“You understand you have my full permission to be rude as hell, right?”
“Yes, Mom. I know.”
“You’ve told me a zillion times.”
“Convince them you’re mentally unstable. Make it clear that you would totally mess up all their plans.”
“Ughhhh, okayyyyy. Scream and flail and act as rude and insane as possible. I’ve got it, Mom.”
This was a conversation I recently had with my 11-year-old daughter. Clearly, it’s one we’ve had before. I’ve had the same conversation with my son, though my fears for him have shifted as he’s gotten older. At 15, statistically, he’s now less likely to be a victim. So I talk to my son as much about being an upstander and respecting women’s space as I do about protecting himself from predators. I don’t want him to be one of those oblivious idiots scaring the shit out of some young woman walking alone at night because he’s too wrapped up in his own privilege to realize he may be perceived as a threat. I also want him to be confident enough to be rude to the shithead who is creeping someone else out.
I have these conversations with my kids because I want them to understand that despite everything I’ve taught them about kindness and treating others with respect, creepy people — people who don’t respect their boundaries, people who clearly have malicious intent or are acting in a way that triggers my kids’ spidey senses — don’t deserve kindness, politeness, or respect. My kids’ safety is the number one priority. Other people’s emotional comfort just doesn’t even compare in order of importance.
Social niceties are irrelevant in situations where your safety or your bodily autonomy is in question. So, when necessary, go ahead and be rude.
How To Be Rude
I’d been telling my kids for years to “be rude” — stand up for themselves and never be afraid to assert their right to bodily autonomy. But I became even more explicit with my messaging after seeing TikTok user @spirtual_af’s “I’m not nice” series, and this video in particular:
“How come almost every family has a creepy Uncle Jimmy, creepy Uncle Eddie?” she asks. “How come it’s appropriate for people to warn their kids about somebody and not talk openly about what is making that person creepy?”
Yes. She’s right, isn’t she? Even adults will sometimes push aside their own misgivings about certain individuals for the sake of keeping the peace. Why do we do this? It only allows the gross behavior to fester unchecked. It’s like giving them a pass.
Don’t Give Them A Pass
@spirtual_af asks, “How come you’re not willing to say, in the moment, ‘That’s fucking creepy, Eddie,’ or ‘I just don’t want to have my child or daughter or niece around you’?”
Right again. If no one calls out the creepy person about their creepiness, the creepy person can carry on thinking a) that their behavior is just fine, or b) that even though they know their behavior is disgusting, no one is calling them out on it, so … it’s fine.
“We don’t have to put every perpetrator in jail to make this stop,” @spirtual_af says. “You have to open your mouth, all the time, and be uncomfortable.”
Another good point. These scenarios are not all or nothing. Dealing with creepy Uncle Jimmy doesn’t necessarily mean you have to throw him in jail. He may not have even done anything (yet) that would warrant legal intervention. But if he’s acting gross, getting too touchy-feely, leering, or any other inappropriate behavior, call it out. Bring it to light. Let him know you and others are watching, and you’re not OK with the way he’s acting.
I carry this advice even farther with my children, and especially my 11-year-old daughter. Sure, be rude. Be impolite. But also, be “crazy.” Go ahead and give people the impression that you are mentally unhinged, that you are simply not the one. You have my blessing.
“Polite Protects Predators”
I showed both of my kids the above video from TikTok user @gabin.sarah multiple times. Partly because it gives me great joy to watch this young woman disregard all rules regarding social propriety because dammit, this guy was being a fucking creep and was totally ignoring all her signals that she was not interested and he was making her uncomfortable.
And partly because I want to empower my daughter. And show my son. “Don’t be afraid to be that girl who makes everyone think she’s mentally unstable in the interest of protecting her own safety,” I tell my daughter. And “Don’t be that guy that needs to get screamed at because he’s being a fucking creep,” I tell my son.
As TikTok user @spirtual_af says, “Polite protects predators.” This is true for all types of predators. Achieving their goals depends on not their being noticed, not being called out, not drawing attention to themselves.
So notice them. Call them out. Draw attention to them. Make sure they know we’re watching them.
Teach your kids to be rude. Teach them to heed that gut feeling that tells them someone in their environment isn’t safe. Give them license to be an asshole when they get that feeling. Their physical and emotional safety is so much more important than any social norm.
This article was originally published on