#MomToo - A Frank Conversation with My Daughters
Back in October 2017, I opened my Facebook page one morning to find hundreds of #MeToo posts. I yelled “Finally!” out loud. As I scrolled through the posts from all of the women in my Facebook account – friends, cousins, sisters, acquaintances and mom-friends – I realized every single woman I knew had posted #MeToo. Every body type, every style, every weight, and every skin color. Every single one had felt the sting of sexual harassment.
By contrast, I asked my daughters who were 16 and 20, “Have you two heard of the #MeToo movement? Do you know what it is? Are your friends talking about it?”
They said yes, but it wasn’t that big a deal in their circles. I couldn’t understand why they weren’t as fired up as I was.
Then I remembered they hadn’t grown up with a misogynist father, hadn’t already had two jobs with male bosses sneaking up on them or saying inappropriate things. I was very glad for that. But I also wanted them to know the history, the importance of this moment, and I wanted them to be empowered to react differently than me, the people-pleaser not wanting to make waves.
I retold them my own stories with more detail this time. I told them the story of being cornered in the broom closet by my boss but with no one to go to, no HR Department. I left that afternoon and never returned. There was also the customer who decided it was okay to masturbate in front of me. I didn’t go into details unless asked. These two tidbits were enough to horrify them. It also opened the opportunity for me to ask if they’d experienced any harassment.
They shared about being catcalled. We had the “daughter talk,” this time in its entirety. Do not walk or jog alone especially with headphones in. Always travel with friends. If you get the heebie-geebies, trust it and get away quickly and safely.
As a kid I hadn’t been taught to trust myself. My mother and I never talked about dangerous situations I found myself in and I never asked for her advice about what I should do in those situations. It was the 70s. We were free-range kids with no instructions. The closest my mother and I got was when we moved from Santa Barbara, California to the Brooklyn, New York. I was about to turn 16 and was a California girl used to greeting everyone on the street. She told me, “I can’t teach you street smarts. You just have to learn them.” I did not tell her about the almost daily harassment I experienced.
While I can’t protect my daughters from making stupid decisions as we all do in our adolescence, I hope that teaching them to trust their gut, as I had to learn, will help.
And even more importantly for people-pleasers like us, take care of yourself first. These felt like my best and only weapons for sending them out in the world. First comes self-care, then you can be concerned about others.
So to my dear daughters, I am sorry that you as young women have to deal with sexual harassment. But remember to stay strong, that we’ve come a long way, that you are capable of all great things, and always trust your gut. It appears that the #MeToo movement will be long-lasting. And as you now know, it’s not just a “here goes mom again” thing.
Photo by Courtney Prather unsplash.com