I cringe even saying this.
“If someone is doing something you don’t like, just ask them nicely to please stop.”
That’s me throwing up. That’s me hating myself for telling my daughters to act like demure debutantes when dealing with dickheads. That’s me puking over my piss-poor parenting skills.
I’m raising my daughters to be wimps. Wait, excuse my language there—what I mean is gutless, punk bitches—just like me. Phew! That’s more like it. (See, I’m such a wimp. I didn’t even put “punk bitches” in the title of this essay. Dammit.)
I write a good game of gutsy, gung ho, gangsta mom. I talk it and walk it. Hell, I flaunt my boldness like the Gucci fall collection during fashion week. Oh, but it’s really Fucci—the knock off. I’m wearing a fake suit of brazen armor. I rarely exercise assertiveness when face-to-face with a real live offending human being. My tongue is held hostage in trepidation.
Through my weak “words of wisdom,” I’m telling my daughters to be reserved, restrained. I bet that will play out reeeeeaaalll well for them in life. This is how it will go—cue the dreamy harp music and blurry camera shot.
A kid is pushing my daughter down a slide repeatedly. My kid feels scared that she’s going to fall. Because I encourage politeness, my daughter will turn around and say in her sing-songy voice, “Hey, so-and-so, I really don’t like you pushing me down the slide, I’d like you to please stop.” And it will all be very sad, because most likely, the other kid won’t give a fuck. The offending child will give my daughter another swift shove and she’ll fall down the slide head first, break her arm and bleed all over the bloody place.
Wow, let’s give me a round of applause for raising a wussy. A lover, not a fighter. A victim. Preserving politeness among parents on the playground is apparently paramount to my child’s safety and self-esteem.
As are many other women in our society, I have been groomed to be polite, even in cases where I feel offended to the core.I’m polite in scenarios where I’m being treated unfairly. And sadly, I’m polite even when I feel threatened. My instincts always run towards reticence in times of blatant discrimination or danger.
I should not put up with these gashes against me. I know this. And yet I do, because fear. Fear of losing. Fear of losing my job. Fear of losing friendships. Fear of embarrassing family. Fear of making situations awkward. Fear of being labeled as a “bitch” or the dreaded, “emotional woman.” Fear of losing my good reputation.
When someone is being aggressively assholey to me, I recoil. Like a coward. I lose my soul and sell it to the wimpy devil.
Worse, I’m raising my kids to be scaredy cat little suckers. And I hate it. I want to stop. Sure, I’ve stood up for myself when the Starbucks barista charged me too much for my cinnamon latte. But, what about the time a man cornered me at a rest stop while I was road tripping alone with my kids? They heard his inappropriate comments. They heard me panic with politeness. They saw me slip into our car like a skiddish wimp. What they didn’t see is a strong woman, or a tough mom.
I want to raise assertive and confident daughters. Daughters that would never put up with domestic violence from someone who claims they love them. I want to raise daughters that won’t put up with unfair treatment in the workplace. I want to raise daughters that feel empowered, and can speak up immediately—and profoundly and eloquently and emotionally—when they feel harassed. Even if they are shamed like Anita Hill and so many other female victims of injustice, discrimination, demeaning, and violence.
I’m ashamed to admit that I let myself fall victim to horrendous and hideous acts of harassment.
Yes, being a victim implies that I had no part in bringing it my way. And I didn’t cause any of these monsters to inflict pain on me. That’s their own doing. I didn’t do anything to cause my high school boyfriend to beat me up. He committed those disgusting acts all by his damn self. Fair enough. But, I did allow him to beat me up, mind-fuck me, threaten my life, and obliterate my sorry-ass soul, over and over and over again.
In my life, the same story has played out in various ways. It’s not uncommon.
In college, I met a man who was very eager to help me move my boxes into my new apartment. Duh, boxes are heavy;I was instantly charmed. I was totally attracted to him. He invited me over his house to unwind after unpacking. He said some of his friends from the neighborhood would be there. I could meet people who lived in the apartments. I agreed. Within thirty minutes, he had put his hands on my legs, creeping very uncomfortably to my crotch, in front of his living room full of friends.
Quickly, I made an excuse and my exit. I ran home like a girl in a horror movie. Then it played out like one. Within 2 minutes, the guy was banging obnoxiously on my door, over and over and over again. Incessantly. He wouldn’t stop. I huddled up in a corner of my mostly empty apartment and sobbed. I prayed for him to go away, to not break in.
You’d think I’d have called 911. I didn’t. I just laid on the carpeted floor in the fetal position near the terrace door. I stared into the dark night, jumping at shadows until morning came.
Oddly enough, I never saw him again. Maybe he didn’t even really live there. Just one reason that college was a crapload of creep fests.
After graduation, the injustices committed by men, against me, were more of the corporate variety. Male colleagues speculated on whether my boobs were real or not. Yes, I understand that natural 32 F’s are fucking bonkers. Believe me. I live it. But, work is not the place for discussing someone’s rack. Isn’t that professionalism 101? I should’ve shut the tit-talker down. But I didn’t. Because I sucked at sticking up for myself.
I had a boss that was so obvious in his unfair treatment of me, it was sickening. A piece of my soul died every day I reported to that job. I should’ve reported him to HR. I should’ve looked for a new job.
I was afraid of being the loser that lost her job when, really, I was the loser that stayed.
I could never be proud of my daughters if they submitted to dealing with workplace discrimination. I’d throw every feminist book at their heads. I want them to live in a world where inequality and harassment is actually reported, and laws are enforced. I should’ve reported my boss and my perverted colleague. Because if I did, I could be one step closer towards true equality for my kids.
Now, there’s another mode for monsters to attack: Social media. Being a closed-off, solitary writer is impossible these days. Social media is a necessary resource to promote work and connect with readers. All you have to do is google my name and my writing pops up, along with the comments.
Commentary comes with the writing territory. Readers are supposed to rip you apart a bit. This is all very normal, healthy literary discourse. However, so-called criticism has crossed the line. Attacks are launched under the guise of opinions. Commenters be like:
I will personally insult you, but I’ll add an “IMO” so you can feel better about me hitting way below the belt.
IMO? You’re a fucking asshole.
I’ve become a victim of social media slander, sexism, and harassment in cyberspace. I’ve had readers go Rambo on me, releasing rapid fire bullets of hate and disgust for me, my writing, and my very existence. I’ve read internet rumors about me and my family. My family. I write about parenting for gawd’s sake.
I’ve had male readers ask where I live, how old my kids are, and can they meet me? I’m supposed to just respond respectfully right? Keep my cool. Keep my precious, perverted readers.
Why, oh, why do I continue to be nice? It would be easy to just click the “block” button or the “report” button. Alas, I’m chicken shit. But, as they say, the first step is admitting you have a problem. I do indeed. I’m a wussy. Shit, fine.
Let me clear my throat and make way for realness. I’m a soft sucker raising sissy victim daughters. I’m admitting my failures, so now I have to change myself for my kids. I have to undo my wimpy “words of wisdom” and replace them with statements. Strong sentences of self-empowerment. Syllables that aren’t soft, but rather, speak volumes about the kind of woman I want to be—the kind of women I want to be raising. I need to be modeling acts of assertiveness. I need to teach my daughters where the “block” button is. No women wimps here. Not, no mo’.