The other day I found a great musician online and wanted to show the boys, so we watched a couple of music videos. Then in the last one, there was a scene with some old men and women in a nursing home, dancing. The nurse comes in to calm them down and then an old man slaps the nurse on the bottom.
I waited a moment to see if they caught it.
They didn’t react.
“Do you think he should have slapped her bum?” I said casually.
“No.” said the little ones.
“It’s not a big deal.” said my oldest.
I had to stop myself from getting too preachy, because I knew I was coming at this subject with older eyes. I had to remind myself that what my boys have experienced in their lives is not what I have in mine. I had to remind myself that I am a mother, a woman, that has grown up with a mother teaching me things with a woman’s perspective. I also had a father who was the epitome of a feminist. Both taught me to be proud of being a girl, and to never minimize myself for the likes of anyone else. In our home that was what I was shown. Outside, things were different.
I grew up watching women treated unequally. I grew up watching women belittled, even humiliated. Male chauvinism was strong around me for many years. School life and work life showed me a different side to men. Whether it was with sexist employers, or boys at school, or pure strangers. I have been grabbed in private places. I have been fondled without permission. I have been talked to in an inappropriate manner. I have wondered about my clothes and if I was showing cleavage, and what would “he” say if I was. I have also filed a sexual harassment form.
Statistically, 22 sexual assaults are reported to every 1000 Canadians, aged 15 and older * so it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Should it be passed off? Accepted? No.
In light of the recent news surrounding an American film producer and his sexual assaults spanning decades, this all came to the surface for me again, as it did for many other women who are sharing their thoughts on social media.
Raising three boys means I have an obligation to educate them on assault, consent and what is right and wrong behavior. And where many of you might be thinking that little clip on the music video I mentioned is harmless, to that I say it is not.
Because one tap on the bum, one sly comment, one closer than comfortable encounter that belittles a woman, every single one of them, is a drop of water into the very dangerous waters we are allowing to be ok. And once you go into that water, you are sure to drown in your disbeliefs of how to treat a girl, a lady, a woman. And really, let’s be honest, how to treat another human being.
My heart goes out to very large percentage of women who have come forth in any situation of sexual assault, when they feared their careers or lives would be ruined. My heart also equally goes out to the women who have not come forward and who hide these very not ok moments.
This topic is not an easy one, but it is one that needs to be addressed easily, constantly and without flinching on just how wrong it is.
*Based on a 2014 Statistics Canada report