I just read an amazing blog post you can find here. It is about a woman’s quick trip down memory lane to assess if she has ever had any unwanted physical or sexual contact in her life. I read her post in awe. The names and places may have been different, but the stories are the same.
I had a bishop of the Episcopal church pinch my butt. Another seemed to prefer a gentler side and merely patted it. There was a married man in his thirties who seemed to not be able to wait for me to faint so he could leap over alter rails to be the first to my side. That meant he could slip his arm under me and rest his hand comfortably on my breast as he led me away to ‘safety.’ There was a guy at school who followed me everywhere. I had a permanent pass from all my teachers to be late because everyone knew I hid in the bathroom between passing periods from this creep. But no one stopped him. At that same school, I had the distinct pleasure of having my Algebra 2 teacher also be the varsity boys’ basketball coach. This guy won the games and loved the ladies. The administration turned deaf ears when we complained about the shoulder and back rubs. He actually put his hand in my pants, gripped them to pull me closer to him in front of class. I can no longer tell the difference between sine, cosine and tangent, but the lesson I will never forget was that my body and comfort were not nearly as important as the trophy this guy was winning for the school. Later, when I was working in preschool, there was this creepy creep who never looked above my breasts. He approached me to let me know he knew where I lived and lingered after other parents dropped off their children to be alone with me. The solution was to have another female teacher in the room whenever he was around. We certainly didn’t want to set any boundaries on his behavior.
Anyhow… my point is that I want to help my daughter through this. We have been very mindful of protecting both our children from molestings, rapes and other violent attacks. We have taught our kids basic self defense, have kept babysitters few and select and talk our kids to death on these topics. We give them opportunities to tell us how they are and to ask any questions they have.
The problem is that these other things come along more subtlety. Glances, brushes, people of authority… Single incidences. Strangers in passing. A million excuses to do nothing that add up to a horrible message.
I don’t know which is the most merciful route. Do I tell her this is how it is? Be flattered, or at least marginally complimented and pity the losers who are too obvious. Or should I tell her that this is not ok? None of it. Her body actually does belong to her and no one should be objectifying it. But with the commonality of this sort of treatment, am I just setting her up for trauma?
I think I am ok, with all this in my past. I think I am healed and just fine. But then I read an article like this and garbage floods back. I didn’t feel safe in my teen and college age body. I didn’t feel that that body was mine alone. And it still messes me up when I remember living in fear. I am not a strong feminist. I am not someone who hates men. This isn’t my agenda. And yet… How do I keep her safe? What mindset do I give her so that she has the best chance to be healthy, fear-free and happy?