Sometimes I’m grateful I don’t have a daughter. I’m not a massive fan of pink, for one thing, and I have it on good authority you end up inundated with pink if you happen to conceive a female of our species (for some inexplicable reason).
My pink-aversion isn’t the main source of my relief, though.
I can’t imagine bringing up a girl, trying to instill her with confidence and good self-esteem whilst simultaneously trying to keep her safe in this world.
Not when a presidential candidate apparently thinks being a star means he can grab women by the genitals and kiss them without waiting (for what…consent?). And when his obvious lack of respect for half the population of the world doesn’t even seem to register as a reason not to vote for him to so many people. I won’t even go into the other horrendous possible crimes he has committed against women and girls.
Not when Brock Turner can shove his fingers inside an unconscious woman and writhe around on top of her and only have to serve three months in jail. And when his swimming times seemed to be considered relevant details to the reporting of the sexual assault.
Not when Ched Evans – who admits he lied to get a key card to the room of the woman he
callously raped ‘had sex with’ and barged into the room without knocking; did not speak a single word to the incredibly drunk woman before, during or after the act; and then fled via the fire escape – can be found ‘not guilty’ of rape based solely on the poor woman’s previous boyfriends’ accounts of sex with her (after those ex-boyfriends so altruistically came forward with this information following a reward of £50,000 being offered for such information).
And now, not when a t-shirt with the slogan ‘NO MEANS NO Well maybe if I’m drunk‘ was deemed acceptable to be sold and widely advertised online.
How about just being honest about what the t-shirt creators really thought?
How are parents supposed to raise girls knowing even now, even in 2016, they are viewed as objects that can be used for the sexual gratification of any man who passes? When their bodies are seen as public property to be commented on, leered at and grabbed? When judges, the media, and even the general public are more outraged by the possibility of white, rich males losing social standing than by female victims being raped or assaulted?
That’s why I have felt glad to have sons rather than daughters.
But doesn’t that just make me part of the problem?
The very fact I have sons means I have the opportunity to make sure at least two of the next generation’s men see women as people with lives and feelings of their own. I can make sure they understand about bodily autonomy and consent.
Then I panic.
My boys are autistic.
They struggle more than other people with the concept of personal space, they find it harder to identify with other people and to understand their thoughts and feelings, they have poor impulse control. And they’re growing up in a society where lewdly assessing another human being on their worth based purely on whether you’d like to have sex with them and then broadcasting this information to them and anyone else in the vicinity via shouting/whistling/honking car horn regardless of whether this person seems in any way interested or might be startled or even intimidated by this outburst is apparently a ‘compliment’ (according to a number of men and women I know). I start to worry about how I can possibly instill a healthy, respectful attitude towards women in them.
But I think, perhaps, I should relax a little.
The cubs have parents who are both aware of all the issues surrounding attitudes towards women, sex and consent and who are both happy to be counted as feminists.
I like to think as their mother and a significant adult female in the their lives, I demonstrate I’m worthy of respect and consideration. Similarly, as their father and male role model, Wolf is an example to them of a good man who is not only considerate towards women himself but who challenges misogyny when he sees it in others.
And all this is, of course, in the context of us teaching both boys to kind and caring and considerate in general.
More and more we’re giving the cubs bodily autonomy themselves (though, I admit it’s hard when your children have sensory problems around having their teeth cleaned and are demand-avoidant with regards to going to the loo or getting dressed/undressed etc.).
Most importantly, though, we’re happy to have honest conversations with the cubs. We already talk openly about a host of topics with them and I’m sure that will extend to discussions about consent and respect in time. Since communication is key to any change, I think this is such a crucial part of getting away from rape culture.
The are so many things to worry about when raising children: financial concerns, the terror all new parents feel when they look at their sleeping baby and can’t see their chest moving (because the little buggers always seem to hold their breath the moment you look at them), trying to force vegetables in them and make sure they clean their teeth, making sure they understand Han shot first. It’s one big bundle of worry.
Hopefully, this is one thing I can stop worrying about.