Friends, I’m drained. I see the posts all over every social media channel. I have my own #metoo stories. I meet with a group of women each week and we happen to be talking about a woman’s purpose and place in the world this week and next and the #metoo movement couldn’t be ignored as it relates, so we talked about it there. I had phone conversations about it this week. It eased itself into dinner conversation.
It’s pervasive, it’s exhausting, and I have mixed feelings about it altogether. Women already know sexual harassment, aggression, and abuse are experiences that every woman everywhere deals with on an ongoing basis. We all know. We all understand. Every woman has stories and wherever those stories fall on the spectrum of no-lingering-impact catcalls to life-changing-impact rape or abuse has absolutely no relevance to their legitimacy of those stories or that experience. They are all valid.
If a woman chooses to participate and post a #metoo on social media, I pray that she feels heard, acknowledged and supported. I pray that as men, seeing the overwhelming number of women in your feed affected, that you begin to understand that this affects all women. Not just a select few. Women you see as “healthy”. Women you see as “normal.” Your wives. Your daughters. Every woman you’ve ever met lives within the confines of this issue. Even the ones who choose not to participate in social media hashtags. Maybe, especially them. There are very valid reasons not to participate, but that does not in any way mean they aren’t affected. You can just assume that every woman you’ve ever met is affected in some way.
Trending hashtags, however, don’t make actual change happen. That takes time, effort and intentionality on a personal level for every one of us. Not just activists. Here’s what I hope happens. I hope the hashtag movement sparks conversations. Conversations where a husband asks his wife how she’s been affected. And then she has the courage to tell him and he listens without judgment, thoughtfully considers how it’s impacted his marriage, responds in love and support, and then adjusts his attitudes or behavior in whatever ways necessary. I hope it sparks conversations among educators about what they can do on a personal level to support students and call out lack of respect they see among students. I hope it sparks conversations in youth groups, on soccer fields, on business lunches, and in boardrooms. I hope that we begin to listen, learn, and see ways that we can make our circle of influence safer for all people.
Awareness means nothing if it’s not followed up by action. Women can’t do it by ourselves. We can talk about it until we’re blue in the face, but we can’t make the change happen. Men, you are going to have to take actions. And it does start with you. Not with stronger sentences for those convicted of rape. Should that happen? Yes, absolutely. But, it needs to start with all the men out there who think this behavior is inappropriate and morally wrong…and I know there are a lot of you who feel that way. Clean up your circle of influence. Don’t allow toxic talk, call out inappropriate behavior. In the gym. In the locker room. In the conference room. In your home. In your heart. Don’t perpetuate objectification of women and don’t frequent stores, media, bars or products where you see it happening. Vote with your thoughts, your actions, and your wallet. Make your choices intentional.
Women. You’re not exempt from creating change. And I’m not either. As I’ve struggled with my response to this whole thing, I realize that I need to do a better job parenting my son around this issue. It’s not the driving issue in my world. I don’t think about it daily. Yes, it’s affected me in really profound ways over the course of my life. But, it doesn’t define who I am. I realize, though, I should maybe have parented some things differently earlier.
Parenting A Boy In a #metoo Culture
What can we do as mothers with sons? Here’s a non-exhaustive list of the things that come to mind immediately.
- Teach them about the dynamics of consent. That no means no. That yes doesn’t mean always and forever. That everyone has the right to change their mind at any time and revoke consent.
- Teach them that they are not entitled. Period. I’m not talking about sexually only. I’m talking about life.
- Teach them that they need to respect all people as a valuable creation. All people. Every single one.
- Teach them that there are consequences from all of their actions, both big and small. And those consequences are far-reaching.
- Teach them that permissions are important, need to be asked for, waited for and respected.
- Teach them that good character is an action, a muscle. One that needs to be constantly flexed.
- Teach them that we have a responsibility to actively look out for others, those we know and those we don’t.
- Teach them that their role in a healthy relationship is to serve the other person well. Not to selfishly take whatever they can.
- Teach them that any question they have can be expected to have a respectful, thoughtful answer from you. No matter how embarrassing you find it.
- Teach them what sexuality is about. Take responsibility for teaching them.
- Teach them what it means to be a man, in a healthy honoring way. Masculinity isn’t the enemy and should be affirmed. Healthy manhood is honoring to women. We need to honor it in return.
Friends, this is a no-brainer list. It’s prompted by the #metoo movement, but it’s about living life as a healthy person. How many of you have heard that the goal in raising a child is that they become a healthy independent adult? It’s not. The goal is that your kids become a healthy interdependant adult. We live in complex relationships and we need to raise children, boys and girls, who are healthy in the context of those relationships. Healthy in personal relationships, family relationships, social relationships and societal relationships.
It’s a no-brainer list, but it’s not easy and it’s not going to happen by accident.
I challenge you to choose three things you can do this week to respond to the #metoo movement. If you’re a woman and you’ve posted a #metoo post, great, you only have two more to go.
My Action Steps
Here’s what I’m doing in my home.
- I need to do a better job teaching my 12-year-old about boundaries, consent, and permissions. So, we’re going to have a conversation about it with some specific changes in our household. I need to respect his space more and his person more explicitly. For example, we tickle fight and have since he was young. He needs the roughhousing in a mom-only household. But, I need to respect, “no” and “stop” more completely. We’ll have that conversation this week.
- With the lack of fathering in my home, I need to be more intentional about pointing out when I see things that men do that I want my son to emulate. “That’s what it means to be a man.” needs to be said more often.
- Talk consistently about what good character in action looks like. How can he respond to any given situation with good character in an active, not passive, role? I need to make it clear that acting on his values is expected. Reward him when he does. I’m going to start using this as my after-school car question. “How’d school go?” to get it started and “How did you act on your good character today?” will be my questions of choice.
Ok friends, those are my three. And I posted a #metoo post, so in typical overachiever fashion, I’m ahead of the game. Write down your three things. Share them with a spouse or friend. Hold each other accountable.
How will you actively respond to the #metoo movement?
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