My daughter was born after 2 boys, so I was of course happy. I was so bored with the boys clothing section! That and the very special bond, I hoped I could forge ahead with her.
I could share with her all my experiences, woman to woman, as a shy schoolgirl, an awkward, pimply teenager, a young wife, a lost mother and hold her hand as she would hike those same steps.
But as I gazed into the pure eyes of my infant daughter, I didn’t weave any elaborate, rosy dreams about her future.
My first thoughts were actually that of anxiety. Would someone hurt her physically because she was a girl? Would a stranger or a known person or her husband ever use his power on her?
As I nursed my baby, I nursed those worrying thoughts too.
I don’t particularly like the word feminism, because it automatically implies that I am less than a man, that I have to wave a pink flag and fight for my rights. But at the same time, I would react strongly if a different set of rules were imposed on me or anyone just because of gender. So I guess that does make me an undercover feminist.
There have been moments in my life when being a woman, meant I had to settle or make decisions that didn’t coincide with exactly what I wanted. Many times I felt irked by century’s old traditions which turned marriage into a business transaction, where the new wife was now her family’s possession and her loyalties had to be to them first above even the family that raised her.
Her top skills had to be not smarts or good character but adjustment, agreeableness and submission. Yet my experiences have never left me wishing I was a man or bitter at the injustice of it all.
But unfortunately, that is not the case for so many women.
Many live enslaved, invisible, abused, an apparatus to pleasure men and bear children, many times dying alone in the screams of childbirth.
I wonder how it is, that I and a young woman in another GPS location will look at the same sun, yet have such different horizons. My horizon is mine to call, limitless to be conquered.
But hers is not hers, stolen from her, stomped on, limited or even non-existent.
It is completely unfair, a cruelty and a violation of basic human rights more than even feminism.
I did feel empowered by the Women’s March in 2017. Maybe the world my daughter and other young women would live in would be a safer place.
But I also had to remember, I was a mother of 2 sons. My sons would one day be young men governed by hormones, physical urges, and peer pressure. (How scary!)
How would they treat the women they would cross paths within their schools, colleges, work or in relationships? As a parent, I held an enormous responsibility for my son’s actions and moral conduct.
If it hadn’t been for the Donald Trumps, the Kavanaughs, the Matt Lauers, the R Kellys, the Bill Cosbys of the world, I would have put off the need to educate my sons on the importance of treating women with respect. I would have waited until they were much older.
Dear powerful men of the world, thank you from this mother.
They showed me that there really is no early time when it comes to such important discussions. The earlier the better.
I had to make sure my sons knew that locker room talk was not a free pass to demean women or anyone. Plus kids are growing up way too fast these days. They are exposed to everything so early thanks to the internet. They are still not mature to understand the impact of their actions or words.
When my son was in 3rd grade, another boy commented to him that one of their female classmates had ‘fat boobs’. I was shocked, these were 8-year-olds, not 18-year-olds.
The girl they were talking about was still a little girl in pigtails, in love with Rainbow Dash and sparkles, still unaware that such lewd talk even existed.
When my son’s teacher came to know about this incident, I was happy that she took it very seriously and didn’t dismiss it away saying, ‘Boys will be boys’ or ‘They’re just kids’. She gave the whole class a stern talk about sexual harassment and how it impacted people’s lives.
I decided to talk about consent with my kids. I used very simple terms and situations they could relate to.
You wouldn’t like it if someone just came and grabbed your candy without asking your permission, would you?
You have to AGREE to give it to them, right?
The same way you have to respect the other person’s wishes, when they say NO, even if you want that M&M so badly.
My kids still fight over each other’s fallen cookie crumbs, so I am really doubtful if anything sank in!
But I was happy, the discussions had started. I will evolve the talk as they mature because often the lines are blurry. What really constitutes sexual harassment or inappropriate talk or touch? How do you know when a line is crossed? What are your boundaries?
Even adults have difficulty recognizing and admitting to what is wrong as witnessed in Joe Biden’s and other people’s cases.
It was all innocent. It was consensual. It was wrongly interpreted. I had honorable intentions. I treat all women respectfully. blah blah blah….
So how will a child/teenager understand what is right or wrong if we don’t really spell it out to them? As parents, we must.
I want my sons to know what it means to be a strong man.
Strong men don’t berate, objectify, intimidate or abuse their spouse, coworkers or any woman.
Strong men don’t use their power to hurt but protect.
But there is a wider issue at hand also. Are women the only ones harassed and oppressed? No Are the inflicters of hate and harm always men? No
I am repulsed by misogynist men, but let’s be real. Many a times, it is women who are the worst enemies of women.
From mean high school girls to monster mothers-in-law to catty friends, we women can make the nastiest men look decent.
Boys, transgenders, gays, lesbians and other gender orientations also face the torture of the worst kind. They suffer in silence because they are made to feel ashamed for being different.
There are 9-year-olds committing suicide because they’re bullied about their sexual orientation. There is an increasing lack of humanity and insensitivity in today’s youth. Kindness is slowly becoming extinct.
My sons and daughter had to learn to respect human life in all its variations, irrespective of gender, color, race, and beliefs.
At the end of the day dispensing a good human from my family vending machine is only possible if I model it.
The fact is that kids DON’T learn their social skills from Donald Trump, the President or Bill Cosby the actor, but from me, the Parent.
How have I treated them and others? Have I modeled respect in front of them? Regrettably not all the time. So I cannot point the finger at anyone but work on the example I set for them.
They will be a product of MY policies and governing no matter who wins in 2020.