Monday, March 28, 2016

What every girl and boy needs to be taught before the age of 10

I read this amazing article the other day from the Huffington Post on "The Thing All Women Do That You Don't Know About." I had almost forgot the crucial difference between what is considered "normal" and "common". I took a moment to think and reflect about how I had been awkwardly and embarrassingly treated by boys in my past; Something that is common, but that should not be labeled as "normal" male behaviour.

There's a moment when a guy does something inappropriate that makes your skin crawl. Getting my ass pinched this weekend by a man who wasn't my fiancé brought on that feeling and I had to go back to my reflection of the article.

Recently there was an "uproar" in Ontario due to changes in our sexual health education. Some believe that kids in grades 1-6 are just too young to learn about sexual health and sexual behaviour. Today I wanted to share a personal story on why teaching our kids the difference between appropriate  and inappropriate (sexual and otherwise) behaviour is so important:

When I was in grade 7 (around 12 years old) I found a note in my desk from a boy I was told had a crush on me. Now, I had seen this before - or so I thought. In grade 4 a shy boy in the class had left me a note in my desk asking me if I'd be his girlfriend, followed with the options: Yes? No? Maybe? And I was to circle one and give the note back to his best friend. It was cute and harmless, and my naive 12-year-old self thought this would be similar. It wasn't.

I opened the letter and it was not what I expected. I was reading a full page (front and back) of this weird dialogue of all the things this boy wanted to do to me; mostly sexual things - some things that I didn't even understand. I actually had to ask a friend what he meant by "cat" - the sentence implying he wanted to fondle and touch my vagina.

I felt like a stone had dropped into my stomach. I felt weird and uncomfortable and I knew right away that it was wrong. I knew I needed to report it immediately.

That recess I took the letter straight to my grade 7 teacher as my so-called friends laughed and said, "You're actually taking that to the teacher?! You're going to get him into so much trouble!" and, "He was probably just messing around." I stuck to my guns - yeah, of course I was going to turn it in. I knew it wasn't right and I never wanted to receive a letter like this again.

My teacher started to read down the page and her face went from caring and smiling, to concerned, and then to something I've never seen from her before. It was like internal rage. I could almost feel her blood boiling as she kept reading. She kept composed as she thanked me for bringing this to her. She said it must have took a lot of courage but that I had done the right thing. She then told me she would take care of it and would come talk to me later.

She approached me shortly afterwards, asking that I come back to the classroom. I walked in the door, the room empty except for her and the two boys that had written the note (one had written it, the other was his "accomplice"). Both of them looked like they had just shit their pants. You don't see 12-year old boys cry very often, and these two were on the verge of loosing it (rightfully so). They knew the severity of the situation and had to apologize with my teacher there as a witness. As a kid, when someone says "I'm sorry" my usual response was "that's okay" - to which my teacher immediately said "No, it's not okay. You can accept their apology but it is definitely not okay."

From there, through high school, university, and even now, I get super irritated and annoyed with unacceptable dumb male behaviour. I don't know how else to describe it. Repeatedly getting honked at while I'm walking down the street, or whistled at, having my ass slapped or pinched. Walking down the hall at high school while a group of 3 teen boys exclaim at me, "Those are the biggest jugs I've ever seen!" - true story. I was horrified. 17 years old with DD's on my chest getting hollered at on a regular basis. In that moment, in the hallway, I made the split decision: I could have punched him in the face or said something - but what would I even say? My brain couldn't process what had just happened fast enough. And if I punched him, well, then I'd be in trouble. So I ignored them and walked away. But that memory and those feelings never left me.

I encourage you to teach your children when they are young: what is acceptable and what is absolutely unacceptable and not tolerated. Boys need to understand that woman are not objects and we don't deserve to be subjected to idiocy just because they're having some sort of urge. Girls need to be taught NOT to shrug this off or ignore it. You are also not "tattling" by reporting it. Truthfully, reporting it might not do anything at all, but you might also be very lucky and have someone, like my grade-7 teacher, who will stand up for you and make it known that this is not acceptable.

This topic isn't even geared at any specific age, but to all human beings. Old men molest toddlers and small children. Middle-aged women get cat-called and sent inappropriate sexual messages on by teens. There's been an increased awareness on this topic because I think most females have just had enough. I'm calling on you to educate your children. Don't be afraid to have these talks. And hopefully the next few generations of human beings will have less incidences of this ridiculous and unacceptable behaviour.