My tweenage daughter came into my bedroom past bedtime last night. Blinking fast away the tears, she told me she wanted to stay home from school in the morning. After asking all the questions, it was revealed that "all the girls" were going to be attending an all day event for an extra-curricular in which she does not participate.
"All the girls?" I asked.
"Almost all," she said.
I had her list off the ones that would still remain, and it was a small list. It wasn't that she would be left alone, so much as she would be left with few girls in a group already lopsided...there are a lot of boys. A lot of tweenage boys.
I totally understood.
We talked a little bit about it, until she was able to hear reason. I said I remember boys that age, and promised that it starts to get better in a few years. Although, only some of those boys grow all the way up. I didn't tell her that.
Our conversation brought me back to 7th grade. Or thereabouts. I know my experience was not special. I think it's very typical for boys that age to be inappropriate. For conversations to be laced with sexual innuendo. Sitting in math class, the boys were asking girls about cats. If they owned cats, what color their cats were...cats, cats, cats. But they weren't talking about cats. What I remember most about that day was the moment it became clear that "cats" were symbolic of something else. And how every girl wanted to sink into the floor. Become invisible. Be left alone. Be left the hell alone.
This type of thing was par for the course. No one complained. No one stood up. No one punched anyone in the face or the privates....filed lawsuits, pressed charges.
Why did we let it continue?
Where were the grownups?
Where the hell were the grownups?
I'll tell you where. I am right here. I didn't realize how mad this would make me as I pull these thoughts out of my head.
Here's what I'm going to do about it: I'm going to teach my girl to be bold. I will give her the words to say...."knock it off." "Not cool." "What do you mean by that?" And I'm going to be the one to hold feet to the fire. Sexual harassment is against the law. These boys grow into men-like people that think it's okay to blur the line. It is not okay. It wasn't okay then, and it's most definitely not okay today. Someone has got to show them that the line isn't a line. It's a wall. An immovable wall. I want to electrify the wall, fill it with porcupine quills.
I birthed boys. Who will know these things. They will know that girls are not objects. That everyone deserves respect and to be treated with dignity. And should they ever, EVER, try and get away with harassment, innuendo, crude and objectifying behavior? No one will come down harder on them than their mama.