~ Warning: salty language ahead.
I make conscious decisions day-in and day-out to be the example for my girls and to be the benchmark to which they hold all other males in their lives.
My role as a father to girls is one that I take seriously and it’s one that I put a great amount of effort into trying to model the best male figure in their lives.
I spend as much time as humanly possible with them, I show nothing but love and respect toward their mother, and we talk to one another daily. I want them to know how I treat their mother and how I treat them is the norm and that they should not ever have to settle for anything less. I have always wanted to—and will always—strive to keep an open dialogue with them so that they know they can talk to me with whatever hurdles and successes they face.
I do want to have a bit of a caveat here that I know one or both of my daughters might be LGBTQ+ later on in life and I am perfectly fine with that; I am speaking from a heteronormative way here in regards to their relationships, but the lessons I want to highlight will stand regardless of orientation.
Both of my girls are exceptionally bright and that’s not just a father’s pride talking; I am fully prepared for these girls to be much smarter than I ever was and to go on to change the world in whatever way they see fit. With this brightness shining from both of them, we’ve had to have several conversations that I was in no way, shape, or form ready for on a multitude of topics.
One such topic was domestic violence thanks to the radio playing Eminem and Rihanna’s song, “Love The Way You Lie.” Both girls are unbelievable with music in the sense that they listen to a song usually once and have a vast majority of the lyrics memorized. The lyrics in question are:
Just gonna stand there and watch me burn
But that’s alright, because I like the way it hurts
And my youngest simply asked why anyone would like being hurt by someone who they think loves them.
So of course I fumbled my way through a basic definition of what domestic violence is and why they should never stand for something where someone would abuse them instead of love them. We talked about this (super uncomfortable!) topic for about half an hour and in no way was I prepared for a four and six-year-old to be asking me these things; but after we talked about it they both seemed content in the conversation, and I am sure it will be something I will have to revisit later on in their lives.
Fast-forward a few months, and my six-year-old comes to me about a boy at school who has been picking on her. This boy was an issue previously in her kindergarten class, but the teacher was experienced enough to shut him down and protect the other students in the class. Now it seems that in first grade, this boy has been given free rein to do whatever the hell he wants with seemingly zero consequences. My wife and I sat with my daughter and asked her what was going on and she had said that he hits her, teases her, and is just overall a dick to her. Now my first instinct was that this boy harbors a little crush on her, but again this is not the lesson I want my girls to take from this—hurting someone is not how you show affection.
My wife went in to talk with the teacher and was more or less told that they are “aware of the situation and are trying to deal with it.” Which we took as, it was being handled.
Another week goes by and my six-year-old starts to hate school; it’s a fight every single day to get her to go, and she wants nothing to do with it. My wife casually chatting with another parent has it come to light that this boy follows girls into the washrooms and drops his pants and blocks the doorway. My daughter was one of these girls he followed and that’s when I hit the fucking roof. This boy is six years old and somehow has learned that this is an acceptable behaviour.
We immediately booked a meeting with the school, and at this meeting laid out all of our concerns and we were assured that a plan would be in place to protect her and keep them more or less separated during problem times. I stated that I will be equipping her with the ability to defend herself, and if he touches her again she will retaliate, to which they did not seem too surprised.
Now the plan was to circulate the photos of both my child and the other child to the supervisors on during the classroom breaks (it’s a large school). Okay that makes sense. As well, he would be removed from the class during lunch hours (which we found out are more or less unsupervised and no other parents were aware of this either), but he gets to take a friend with him so it’s really not any kind of deterrent for his behaviour. As well, they are to stay away from one another, which when my daughter is playing with a group of children and he comes too close—she’s expected to move away.
Now here is where I take some serious issues with this.
It is 2020, we’ve just seen the #MeToo movement and Times Up movement sweep across the globe in a wildfire way. We’re standing in solidarity with the brave women who have finally found the courage to speak up, call out their attackers, and publicly face what they thought would be shame from years of guilt that come from these sorts of situations.
But here we are in 2020 with a young girl, whose entire life is in the process of being shaped, and when she comes forward with these issues she’s essentially the one who is punished. She should “just stay away” from him, she should have to stop what she is doing because he knows that if he moves too close to her—that she has to be the one to move away.
To put the icing on the proverbial cake, yesterday we’re at the store and she asks me to buy her Valentine’s Day cards for her class and then immediately changes her mind. This is a weird thing for her because indecisive she is not. When I question her on it she states that it’s been made very clear to her that either everyone (including this boy causing her all this stress) or no one gets Valentine’s Day cards. She went on to say that Valentine’s Day is about love and that she does not want this boy to think she even likes him, let alone loves him because of the incidents she’s already faced.
To all of you reading this I ask you this question; what sort of message does that send to a little girl about interactions with men?
To me it sends the message that regardless of what they have done and how they have treated you, you are expected to just have to grin and bear it.
Is this not the polar opposite of what these movements have been about? Should we not be empowering our girls to be confident and to stand up for their own body sovereignty? When I stated in our meeting that I know my fair share of women in my life who have had to deal with sexual assaults and I will not let my daughter be one of them, both of them seemed to genuinely agree.
I am shocked at the reaction of the school, I am shocked at their inaction (especially as mandatory reporters) to report the child’s clearly learned sexual actions, and I am shocked that they would ever think that having a young girl just try to avoid the situation is an acceptable course of action.
What am I doing about it? I have ordered a punching bag, pads, and gloves for both my girls and they’re both being enrolled in a junior MMA class. They will learn to fight back when necessary and that their body is theirs. Period, full stop! My little girls will be warriors for their own skin and I will not let them just become another statistic. Now I know there’s a whole camp of “violence isn’t the answer” and for the most part I agree; but when it comes to safety and security for them you bet your ass it might not be an answer, but it’s sure a solution.
Further to that, we’re going to continue to talk and stress the importance of what consent is and how they should never accept anything less than the standard they set for themselves. I never want them to question if someone else has the right to encroach on their space; because frankly they do not.
There has been a term that I have never really understood, up until recently, and that term is rape culture. I am a straight, white male and to me this always seemed like an odd term and to be extremely honest I never bothered to look much into it. Now I feel like I truly understand what that term is and why it’s so incredibly detrimental to the development of our children both male and female.
I was even guilty of almost playing into it when my first thought about this boy was “oh he’s got a crush.” What the actual hell kind of thinking is that? It’s one I grew up with, it’s one that’s clearly prevalent in our public education system, and it’s one that is going to continually perpetuate unless we start to be better advocates for our children. Now I am far from a “gentle parent”—there are rules, there are consequences, and there are fits and meltdowns—but the minute I became a father, the question as to who had control over their body was never in any doubt; they do.
Now the intent of this article is not to shame or point fingers as I am well aware there might be some other factors that surround this little boy’s situation at home or school. My intent is to highlight the fact that the first reaction of everyone surrounding my little girl was to essentially make her pay for what has happened—and that I am not going to be just fine with the status quo and no one else should be either.
It’s not up to her to move away from her friends, it’s not up to her to have to be vigilant every minute of every day she’s at school, it’s not up to her to enforce that her body is her own.
This is on the school, and the systemic issue that “boys will be boys” and that people seem to turn a blind eye to entire red flags because of a stupid fucking saying. This is on society for accepting this as a normal thing for so many years and ignoring the damage this attitude has on developing minds.
My little girl has a quiet voice now and in order for her to be able to develop a roar, her daddy is going to speak up for her when she cannot.