The past couple years have been monumental for women. We started marching for equality (again?....still?...both?). We have more publicly discussed issues plaguing women, like miscarriage and postpartum depression, things we have silently struggled with in the past. Most importantly, we have stepped up to end our silence on sexual assault and rape, and confront the abusers.
The #MeToo movement has no doubt opened the eyes of men and women everywhere to the incredibly haunting reality that sexual assault is rampant, not only in the United States, but across the world. You would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn't been affected by it in one way or another. While I have proudly stood in solidarity with my fellow woman, I would be lying if I told you I haven't worried about how this will, in turn, affect my sons. Not in the way some people question it, where a "deranged woman randomly accuses them and ruins their life forever," I am certain I will raise my sons better than that, not to mention the percentage of false accusations is incredibly low. No, this is in a way that I worry as I fight to provide my daughters with a voice and a platform to safely express themselves and assert their rights, that I am idly standing by condemning my sons.
Here is where that parenting shit really gets tricky, right?
I am praying (and if you know me, that's a feat on its own) for a safer environment when I send my daughters off to college. How do parents of college students even sleep? Is it worse than the newborn phase? My youngest sister left for college this summer, the first thing I sent her were drug detector cards for drinks, and a flashlight taser. That is the reality of the college experience for women.
I know that when my sons go, they probably won't have to check their drinks. If they black out, it was probably from shot-gunning that fourth Busch Light (their taste in beer obviously came from Dad). I know that my sons will probably walk alone at night, without any concern for their surroundings, or who they pass on the sidewalk. I know they won't have to worry about making sure they take off their headphones leaving the gym, while strategically carrying their keys between their knuckles walking to their car.
With one breath, I need to warn my daughters what people are capable of, and signs they should watch for, as if that can prevent it. With the other, I need to make sure my sons understand what consent means, in a world where they're being told it doesn't seem to matter.
I am raising my daughters at a time where we are witnessing wealthy, white men perpetrate many acts, without fear or punishment, when I know that my sons will grow up to be...hopefully wealthy (mostly, successful), white men. I am parenting at a time where my daughters are being conditioned to fear their own brothers the most, and that's just not fair to any of us.
I want my children, ALL OF THEM, to know they should always respect others and their personal space, male or female, and to know if someone tells you "no" or says they aren't okay with what you're doing, YOU NEED TO STOP. I want them to know it’s okay to be trusting of others, a little cautious optimism never hurt anyone. I want them to know they are no better than people of color, or immigrants (legal or otherwise). That their hearts should always be open to help anyone less fortunate than them. I want them to never be afraid to "eat the skittle," helping your fellow human in a time of need should always be a no-brainer. Most importantly, I want them to know your brothers and sisters are your best friends in life, cradle to grave, you should ALWAYS be there to support and take care of each other.
*Photo courtesy of Betsy Miller Photography in Omaha, NE