For the past few weeks, I have been following through the Harvey Weinstein incident as it unfolds, the outpour of #MeToo hashtag posts, the details of more than 125 women including Olympic athletes being sexually abused by Olympics’ Dr. Nassar for years.
Rape, sexual assault, violence is not an uncommon occurrence. Where I come from, unfortunately we see such stories in the newspaper almost daily and many more that never get reported. It does seem like it is prevalent in every environment, in every country, in every sector, and in every form.
I find myself questioning – what are we doing or not doing that is raising such monsters. Maybe this happened in the previous decades, but social media is bringing more awareness to it. Statistics state such incidents have increased by more than 100% in this decade.
Just recently I observed an incident which brought all these fears up front and center. My daughter was playing with her friends, when one of them started pushing her. After repeated attempts, I was curious to see how she reacts. I expected her to get mad, angry as she usually does with her little sister. But much to my surprise, she did nothing and stood there smiling. I debated if I should intervene but I was more curious to know from her – why?
Later in the day, I asked her why she didn’t say anything and on the contrary just stood there silently. I asked her if she liked being pushed around. She said, “No Mom, I don’t. But I didn’t want to upset my friend so I just smiled”. I was appalled. Am I raising a pleaser? She was willing to endure the physical pain but not cause her friend any heart ache.
As a mother of two girls, I will never know what it takes to raise a boy. But I realize I know what I would like to see change in what I see around.
Growing up I was always taught to be nice as much as possible, extend my help as much as possible, to go above and beyond to help others. I saw all women around me doing the same then and I continue seeing it now. Part of it now I realize was cultural and part of it came with being a woman. While I agree with most of it, I strongly feel I don’t want my daughter to do the same.
I want her to always do what is right. Always commit to only what she can offer without stretching thin. Always look out for herself first. Rest will come, with time.
I want her to have the courage to speak up against any kind of abuse -physical or verbal. To not be afraid, to be bold and forthcoming about it. Her job is not to please people but to look out for her wellbeing first and foremost. I also want her to be more vocal about her desires.
While we focus on teaching our girl child the art, dance, singing and all other creative avenues, very seldom I see our commitment as a parent to equip them with physical training. I want my daughter to learn some form of physical training and continue staying fit for self-protection. I feel it is a must for every girl as much as it is for a boy.
I was raised helping my dad do all odd jobs around the house as did my brother. There were no boundaries or limits. One day we could be fixing the car, the other day fixing a broken pipe. I realized that is what helped me to not be afraid to dive into unknown territories. It helped built my confidence that no matter what, I can do it. I hope to do the same for my daughter. Her place is not only in the kitchen, but also in the garage, the yard, the shop and everywhere else.
I want her to study for as long as I can afford and she is willing to. I want her to acquire as many skills as she can so there is always a plan B to support herself and her family (if she decides to have one). I want her to be fiercely independent and not rely on anyone’s mercy. Considering such powerful Hollywood actors and Olympic gymnasts decided to hold back for so long, thinking how diminishing it would be for their career’s, having a plan B is even more imperative.
This is where the power comes from. Our inner self. Not from Hollywood or Washington.
I also hope we raise our sons with a lot of empathy and respect for all girls in their lives. To know it’s not OK to push other kids, or bully them. To know that use of physical strength on others does not make them strong. But their mental wellbeing, respect for all species around them is what makes them better.
I may not be able to change a lot, but I hope this at least gets our inner dialogue started, we think of what we can change so we can raise better kids and in turn a better community.