Sunday, June 5, 2016

Why I want my children to be feminists (and why this is an issue for sons and daughters)

If there is one thing I want you kids to know about me it's this story. Probably because this one event shaped so much of me. Which is odd because it's a story I don't tell. Things have recently come out in the news that have taken me back to certain events in my life. They've made me sit and examine strong beliefs that I have and why. They've made feel very strong in the fact that these are things I most definitely want passed down to you. With that I need to explain things I don't like talking about.

So with that this is why of the things I want for you, my daughters and son, I want you to be feminists.

So many people hear that word and think of their own idea of what a feminist means. They would maybe even question how I could feel so strongly when I stay at home. Those people don't understand what it means. Feminism means that a woman can be an exotic dancer, a stay at home mom, or climbing a corporate ladder and they should all be respected for those choices. It means that a woman can chose how to reveal or not reveal her body and you should not infer anything about her from those choices. It means that even if a woman has had multiple partners, dresses revealing, has had too much to drink, flirts with you, or is in any type of relationship with you that does not mean you have any right to her ever at any point.

This country has a serious issue. That issue is rape culture. If you deny that than you are part of the problem. You don't have to be a rapist to contribute to this sickening issue that is facing women. Judging women for the choices that they make for themselves and their bodies is contributing. Victim blaming. The boys will be boys mentality that excuses behavior. Telling girls it's too distracting for them to wear certain pants to school instead of teaching sons to control themselves. That is placing unwarranted feelings on females who should not be held responsible.

It's why we get nervous walking to our cars in the dark. Why we watch out for each other when we go out. Why we have to keep eyes on our drinks. Why they hand out rape whistles at colleges. Why your hair stands up when you're home alone and a male knocks on the door.

I could tell you so many examples. The times a guy touches you without your permission because they think you should feel flattered. The times as a young girl and you notice grown men looking at you. The times in school when boys feel they have the right to comment on your body or your clothes. When you get labeled for making choices all the boys are too or get called names when you are showing too much when it's damn hot out. The time a person of power takes advantage of that power.

I can tell you, my girls, that at least one of these things will happen in your life. They have all happened to me and to most women. It's a fact that we can no longer stay silent about. We can no longer say boys are boys and hand that power over. I tell you all the time how strong you are. How you can accomplish anything. I never make you hug anyone goodbye that you don't want to. When you tell me no to something that's it. The answer is no and I don't pressure you, and I am so sorry to tell you that this is why.

There have been several times in my life that have lead to me feeling so strong about these things. An abusive demeaning relationship. All of the scenarios above. Watching so many females around me suffer the same things. This story is the one that stands out above the rest. This is the moment in my life where a lot of things shifted. It's the event that solidified that this issue is real. That these common things occurring in society lead to how I handled this. My biggest regret and it was formed by society.

In 2007 I was living with my grandparents. I was still coping with choices that I had made throughout high school. So I drank with friends. Sometimes for fun. Sometimes out of sadness. At one point I didn't make good choices. I was a recovering addict, but the biggest thing to recover from was the pain. I had a past.

One night an old boyfriend text me. He wanted to get together and drive around. I was excited because he was an ex boyfriend from a better time in my life. He seemed to care when my life went down hill. I had a bit of a soft spot for him. So I agreed. He picked me up and we drove around for a bit. Then he drove behind a gas station and parked. He unbuckled and climbed over on top of me. I was pinned in my seat. I told him NO over and over and cried.

He raped me.

Then he drove back around to my car and opened my door. He said "thanks." I got out and just drove for an hour or so. I was supposed to be at my sisters for the night. When I got there I told her what happened. She called the police and a really nice officer came to her house. I told him what happened and he asked if I would do a rape kit. I agreed and we went to the hospital. My sister was with me and I took my clothes off and got in a gown and laid on the table waiting. We waited for what seemed like hours in the ER. Everything kept going through my mind. My past addiction. My sexual history. The clothes I use to wear. The fact that my shirt that night said "getting lucky in Kentucky." The fact that I got in the car.

So I backed out.

My sister got the officer and I told him I couldn't do it. I told him all the reasons why. You know what makes me the most sick? He begged me to continue. He said "because I wasn't the first girl to make these statements about him and none of them had followed through with charges."

Society judges women by how they dress, who they have been with, what they were doing, and any other way we can blame a victim. Any way she asked for it. This guy has been brought up in my bible study group. They all know him. Most the people I know do. He has a wife and a kid now. All the while HE IS A RAPIST. Who I let get away. There I go blaming myself. If I knew then what I know now years later after analyzing all those feelings leading to my choice not to pursue I know what stopped me. That I was someone who could be easily blamed. That the well known, wealthy, MALE would look so good compared to me. So that's it. One more rapist among who knows how many that society and rape culture has let walk free.

I'm still angry. I'm still hurt. I'm still filled with regret that I didn't at least declare it in public. So that my sweet children who will all too soon know these things is why with all my heart I want you to know what feminism is and why it is vital to the safety of the largest group of oppressed people in the world.

Girls it's why I want you to know that no matter what you've been or what you are doing you have the power to say no. A friend, boyfriend, or husband has no right to you. You can be anything and you are still a respectable woman. You are not responsible for the thoughts and feelings of the males around you. Your body. Your choice.

My son. Gosh I want you to know these things even more. While this issue can be changed a great deal by women standing up it will change even more by men acknowledging that feminism is not a dig on them. It's you realizing that cat calls are not appreciated. That you don't have the right to judge a women based on her shape, clothing, or choices. It's you realizing that by doing those things you are responsible for a system that lets offenders get away with unspeakable crimes against women.

We don't need your protection. We need your respect. We need you to realize we are not property.

*In a recent news story a man was sentenced to only six months in prison for rape. A rape that had two eye witnesses. A man who was raping an unconscious woman. A judge who felt he was very young and prison would have to much of an impact on him was sentenced to only six months in prison. This is rape culture.

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