It’s been an intense week and a bit of a roundabout for me. I started out seeing #MeToo and wanting to join the voices. I wanted to stand up for all the silenced women and be brave enough to say I too had been through, and survived sexual violence.
I wanted for the world to understand what I have always known ...
… that “me too” can be said by every female from the age of about 10 upwards. Either in some small (it’s never that small), everyday way or on a terrifying sliding scale to extremely devastating sexual violence, sometimes repeatedly. But as I raised my voice, it became oh so clear that there was a problem, and soon that became more than one. These need addressing, and a solution is a must:
#metoo - the problems
Problem 1: #MeToo is massively triggering
Lots of people on my timeline don’t know my story and I am not required to tell it. I don’t owe it to anyone, and it can trigger a lot of difficulty for me to share it, or even hint at it. When I posted my “me too”, I was putting on my big girl pants so I could be heard just a little. I wanted to inspire and empower others. I wasn’t really prepared for the mixed response. Lots of solidarity and expected out-pouring yes, but so much pain I wasn’t prepared for. So much triggering of people who weren’t ready to share, or never want to, but now felt obliged, and from women who are still not safe to share. They aren’t safe! – partly because this subject being so public can make those men who are most violent, even worse. It triggers them too, to devastating effect. The last thing in the world I ever wanted to do was to trigger anyone or make anything worse. No one wanted that.
Problem 2: #MeToo only hears women
In my more private groups the conversations were complex and I quickly noticed (and disliked) that this has turned into a highly binary conversation. It feels like any “other” gender people were not able to have a voice here. I heard many trans and non-binary people feeling ostracised from the campaign and worse still, a trans woman who felt left out as a woman because she hadn’t (yet) experienced this harassment.
I also tried to listen to the occasional “what about sexual violence for boys and men” and whilst there is no doubt that they experience harassment and sexual violence and no doubt that many many men would never harass or assault women, any cries of “us too” or “not all men” are understandably met with anger. I agree entirely that a conversation about that should never derail a conversation about THIS, but shutting them down has the impact of the next problem:
Problem 3: #MeToo silences men on this issue for women
On my timeline and across groups and really the whole of Facebook, I saw one man speak. ONE. Now I have some fabulous men in my life and they didn’t speak. Not one of them said “This is a disgrace” or “How can this be happening” or “what can I do”. I expressed this to my husband (who is a wonderful, progressive man) and he expressed concern that he would be encroaching on a female conversation, or speaking out of turn in front of family members or colleagues of mine. He didn’t want to cause more pain inadvertently. When we discussed the situation in Hollywood and I asked why had these decent men only excluded Weinstein from their speeches instead of acting, speaking, or protecting women, he expressed that these mens careers or reputations could also be ruined or they could actually be in physical danger as well.
Even the really decent men, don’t feel they can fight this, for fear of male violence.
Problem 4: #MeToo identifies women as victims
Someone I respect raised concerns that In joining our voices to this campaign we are identifying ourselves to powers we have no control over, such as Facebook. But for me the issue of identification is more critically that many people, rather than standing up and feeling powerful, were in the first stages of acceptance and in identifying themselves as victims they may end up feeling more like victims. They may feel more helpless.
Problem 5: #MeToo is just shouting into the abyss
The roller coaster went like this: I feel empowered to speak up, stand up and inspire other women to stand up and speak up and be heard.
Then – this problem is so huge, so painful and so endemic in society that I feel utterly helpless and like I am screaming and no one is listening and even if half of us scream, no one is fucking listening.
I wondered, will this be a ripple that irons out and little, if anything, will change?
So what then?
These problems are not small, and make this campaign hugely problematic but here is the real problem… what is the alternative? Where else can we start?
Not speaking? … No one speaking? … STILL?
NO! Then nothing will EVER change and I WILL NOT accept that. It’s time women stop accepting that. That is not OK.
So whilst this week has been painful and triggering, it has also been necessary. It is important that the scale of the problem is recognised. This is not a Hollywood problem, it’s a global one and it’s time it stopped. So we must act. We women (who are oppressed because the patriarchy is completely terrified at our power if we chose it) must act and the men that truly believe in equality and consent must act. Voters must act.
Then, how shall we act?
If we want this to ever change (and it fucking must), it does start with awareness. I do not expect anyone to speak who doesn’t want to or is not safe to. There can be enough of us speaking right now to speak for you. Stay safe (whether that is physically or mentally). But for those that feel they can, we could start to change things by raising our voices without expecting that someone else will do it for us. When there are issues of equality and oppression, we must speak, each and every time. Without fail.
But the conversation cannot stop with “me too”. The next conversation must take place.
How we raise children is everything:
We have to start at the beginning. We start with our children. We need to look seriously closely at the parenting and educational techniques that have created a society where violence against women and children is inherently acceptable. Where toxic masculinity (in place of positive masculinity) rules across the globe and desecrates women and children.
First we, as parents, must ensure we can parent without passing on our own suffering:
Prevent transference of pain and destruction
I know what it is to try to endure the pain, the shame and anger that eats away at you. We cannot raise strong, empowered, respectful children whilst we carry that. We do need to heal first and If you are reading this and you have experienced trauma please seek help.
Raising a generation
BUT the most important thing we must do, and it’s essential. is to change the way we raise our children. There needs to be a fundamental change in the way we wire the brains of children through parenting and education. And here is how:
Seek your children's consent early and often
It is never too early to start teaching and modelling consent. One of the things I took away from my IAIM training was that they highlight the necessity (yes I said necessity) of always asking other humans for their permission before we touch them, handle them, care for them. You may think tiny babies don’t understand and cannot respond but if you practice talking to your baby (“is it ok if I massage your leg now”) and watching their body language and facial expression for cues of engagement, you will open a whole new world. You will realise that consent is essential at any age.
This sent me on a learning journey through Magda Gerber and Janet Lansbury to La Leche League amongst others where I realised that respectful parenting means treating children as equal human beings, not property, not subordinates, not annoyances. From birth and throughout their lives, we must respect their capabilities, competences and autonomy, intervening only when they need us to and with consent
Stop undermining consent at home
There are a number of key ways that parents commonly undermine the concept of consent with their children without even realising it:
- Insisting they kiss or hug you or any other person (friends and family). their body is theirs, not yours and being polite or respecting elders is not as important as knowing that they have the ultimate say in what happens to their bodies.
- Giving some people ultimate power. This is often seen as being respectful to elders and whilst it is important to teach our children to respect all other people, regardless of their age, size, gender or any other generic demographic, having people who should be respected regardless of their actions, undermines children’s ability to respect themselves and make safe choices about their bodies now and in the future.
- Playing rough and tumble (RTP) or tickling games without boundaries. RTP is fantastic for learning consent if done well. Listen to your child, if they say stop, or no, or their sounds are unhappy – STOP. Even if they ask you to start straight away again – that’s fine but no means no and stop means stop. This is essential learning for all genders.
- Contradicting their assertions. If your child says it’s cold when it’s hot, consider discussing the issue with them rather than telling them they are wrong. “What makes you think it’s cold?” rather than “no it’s not don’t be so ridiculous”.
Demand a consent-based education
Now this is a huge area of discussion so all I will say for now is that our current eduction system undermines consent in it’s very essence. How can children really love learning if they are given no choice on how, when, where and what they learn? Please use the link t the end of the blog to look up Sophie Christophy and what she is doing because it’s mind blowing.
In doing this we make consent and autonomy part of the fabric of society. We no longer need to shove lessons about consent down adolescents throats when it’s simply too late and unbelievable. Why would they respect our lesson when we have so thoroughly taught them their consent is irrelevant? We can raise confident, respectful, and empathic human beings instead.
In CalmFamily we teach consent-based and respectful parenting by empathising with children from the womb through to adulthood. Consent is in the fibre of all our classes and the way we deliver them.
If we raised a generation of well attached children who experienced consent positively from day one, who had their voices heard at home and in the world, had body autonomy and respected others’ right to choice and consent as theirs were heard and respected, we could change absolutely everything.
We could change the world!
Thank you for reading,
Read amazing stuff on consent-based parenting and education from the stunning Sophie Christophy.
If you are keen to take action to change consent in your parenting, please book a class or consultation with a BabyCalm or ToddlerCalm consultant. We provide evidence, empathy and we show you your power as a parent.
If you want to help us change the world by inspiring hundreds of other parents, join our community of consultants and our parenting movement.
If you want to hear more about birth, parenting and education from me, please contact me to speak at your event or facilitate a workshop for you.