      Like

  10. Phenomenal post. Yes to all. I’m almost angry in anticipation at my 2 year old sons potential future attitude which is ludicrous. Absolutely agree to instil an understanding of consent at an early age. All the principle of teaching our sons not to rape rather than teaching our daughters what to wear. And your teacher- what an arsehole, I had similar experiences and only realise now the impact they had on me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much . Yes I know what you mean about sons. I see groups of older boys heckling girls and I think please , please don’t let that be me by boy.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. mackenzieglanville · · Reply

    Amazing post, brilliant, thank you for writing this and raising the awareness. My daughters are now 12 and 9 and my 12 year old is getting hips and breast buds and it scares me and the thought of men commenting and looking is creepy. I role model to them to be brave, strong, intelligent, beautiful and have fun, be authentic! As a past victim of rape it does scare me for my girls, but I also want to raise my son who is 6 to be respectful of women and of himself. I am glad they also have great father and uncles as role models too.

    Like

    1. Thank you, so much, for your comment . I am sorry to hear that happened to you. I think having good male role models is vital too , particularly for the boys . Thank you .

      Like

  12. This is a really important message – great post. So many men just don’t get it which saddens me deeply.

    Like

    1. It’s true that a lot of men ( #notallmen) don’t acknowledge every day sexism or understand the impact it has – that’s why we have to keep telling them!!

      Like

  13. Love this, especially the end. What you teach your children is great! I love the be.be.be. Be smart enough to see the danger and know what to do. The world needs more mindful moms! #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much , I really appreciate your comment.

      Like

  14. thefrenchiemummy · · Reply

    Another ‘in your face’ post! Well done, i really like reading you. I can’t believe that guy is like a hero, seriously. And you PE yeacher… the typical macho man eh?Hopefully things are changing and men are more respectful. Or am I naive. Well doen for the end. I think you got the best answer to this kind of behaviour and for what it’s worth, there would always been some twats.
    #KCACOLS

    Like

  15. This is perfect. I feel the same and this is such a strong subject for me. I only have a daughter, and I will teach her to be fearless, to laugh, to be strong and to say no when she doesn’t feel right. I will also teach her that when someone says no, it means no, regardless. If I ever have a son I will teach him the same. Consent is key here, as parents we have a responsibility to ensure our children grow up to respect that. #kcacols

    Liked by 1 person

  16. And that is the message that we must give our daughters. Understanding ‘no’ is a very good starting point for most things and not one that is employed as often as it should be. #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Fantastic post and something I’m really trying to raise my daughter to know. I never want her to feel like she can’t enjoy her life; and I definitely never want her to feel that if, god forbid, something was to happen to her, that it’s her fault for what she was wearing or doing. Really fantastic post. #KCACOLS

    Like

  18. really interesting, thought provoking read. thanks for sharing. I have a son so come from it on the other side. #KCACOLS

    Like

  19. absolutely agree with you!! especially the “be be be” at the end.. as the mother of daughters myself, I do find myself wanting to say “don’t” a lot more but you’ve highlighted the need for me to say “be” she needs to be able to do all the things she wants to do without fear…. Yes, they need to know about dangers, but if we do our jobs as parents correctly, they will know these things anyway… thanks for this post, it has reinforced so much for me. #kcacols

    Like

  20. beccaweatherall · · Reply

    Wow! This is such a fantastic article. Thank you for making me stop and think. As a Mummy of a 21 month year old boy, this is something I also want to bring home to him. The issue of consent, equality, emotional awareness, and respect. The word ‘be’ is SO important. #KCACOLS

    Like

  21. Great post, I catch myself worrying more for my daughter than my son. I think it’s a direct result of everything you mentioned in this post. All we can do is our best to raise respectful son’s and strong daughters. Thanks for sharing such a thoughtful post! #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Brilliantly written. I think teaching boundaries is a really important place to start with your children #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Great post! I’m constantly worrying about my girls when they are older. I would love to be able to let them be how they want to be, enjoy life and be happy. As Claire said, teaching boundaries is very important. Love reading this! Thanks so much for sharing this at #KCACOLS. xx

    Like

  24. Fantastic post again! Love reading your thoughts on things like this. You are so knowledgeable and write it all down so brilliantly. Thanks! #kcacols

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks – what a lovely thing to say , really appreciate it !

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Yes it’s a shame that it took having a daughter to make Twitter guy realise the error of his ways.

    The problem is with the mentality boys have.

    We were raising our boys to respect women.

    It astounds me that we even need to have a conversation about consent!

    A great post.

    #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

  26. fairyqueen · · Reply

    Great post which covered a topic that is very emotive, you have expressed your thoughts brilliantly. It made me well up when I read the last sentence in particular. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday.

    Mainy

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Great post and rwally gets you thinking about what is considered acceptable (but should not be) in our society today. I love your hopes for your daughter, she is lucky to have such a great role model in you. #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for that – I do my best , that’s all I can do !

      Like

  28. I like to think that I’ve always been pretty enlightened about women’s issues and especially about consent issues, but I will admit that I have become much more of a feminist since having my daughter. Its not that things like equal pay and such never mattered to me before, it just matters more now. Part of that however, has to do with a renewed interest in making the world a better place for her. There are lots of other issued that I now have a greater stake in changing also. I think its more about a change in perspective based on becoming a parent, not necessarily that I’m a parent to a little girl. I guess I can see a little bit where twitter guy is coming from. Thought provoking post #KCACOLS

    Like

  29. I can’t believe a teacher said that to you, it’s disgusting. I agree with everything you’ve said here. I can’t help thinking that the reason it took that man so long to reach his ‘ephihany’ is that his previous views are socially accepted, which isn’t right. I too will teach my son boundaries, and respect towards all people. Parenting is tough in a world that often promotes what we don’t want for our children! #kcacols

    Like

  30. thesingleswan · · Reply

    Great post. I can’t believe what your PE teacher said to you – that is unbelievable. I actually think that misogynistic behaviour is becoming more and more widespread with the increase of the internet, social media and encrypted messaging platforms. There is no accountability and people feel that they can say things over the internet that they wouldn’t dream of saying in real life.

    I was angry at myself the other day. We were at a friends house and I said to my son Cygnet, who is coming up to two “give Amelie (his female friend – also 2) a kiss goodbye”. Cygnet, in a rare display of obedience did so. As he approached Amelie, Amelie began to cry. She didn’t want a kiss from my son. This would have been the first opportunity for me to give Cygnet is first lesson in consent. “If someone doesn’t want a kiss then don’t give them a kiss”. But I didn’t. I think I laughed a bit and said nevermind, as did Amelie’s mother. I was angry with myself when I reflected back on the situation.

    Anyway, waffle over. There is a great video about consent by Thames Valley Police. It is really worth watching. You can find it at the bottom of this blog post:
    http://www.thesingleswan.com/?s=brock

    Pen x #KCACOLS

    Like

  31. […] in a way that should engage even people who say they aren’t feminists. My recent faves are Rape culture, parenting and lessons for my children and Body Image: Built for use, not decoration. She also has great, funny posts about the hard […]

    Like

  32. […] to show it. I know I began to feel very self-conscious about my body, aged about 12, thanks to an inappropriate PE teacher. I know I was ‘bad’ at maths and science. I know I hated to wear the little burgundy […]

    Like

  33. Julie B, LPC-Intern · · Reply

    As an aunt to two girls and a role model to many teen girls, THANK YOU for posting this and reminding me to continue to encourage girls to just be and be brave. This is great and a topic that needs to continue to be talked about. Like you said–sadly, it’s always relevant. I appreciate you and this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Julie – really appreciate that comment .

      Like

  34. This is a great piece. I have a son who is 16 months and couldn’t agree more that respect for other people’s boundaries needs to be taught often and early.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. I appreciate this so much!! 😊 We need more men talking about this.

    Like

  36. Great post! This truly spoke to me. I just posted about body boundaries on my blog. I’m committed to teaching my daughter (7 months old) that her body is hers, and that she doesn’t have to grant anyone access to it — family, friends, even her father and me. I commend you for teaching your son about boundaries. It seems it’s a lesson that’s ignored far too often.

    Like

  37. brookemonroe · · Reply

    Absolutely 100% agree. I am not going to teach my daughter to fear the world around her.

    Like

  38. Hi I love your message in this post. I really appreciate posts like this that put issues that are taken lightly into a real life perspective. I also love that this is not another sad story of an abused woman, but a story of a change that was made. Check out my page dedicated to promoting success, self love, and daily motivation for women (Queens).

    Like

  39. I love what you wrote. When you spoke about what you would teach your daughter, that is something I can relate to. As an 18 year old girl I have constantly had people telling me “don’t do this and don’t wear that,” but in the end, I just need to live my life. If I lived in constant fear, then I would never go out. I just need to be responsible and be smart. I also like how you ended the blog, saying “be, be, be,” it teaches young women that they need to be themselves, and nothing else.

    Liked by 2 people

  40. I love your piece especially the last part.Women are beautiful in every inch from their minds to their bodies.Society should not make the girl hide because it uplifts boys and men having no self control.Men and women should be allowed to live their lives freely for which they were intended to live.

    considering this awesome piece,please check out my blogs and share your thoughts on them

    Like

  41. Women and girls should have the prerogative to wear what they like without having the fear of being made uncomfortable by the way a man looks at her
    And as a 17 year old I love to wear flamboyantly but nowadays I choose to dress in a specific way because I feel uncomfortable with the way certain men look at me.

    We shouldn’t teach girls how to dress appropriately, we should teach boys not to rape and to respect other people’s boundaries.

    Liked by 2 people

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