Sunday, January 25, 2015

Toy guns and slut-shaming: Am I totally off-base? - By Hilary

You guys, I might be losing it.
The other day as I was scrolling through Facebook, I came across 2 different blog posts that TOTALLY rubbed me the wrong way. And then I thought, "Is it me?"
The first one was by a white mother who has adopted black children.
She addressed the post to white mothers of black children, so of course I was intrigued and read the article. She talked about how she has to have this conversation with her black children about how people will perceive them differently because of their skin color. And also she will have to tell them that they cannot play with toy guns at parks.
Whoa.
First of all, I want to say that I know racism has not been completely eradicated.
But at the same time, I feel like bringing this issue up to your children - "People will view you differently because you're black" - perpetuates the problem.
If we want our children to be part of the solution, we need to change the way we talk to them. People will judge you by the content of your character. We need to build their confidence, to tell them they're beautiful, they're loved, they're wanted, and they're valued.
IF they encounter someone who treats them differently because of the color of their skin, THEN we talk about it. THEN we have that conversation.
But we absolutely should not SET THEM UP to believe that they're perceived differently.
Secondly, let's talk about toy guns.
Let's talk about Tamir Rice, the Cleveland boy who police shot when he was playing with a toy gun in a park. In this case, I think police handled the situation incorrectly. They messed up. I wish, more than anything, that they had parked somewhere far away, where they felt safe, and used a loudspeaker to ask Tamir to put the gun down. 
Instead, they sped up to him, probably scared the heck out of him, and shot him when he pulled the toy gun out from under his sweatshirt. His death is a tragedy. 
We can Monday-morning-quarterback the heck out of this situation, but that's not the point. 
Here's the thing:  Tamir's toy gun wasn't a brightly colored plastic gun with foam darts. It looked very much like a real gun. Someone thought the gun looked realistic enough that he called the police.



















(Real quick: Can you tell which of the above guns is real and which is fake? The first one is just like the one Tamir Rice had. The second and third ones are actual handguns.)
We ALL need to talk to our children about taking toy guns out in public - especially toy guns that look real. This is NOT a race issue.
I never let my kids bring their toy guns in the car, even though they're all those neon Nerf guns or plastic cowboy cap guns with orange plastic tips.
You point a gun (yes! Even a toy one!) out the car window at the wrong person and you get shot.
I'm not blaming Tamir; he was a child.
But I'm just pointing out that as parents, we ALL need to tell our kids they can't play with realistic-looking guns in the park. Whether they're white or black or brown or whatever.
I've HAD that conversation with my (white) sons, and I don't feel sorry for myself about it.
Yes, as white parents of colored children, we WILL have to address racism. But the toy gun conversation is a whole different animal, and all children should be privy to that.
Okay, let's move onto slut-shaming.
Another mother wrote the second blog post I took issue with. She was writing in response to something she had seen where an Australian school sent home a note asking parents not to let their children dress in tight clothing that might attract pedophiles.
The author of the blog post said pedophiles don't choose victims based on what the victims are wearing (and I agree - evidence shows each pedophile has his own trigger - and it's not necessarily related to clothing).
She also said that by asking kids not to wear tight clothes in order to avoid targeting, adults are "slut-shaming" them. Instead, she said, we should give our kids 2 tools. We should: 1. Not put their names on their clothing or backpacks (duh) and 2. Buy them sturdy running shoes in case they have to run away from a predator.
WHAT ABOUT TEACHING THEM BOUNDARIES?
That is the Number One tool we should teach our kids when it comes to avoiding sexual molestation.
Am I right?
As parents, we need to guide our children, even when it comes to their wardrobe. Our daughters should NOT be wearing clothes that are too tight or revealing. Not necessarily because it'd invite predators but because they should respect their bodies enough to wear appropriate clothing.
We absolutely are NOT saying it's a girl's fault if she is targeted by a predator or molested or assaulted or raped if she happens to be wearing tight clothes.
But as parents, we need to teach our children (yes! Boys too!) that their bodies are sacred. Eating healthy, getting enough sleep, getting exercise ... and SETTING BOUNDARIES.
Don't let people see the outline of your private parts! Don't let your bra hang out. Don't let half your ass cheek show out the bottom of your shorts. Not because it'll get you molested, but because that is YOUR body and you should share it only with the people who you want to (not every pervert in the McDonald's you're visiting with your friends).
Last year during our kids' soccer season, we had a break between games and we went to McDonald's to get some smoothies.
The local high school's girls' volleyball team was there, too. Most of the girls were wearing these little biker shorts (that's what we called them when I was in high school many moons ago). Seriously, half their ass cheeks were hanging out.


OMG.
My husband and I kept saying to each other: "Our daughter will NOT be going out in public like that."
It's fine if you're actually playing a game in a gym or whatever. Going to dance class.
But at McDonald's? Put on some damn sweatpants.
You may not attract a pedophile, but what message are you sending? These are the kids you send off to college and they think it's fine when a co-ed sees half their boob and three-quarters of their bra during class.
It's not fine.
This is NOT blaming our daughters for being assaulted. It's NOT slut-shaming. It's teaching our children how to set boundaries, how to respect their bodies. THAT is the most important tool in the world.
The fact is, most child molestation cases involve adults who know the children.
They don't need you to NOT put their name on their backpack or give them good running shoes. They need you to equip them with the tools they need to say, "This is MY body and I have boundaries, and you're not crossing those boundaries, motherfucker."
So - what do you think? Am I totally off-base, here?
 


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