I’m actually looking forward to explaining to our children where babies come from. The biology of sexual reproduction is pretty straight-forward even if there are a bunch of associated issues — dating, relationships, etc — that aren’t so complicated.
Speaking of which, I am NOT looking forward to discussing sexual assault and harassment with my children. News like Donald Trump’s remarks about grabbing women by their genitals or the accusations against Harvey Weinstein are not only appalling, but involve some very complex issues.
OK. So, it’s easy to say, “When someone touches you in a private place without your permission, that’s wrong. It’s called sexual assault and if it happens, you should tell me or your daddy or another adult that you trust.” That’s comparatively easy.
But how can I explain to my daughter that when she tells an adult, they might not listen to her because she’s a girl? How do I explain that one girl telling on a person who does bad things often just isn’t enough and it usually takes several girls telling on the bad guy before anything happens? How do I explain that even women as strong, rich, and beautiful as Angelina Jolie have a hard time dealing with bad guys like this?
On the surface, these are relatively simple things to state: some people suck and you have to fight against them. You say people shouldn’t have to tolerate this sort of treatment.
But we know that fighting back can cost you your job. It can make people say scary things to you on the internet. It can cost you your privacy and peace of mind. And, a lot of times, you’ll never win until enough people are in the same situation you’re in decide to all speak out. That won’t get your job back or the money you spent or the friends you lost, but at least people will finally believe you… even though you’re a girl.
I don’t know how to adequately explain injustice to a child and still encourage them to stay strong and fight back. It’s hard to look at the ugly aspects of life and society and still be hopeful about the future.
So, I think I’ll have to try harder to teach her to be strong. I will have to show her that strength comes from honesty and being fair to yourself and those around you. Being a girl doesn’t change anything. She can work hard, love herself, be independent, smart, innovative, caring, and resolute all that the same time.
Life isn’t simple or easy sometimes.