May 30, 2014 by rebelwithalabelmaker
Tina, from over at Long Thoughts writes in response to the #YesAllWomen conversation:
I remember when my daughters were too little to know about such things–or so I thought–and I taught them to scream “No” as loud as they could as I pushed them on the swings in our backyard. Was I indoctrinating them too early? I don’t know. But I was teaching them to use their voices because I knew not “if” but “when” they needed it, they needed it to be a part of their DNA…
And then she asks what the mothers of boys have been teaching their sons. I have four boys, so I thought I would answer…
I taught my sons to scream “no”, too. I taught them to run fast. I taught them about the risk of attack when walking alone at night (men are more likely to be victims of stranger-perpetrated violence than women are). I taught them about the nuances of consent… both for when they are giving consent and when they are receiving it.
And I taught them about privilege, and expectations of masculinity, and hard choices.
And then I listened.
I listened to them when their faces filled with shock and hurt that I would think they needed to hear the “no means no” speech.
I listened to them about the injustice of their responsibility for fixing problems of privilege that they didn’t create.
I listened to them when they felt it was overblown, and when they felt it was underblown, and when I agreed with them and when I didn’t.
The most heartbreaking moment that sticks out for me, is the “cross to the other side of the street” talk. In our family, one of the rites of passage into manhood is that when you go through the big growth spurt in your early teens, you get a speech that goes like this:
“You look like a man now, which means you have to be aware of that in the world. Specifically, know that when you are walking at night, women will be afraid you will hurt them. You can help by being aware of that. For example, if you are walking and catching up to a woman who is alone, cross over to the other side of the street.”
“That’s a giant pain in the ass in the winter.” One son retorted.
“Right. It’s that or have a woman think you’re going to rape her.” I answered. “Your call.”
He stood silently for a minute, looking tense and angry, then said “This whole thing sucks shit.”
The other son didn’t get mad, just confused. He kept repeating “But how could someone think I would rape them?”
And then, “Do you do cross over to the other side of the street, dad?”
“Yup. When I think someone looks afraid.” Gary answers. “You can’t let someone sit in that kind of fear if you can stop it… because it hurts them more than it hurts you.”
“It hurts you?” I asked.
“Every time.” he answered quietly.