My three-year-old girl came home from daycare with a note.
Ever since our littlest has been old enough to walk and play, Anabelle, older by only a handful of months, has been a terror. Grabbing toys from her little sister for no reason, shoving the baby, shouting at her; in essence: being a bully. The professionals have all told us her behavior is normal. As long as she shows signs of affection too—which she does—and doesn’t do anything excessively violent—which she doesn’t— it’s okay. Still, some ideas have begun to form in my mind about Anabelle. Nothing solid, not yet manifested into words or actions, but a feeling, whispering, in the back of my mind. Like an aftertaste when I think about her.
My daughter might be a Mean Girl.
Earlier this week, I published a guest post by author Jasminder about her experiences with childhood and adolescent bullying. It was hard to read about kids calling her dirty and mocking her for having brown skin and dark hair. Harder even to read about how she internalized those experiences, and began to believe them. I know that feeling well; part of the reason I have difficulties with apologizing or taking responsibility sometimes is because (I’ve come to understand) my brother tortured me as a child by calling me a mistake who should never have been born. He treated me like an outcast in my own home. Because of that, I carry a feeling of wrongness in my body; a feeling like my very essence is a complete mistake. It’s hard, feeling that way, to admit to more mistakes on top of it.
The students who hurt Jasminder were kids, but their parents were adults–and those adults should have been more aware of the mentality their kids were adopting. Those parents should have actively included people from other cultures in their lives so their kids understood there was nothing wrong with looking different. Just as my father should have told his son that I was his little girl, not some random mistake clumped up behind the couch. That may not have happened, but those of us who are parents now have the opportunity to help stop bullying. How do we keep cruelty from growing in the hearts of our children?
The #MeToo hashtag campaign has exposed the fact that sexual violence is a significant event in the lives of most women. One of the most common forms of this violence is sexual harassment. A few examples of sexual harassment are catcalling, suggestive comments at school or work, and unwanted sexual advances. Many women have experienced at least one instance of everyday sexual harassment.
But one in five women will also experience a major act of sexual violence, like rape. Many of those women will also develop posttraumatic stress disorder. This means that female survivors of rape and other major acts of sexual violence are forced to experience comparatively milder forms of sexual harassment before and after the major trauma. Can the prevalence of PTSD among female sexual assault survivors be related to the commonality of sexual harassment?
How many #metoo tweets and posts have you seen lately? A lot, I’m guessing. A damn, devastating lot. Which was the point, of course. The campaign was started to demonstrate just how many women suffer sexual violence. As more and more women come out of the woodwork, we are seeing that so, so many women have experienced sexual assault or harassment. Like all of us, pretty much.
How many #metoo tweets and posts have you seen from men? The campaign, which began in response to the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal in Hollywood (edit: apparently it actually began something like a decade ago, but was revived because of this scandal), was created to highlight the male-dominant culture that allows “everyday sexual violence” to be a thing in the lives of women. It’s become an opportunity for people previously silent about having experienced sexual assault and harassment to open up about it and relieve themselves of the burden of secrecy. That includes men, right?
The issue of whether or not men should be part of the #metoo conversation has become hotly contested. In some ways it has usurped the initial conversation this was intended to start, which by all accounts ain’t cool. But since I talk a lot about sexual assault and recovery on this blog, I don’t feel guilty taking a moment to examine the issue. Should men be included in #metoo?