Tuesday, August 6, 2019

My husband and I talk a lot about how to approach conversations about sexual harassment and flirting with our almost teenager. We both struggle with mixed messages common in the US where girls are expected to be both attractive and "nice". When the "Me Too" movement gained momentum, I reflected a lot on my own experiences and I literally could not pinpoint even one instance when someone "made a move" on me without me being open to that move. I think I was not that "subtle" in my interactions with the opposite sex which led me to enjoy many friendships with men without them "getting out of control"... unless I was open to taking the relationship further.
On one of our walks, I raised this topic with Smarty asking what she is thinking about girls having to be nice and how she would define being nice. She looked at me funny and said, "Mama, I know you want me to be nice. Being nice is being diplomatic and not telling people the truth. Well, I am not nice. I believe that the truth is more important than kindness. At best, I am willing to say nothing if it's not necessary but I am not going to say nothing just to be kind." 
I flashed back to my own uncompromising youth and thought that her honesty is really refreshing after years of listening to how we need to be politically correct, not hurt anyone's feelings and be nice to the point of going along with sexual harassment because we are not equipped to deal with it. Of course, I still want my daughter to be considerate and to think of how she wants to deliver her message but I don't want her to be silent just to fulfill the image of a "nice girl". I hope she will be able to follow her sense of self and to stand for what she believes in. I also believe that this will help her deal with unwanted attention if and when she experiences it.

Your Turn

How do you approach conversations about sexual harassment with your kids?


Joyful Learner said...

I think there is a mixed-up of ideas there. For one thing, sexual harassment does not happen to only "nice" girls. A grandma can be raped while going home. A feisty woman can be harassed by a co-worker. Second, being "nice" is different from having tact. In my opinion, telling the truth is being kind. But you just have to say it in a way that the other person can hear it (I fail at this at times). Going back to the Hidden Figures example, the engineer who was able to convince the judge so she can attend university was using her smarts. I think of it as, "What result do you hope to get and how will you get there?" Sometimes being nice helps, other times it does not. Sometimes telling the truth is appropriate and other times it can be callous.

Tell a girl that only "nice" girls get sexually harrassed sends the wrong message. It can be damaging and puts the blame on the woman.

Joyful Learner said...

As for how to teach my daughter about sexual harassment, I show her videos which I need to watch every year in order to teach. Both sexes can be accused of sexual harassment. It's not only a man to woman thing. Second, I let her know how important it is for her to tell me if any kind of behavior makes her feel uncomfortable. It could be the language a person uses or inappropriate/unwanted gestures. We also never forced our child to hug anyone if she did not want to. Then there is internet safety. I don't allow her to post pictures of herself on the internet and remind her that she should not share personal information with people she does not know.

Joyful Learner said...

Also, keep in mind that your own personal anecdotal experience of not being sexually harassed does not mean it doesn’t exist for a lot of women.

Ticia said...

Buried my head in the sand?

It's an interesting dilemma for sure, I'm not quite sure where to put the lines or how to talk about this stuff quite yet. It's definitely one I need to be discussing, and we have somewhat as we've watched movies and things like that, but not in a planned sort of way.