#MeToo – a hashtag determined to prove that tens of thousands of women across the world have a Harvey Weinstein in their lives; a power mongering predator who uses coercion, deception, manipulation, or force for their own sexual gratification.
#MeToo – a hashtag that united the victims from all walks of life, validated their pain and endorsed their right to safety.
#MeToo – a hashtag that got men – perpetrators or not – to lend their support in ending violence against women.
Many people shared their stories, and others made proclamations to change the status quo. To this end, Mayim Bialik, a Hollywood actress, neuroscientist, and a mom, shared a video called Will I Raise a Son like Harvey Weinstein?
Bialik uses the video to reminisce about the lessons she learnt from her parents as a child actress in Hollywood. One lesson in particular was to be wary of men as they are always motivated by only one thing – sex. As she continues to navigate the importance of raising sons who will be the antithesis of Harvey Weinstein, she asks a very important question: Will the lack of trust in men, that my parents raised me with, serve me well as I raise my own sons?
This is an important question to grapple with as parents, and as a society. Most of the work that we as an organization do revolves mainly around empowering girls and women. This mom’s question forces us to consider training boys to view their world through a feminist lens.
Though Bialik’s views are socially conservative or lack cultural nuances, they are certainly a good place to start. Here is her list of 7 teachings that parents need to impart to their sons:
Equality: Everyone is virtually the same. We all have the same hearts, same desire to be loved, respected and protected.
This is especially difficult in cultures where religion, class, and caste divides create systems of hierarchies that deify or dehumanize people based on where they belong in the spectrum. But the belief in humanity and the ability to consider equality as stated above is never beyond grasp even in archaic and patriarchal cultures.
Rights: Everyone has a right to feel safe. If you put someone in a situation where they don’t feel safe – It’s not okay.
Our children have the right to safety. Our women have the right to safety. Our men have the right to safety. Schools, colleges, workplaces, hospitals, public places are covered under several legislatures that call for safety protocols that are yet to be translated into actionable changes. Modeling this behavior becomes difficult when excuses are the norm and safety is only a buzzword.
Consent: You do not have the right to touch someone if they do not want to be touched – Even by your own mother.
This is a tough nugget to teach. Saying ‘no’ is seen as rejection, defiance, and rebellion – an act which undermines authority – making consent less important and obedience a virtue. This fallacy goes against the very nature of consent. Parents, as figures of authority, have a unique privilege to model consent by setting and respecting healthy boundaries with children – both boys and girls.
Common Sense: It’s never okay to be intimate or touch someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol to the point that they cannot give consent
Statements like, “Boys will be boys” or “Girls like ‘this’ are asking for it,” shred common sense and allow abuse to piggy back on the blame game. It’s easy to see alcohol, or a party, or articles of clothing as the culprit instead of common sense that informs us that people are equal, people have a right to safety, and people have to consent.
Location: You are responsible for where you are. If you are in a place where there are bad things going, leave and report it. Strip clubs and places where people pay to have sex, don’t go there. It is your responsibility to protect a man or woman that you see in a dangerous place. Get out. Get help. That’s on you
This might seem tricky as defining good and bad in respect to sexual preferences or reclaiming sexuality is always debated. If we teach our boys about equality, rights, consent, and common sense, there are greater chances that systems of abuse can be overcome as they self regulate where they should or should not be.
Ingesting: Scientifically speaking, the human brain doesn’t really behave with great judgment in the teens and even into the twenties. Things you would never think you would do, people do them when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Ingesting pornography…likely contributes to the degradation and abuse of men and women.
As a neuroscientist, Bialik naturally turns steers the conversation towards topics such as brain plasticity as something we need to teach our sons to be aware of as they navigate life and form their identity, theories on life, overcome peer pressure, be media literate, etc. Everything that is permissible is not necessarily beneficial, especially if it contributes to the objectification and abuse of people, women in particular.
Daily: Every single day respect people that you interact with but specifically, pay special attention to those who have not been appreciated or represented historically.
This is difficult when privilege is woven into the fabric of our existence, but let’s walk two moons in their moccasins to understand the position of privilege as it applies to each of us. Let’s make it a habit to be more than politically correct; not by being patronizing, but with the belief that everybody is created equally, that everybody has rights, that consent and common sense are essential in intimate relationships, and that learning can lead to better understanding.
In faith, we echo Bialik’s closing comment: We have inherited a broken world and it is our job to fix it.
Share with us how parents could model this behavior within families.