Letter to the editor: Supremely disturbing
To the editor:
For many Americans, the Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings were supremely disappointing and was a heart-and-soul wrenching week that many of us will never forget. Professor Ford bravely shared testimony about her assault with the world, while an all-male GOP Judiciary Committee sat stone-faced. The Kavanaugh hearings forced us to ask many urgent questions. For example: Beyond judicial qualifications, what quality of character and temperament do we expect in a Supreme Court Justice nominee (for a lifetime appointment with immense power and responsibility)? Over what period of time should we consider the character of a nominee—should criminal or bad behavior in high school or college be disqualifying? How should we understand the Constitution's "advise and consent" clause for the Senate? How should the nomination process handle confidential information to protect the safety and integrity of all participants? But, mostly, the hearings provided a window into the disturbing and deeply disappointing American attitudes and behaviors that influence relationships between men and women. The hearings reinforced the idea that women should "know their place" in our society. And, that men get to live and behave by different standards. I grew up in a culturally conservative home in a small town. In church we were taught about the authority of men in church and home. There was limited information about sex—at home, school, and church. Silent and powerful societal norms ruled. And, not much has changed.
It is time for a wake up call. The #MeToo movement is here to stay. We need to teach our children critical lessons. First lesson: Don't touch anyone who doesn't want to be touched. Ask people if they want to be touched. Second: Nobody touches you if you don't want to be touched. We need our kids to know that they can tell us anything, and if someone does touch them, they can tell us without fear of blame, rejection, or that their attacker could harm them or us. Third: You are responsible for your actions and what you say at all times. And, because alcohol and assault are so connected, we need to spend more time talking about this, too. We need to have these conversations with our kids constantly, just like we talk about manners constantly. Bad decisions we make can affect people for the rest of their lives. As the social-media age has turned our kids' lives into a real-life Truman Show, now there are even greater consequences.
Women in our society are bombarded with messages that their worth comes from their attractiveness and submissiveness. As parents, these are messages we must fervently fight. Speaking about the attractive women he encountered, our current president said, "I moved on her like a bitch. But, I couldn't get there. And, she was married. I just start kissing them....I don't even wait...You can do anything." We can use this as a textbook example of everything we need to teach our kids to reject. When we blame victims, we send kids a powerful message about their ability to trust us. We need our kids, our girls, to know that they are special, because of their kindness, their integrity, can-do-spirit, leadership potential, their strength and their brilliance—and that they are whole and important by virtue of just being who they are.