#MeToo Movement an Opportunity to Teach Our Kids
By Tina Mattsson
Recently, in response to the revelations about Harvey Weinstein, the actress Alyssa Milano encouraged women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted to use the hashtag #MeToo as a way to help the general public get a feel for the vast scope of the problem. We have all seen the hashtag shared over and over again on social media. Or you may have used it yourself to share your story. And suddenly, the 1 in 4 statistic became real.
When I was in high school, someone wrote nasty comments about me in huge, red letters in one of the boys’ bathrooms. The words went from ceiling to floor, taking up an entire wall. I was devastated. And embarrassed. And ashamed. And I told no one. Someone must have told administration because eventually the bathroom was locked until it could be cleaned.
Two things stick out to me about this experience. One is my desire to keep silent and tell nobody, not even my mom. And two is the fact that the boys who told me what was in the bathroom seemed genuinely confused that I was upset when I saw the huge words. Like I should have been flattered to be harassed in front of the whole school, or I would think it was funny?Both things need to change.
How can we empower our girls to come forward, feel unashamed, and recognize that it is not in any way their fault? And how can we better teach our boys how to treat women with respect?
According to a research summary prepared by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, 64% of people ages 13-24 actively seek out porn on a weekly basis (“Pornography and Public Health Research Summary”, 2017). When this is the predominant form of sex education for our young people, they develop wildly incorrect ideas about sex. Boys learn to expect certain behavior from girls, even to the point of thinking girls like the harassment and abuse portrayed in porn. And girls learn that boys want a sexual relationship that resembles what they see in porn, so they feel pressured to accept the harassment and abuse.
Here are a few ideas for parents and caregivers to help reverse these unhealthy patterns:
- Teach about consent, even from a very young age.
- Teach our kids the differences between pornography and healthy sexuality.
- Talk to our kids early and often about healthy sexuality.
- Help our girls (and boys) build self worth.
- Make sure our girls know that it is never their fault, and that we will always believe them when they come forward.
- Don’t teach antiquated ideas that a female can in some way prevent harassment or assault based on choices she makes in dress or activity.
- Don’t tolerate “locker room” talk or excuse anything because “boys will be boys.”
- Get involved in your school and community and help implement programs to teach kids about the dangers of pornography, similar to the DARE program in the 80s and 90s for drugs.
The biggest shame of the #MeToo movement would be if we sat back and felt sad about all the victims but did nothing to change anything. It’s good to create awareness. But it’s even better if we use that awareness as fuel for change.
As parents, we have the power to take this movement and make it matter. We can talk to our children, use these experiences as lessons, and help them to be part of the solution to problem in the rising generation.
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Tina Mattsson has a BA in Journalism with a Minor in English. She is a mother, writer, and advocate for children’s safety and education.
Pornography and Public Health Research Summary. (2017, August 2). Retrieved October 18, 2017, from http://endsexualexploitation.org/wp-content/uploads/NCOSE_Pornography-PublicHealth_ResearchSummary_8-2_17_FINAL-with-logo.pdf