Thursday, 18 August 2016

HOW TO RAISE A FEMINIST CHILD: THE DO'S and DON'T'S OF FEMINIST PARENTING

This resource has been created by the team at The Sydney Feminists as a guide to feminist parenting. We strongly believe that if we can teach our children to respect, question and reason, this will gift them with the tools necessary to overcome any of our parental shortcomings.

DO make sure both parents get opportunities to care for their children on their own, without the other parent as a back-up or on-call

DO make sure all children, regardless of gender, are taught basic household skills, such as cleaning and cooking

DO model egalitarian gender roles in the household, regularly swapping household tasks and sharing responsibility for managing family/household related tasks and events

DO ensure that children's household tasks are shared rather than segregated by gender. Make sure each child's contribution is equally valued, and make sure pocket money is fair!

DO discuss recent news or current social issues in the media with your child and ask them what they think about it, and in turn, share your perspective and provide an explanation for the basis of your views

DO take your children to participate in rallies and activist events

DO teach your children about the gender binary and social pressures to conform to it. Encourage them to express themselves as they see fit

DO allow your children to experiment with gender expression.

DO teach your sons feminist values and respect for women

DO actively listen to your child's opinions, thoughts and viewpoints and provide them with factual information including statistics, cases and relevant examples to challenge any myths or misconceptions they may have learned outside the home or from another parent or family member

DO teach your children empathy. One of our male Instagram followers explained to us how he became a feminist: "My parents taught me to just not be an jerk. Consequently, I became a feminist."

DO expose your child to media that challenges gender roles and stereotypes and has positive role models

DO point out stereotypes when they arise in media for your child to begin developing an awareness of how stereotypes are reinforced in the media.

DO teach your kids to embrace and love their bodies. Teach them that they have a right to their own body and what happens to it. You can let your child make age-appropriate decisions regarding their own body (eg. cutting their hair or dressing themselves) from an early age.

DO talk to your kids about sex

DO teach your children about consent and bodily autonomy in order to facilitate optimum self respect, self trust, self worth, a greater ability to recognise the difference between wanted and unwanted bodily attention, and the ability to say "no" without fear of being reprimanded. eg. Giving your child the option to hug or kiss someone or not, and then respecting their choices by saying "Do you feel like hugging Uncle Phil today? .....No, that's not a problem at all. Your body, your choice."

DO always remind your children they are multifaceted individuals who cannot and do not have to be boxed into one rigid category. Eg. Let your daughter know she can be a graceful dancer as well as being loud and boisterous, caring and sensitive as well as being strong and opinionated etc; and your son can love football and ballet.

DO acknowledge what your child is feeling and allow boys to express their sensitivity, softness and vulnerability in the same way you would girls.

DO enlighten (not scare) your children about the way society treats any acts (however small) of rebellion and non-conformity so that they are prepared. eg.If your daughter chooses not to shave her legs, let her know that while it is her choice as it is her body, she is likely to encounter backlash from her peers as society pressures females to conform to certain prescribed standards of beauty.

DO remember the importance of role modelling by practising what you preach at home, so behaviour always matches your ideals, and when it doesn't and falls short, allow for an open discussion with your child

DO create a family environment void of an imbalance of power/ between gender or adult/ child - an environment free of fear where woman, men and children are all free to express ideas,thoughts, beliefs and emotions without verbal or physical abuse or shame.

DO always refer and talk about sexual organs with the same respect and easiness that you discuss any other body part or physical function answering and normalising questions about sexual  or bodily functions with factual information and age appropriate explanations which can inform and empower.

DO teach your child that diversity is vital and that each individual is equal in their right to strive for their own goals and what enriches and fulfils them without hate , or violence ,or intolerance, so being mindful of our prejudice and blind spots as parents so we don't pass second hand beliefs down upon our children but rather allow them to expand upon their own.

DON'T smack or physically "discipline" your children. Physical punishment sends a message to your child that when a person is angry with their behaviour or if they have done something that disappoints someone else, that it is acceptable for someone else to inflict physical pain upon them. Corporal punishment also teaches a child that issues can be addressed by physical aggression. Instead of resorting to this archaic form of punishment, have an age-appropriate discussion with your child about their behaviour or specific wrongful action, let them know why it was inappropriate behaviour and remind them of the behaviour you expect from them. If punishment needs to be carried out, take away one of their privileges for a specified time frame.

DON'T impede your child their full freedom of expression by imposing gendered expectations on their behaviour. eg. Don't tell your daughter she has to "be quiet or "be nice" or "ladylike" and don't tell your son he has to "be tough" or "be strong" or that "boys don't cry".

DON'T stifle your child's natural personality by censoring their behaviour to societal expectations of how a female or male "should behave".

DON'T use language which suggests that household matters are women's responsibility - e.g Dad 'helps' Mum with the washing up, or Dad is 'babysitting' the kids.

DON'T use heteronormative language when mentioning your child's future relationships. e.g Instead of saying to a son "when you get older and meet a nice girl", say "when you get older and meet a nice person/or girl or boy".

DON'T make statements that place expectations on your child to conform to societal expectations. eg. Don't say to your child  "when you grow up and get married and have a family of your own". Instead say "when you grow up, you may choose to get married you may not. You may choose to have a family, you may not. Whatever choice you make, I will always love and respect you for your decisions."

DON'T ignore or dismiss your child's ethnic heritage, but instead facilitate your child to discover and embrace their cultural identity. Eg. If you are a parent to a child who is biracial or multiracial, don't pretend that your child's ethnic heritage isn't an issue or isn't important, but instead help your child to learn of and be proud of their cultural heritage.

DON'T reinforce the stereotype that boys and men cannot control their actions and that their behaviour is driven by their sex drive by making statements like telling your son he was "thinking with his penis" or tell your daughter "all men think about is sex all day".  Instead, affirm to your child irrespective of gender, that they always have a choice in how they behave and that how they respond to situations is their own decision.

DON'T try to control your children's bodies and don't teach your child that you own their body because you don't. As a parent, particularly a father figure, if you teach your child that they don't have authority over their own bodies and that instead you do, you are setting them up for seeking permission from others and letting others (particularly men), dictate what happens to their bodies. 

DON'T slut shame or victim blame, and when you hear this being enacted by someone else (whether it be in the media or in conversation), use it as an opportunity to educate your child on what slut shaming and victim blaming is, and why it is damaging and harmful.

DON'T teach your daughter that other girls or women are her competition. This begins by not comparing your child to others

DON'T dismiss your child's opinions or tell them they are wrong for what they think (but instead offer them an alternative perspective which will enable them to make up their own mind)

DON'T let your children shame other children for not conforming to gender stereotypes

DON'T lull your children into a false sense of security where they think they won’t be challenged for expressing themselves and not conforming

DON'T reinforce expected behaviours according to gender such as telling  your son "don't be a naughty boy" or telling your daughter "be a good girl".

DON'T make compliments or praising of behaviour gender-specific. Eg. Don't praise your son for being a "leader", but then label your daughter "bossy" for the same behaviour. (Later in life this converts into men being praised for being "confident" and women being shamed for being "aggressive/bitchy".)

DON'T buy toys based on gender. The impact of sex-specific toy choice has implications for children’s learning and attitudes far beyond the playground. Associate professor of psychology at Washington and Lee University, Megan Fulcher says “play with masculine toys is associated with large motor development and spatial skills and play with feminine toys is associated with fine motor development, language development and social skills”. Children's preference for sex-gendered toys (or colours) are learned, not innate. De-gendering toys will allow children, and arguably society at large, to reap long-term benefits: when we offer kids equal choices from an early age, it logically follows that they will continue to expect and demand equality in their personal, social and professional lives.


With thanks to our Instagram followers and friends for their valuable contributions.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

The following poem has been shared to us by a domestic violence survivor.

TO BE INVISIBLE IS TO BE FREE

Where should I start, how should I begin?
Why do I feel so alone in this world I live in?

I no longer feel pain, trained myself not to,
My emotional wall, it allows nothing through.

There is a sadness in my eyes, I feel it is always there,
Hidden well by the smile of disguise that I wear.

The rain is my tears I watch in delight as it pours down,
My sorrow is deep enough to flood this whole town.


Time is my enemy it ticks like a bomb in my head,
Nobody would notice if tomorrow I was dead.


I turn to the mirror in times of anguish and despair,
Only she can comfort me, only she will care.


Loneliness is my one and only true friend,
With him I can find sanctuary, on him I can depend.

Whatever happened to the girl with the big smile,
Who could fall over in a crowd and still be laughing all the while?


Where did she go, and will she ever return?
And will her soul ever be repaired? That is my main concern.


Been through so much, seen all there is to see,
I am scarred for life, in heart, mind and body.


I crave to be invisible, oh how wonderful that would be,
For if I were invisible, I would finally be free.


This world is a prison, which I do not belong in anymore,
It's time to go, time to escape; watch me as I walk out that door.

If you would like to share a poem or story as part of your healing from abuse, please contact us.
The following poem has been shared to us by a sexual assault survivor.

BENT


As tears treacle down my cheek,
I feel hopeless, lifeless, hurt and weak

The morning started out so good
But that all changed, I knew it would

He violated my dignity, when used me like a toy, 
The pain is overwhelming, my heart he will destroy

I woke up early and got ready with a smile,
Sang my happy songs, feeling happy all the while

While he slept I cleaned and washed with glee,
Then he woke up and stole it all away from me

There was no kiss of passion, no soft hugs nor gentle touch,
Being pushed onto the bed, I guess, has become a routine as such

It was all about his satisfaction, that was his only aim,
To him it meant nothing, and neither did I, it was all just a selfish game

Grabbing at my stockings, he pulled them half way down my leg,
How many times did I plead him to stop? How many times did I beg?

Ignoring my cries he continued on, with no slight hesitation at all,
All I could do was close my eyes and pray he wouldn’t bang my head on the wall

My body froze going into protection mode, had to separate myself from the situation,
Just cringing and waiting for the hurry of his inevitable ejaculation

Why does he make me feel so worthless? To him I am nothing more than a sex object,
Why do I let him do it each time? His advances I somehow, can never manage to reject

My muscles ache from the sadness-I can't express my pain so I feel it instead,
Every inch of my body now aches, my self esteem is surely dead

My spirit is dampened, darkened and cold,
The distant memories of happiness have turned stale and into mould.
If you would like to share a poem or story as part of your healing from abuse, please contact us.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016


Who’s Teaching Boys about Consent?



Jane Doe in Steubenville, Ohio.  Rehtaeh Parsons in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.
My heart goes out to these young women—one who is scarred for life and the other who decided that her wounds cut too deep and the pain could no longer be endured.
Raped, then publicly humiliated, verbally abused, laughed at, and blamed for the crimes of others. The abject cruelty involved—not only in the assaults but in the broadcasting of them and continued attacks—is incomprehensible, but it has raised important questions, chief among them: what is going on with boys today?
The outrage generated by these two cases has placed the spotlight squarely on boys and the people who raise them. The concerns are many:
  • How can boys who commit acts like these not understand that what they are doing is rape?
  • Even if they are murky on the definition of rape, why on earth do they think it is acceptable to publicize pictures of young women in this type of situation?
  • Worse still, how could they ever find humour in the suffering of another person, much less feel the need to prolong that suffering with ongoing harassment of a girl? (This last question applies equally to the young women who feel it is their right to torment a victimized girl with words like “slut.”)
  • And, perhaps most importantly, why did no one intervene?
I’ve been doing a lot of reading about media, peer culture, and the influence of parents on the sexual attitudes and behaviour of adolescent boys. All three of these forces act on a young man in sometimes complex ways, framing his ideas about what sex should be. Media affects each child differently, with some young people being more vulnerable to negative messages than others. Peers are extremely influential, which might explain why multiple boys were involved in these two cases and why no one stepped up to stop the assaults from happening. Parents also play an important role. In fact, the more parents talk with their sons about their emerging sexuality and communicate their own values about sex, the less likely it is that their sons will act like the boys in Steubenville and Cole Harbour.
But few parents have those conversations with their sons. A big part of the problem, as I see it, lies in the stereotypes many people hold of boys as tough and independent. As reports I’ve read have indicated, many adults think that when it comes to sex, boys don’t need a lot of talk. Rather, the thinking goes, they’ll just figure it out—they’re young, their hormones are raging, and nature will take its course. 
But boys don’t all figure it out, at least not in the way that they should. In the absence of guidance from a parent, another caregiver, or a teacher or other trusted adult, they may rely on friends who are just as uninformed as they are. They may also turn to media, which offers far more negative messages about sex than positive ones. And I’m not just talking about porn here. Mainstream music videos and “lad” magazines are replete with misogynistic sexual imagery and stereotypes that position men as sexual aggressors and women as willing, submissive playthings.
Actually, I should correct myself. Boys will figure out the act of sex—that part does come naturally to them as it does to girls. But they need more than just basic instinct. They need to learn about consent and boundaries, neither of which is emphasized in sex ed classes, in the popular culture from which some boys and girls receive their first lessons about sex, nor, I would wager, in the stilted conversations some parents have with their sons about the “act.” (Steubenville and Cole Harbour may change this though.)
Clearly, the majority of boys are not rapists but these two cases demonstrate that even among those who do not commit rape consent is neither valued nor entirely understood. If it were, onlookers would have stepped in, not laughed at the victim or posted pictures on Facebook. Actually, let’s take it back one step further: if consent were valued and understood, those boys would not have raped “Jane” and Rehtaeh in the first place.
This confusion about consent is common and is a major component of rape myths: she didn’t say no, so she must have meant yes; she said no, but didn’t stop me; she was drunk but I knew she really wanted it so I went ahead.
A recent article about a new sexual education initiative for LGBT youth noted that discussions of consent and communication are “completely overlooked in sex education now.”[1] For kids who get their sex ed from television and film, messages about consent are also basically nonexistent, as a writer at Toronto’s York University noted in an article posted today:
…how often is sexual consent given in film and television? And extending from whatever the probable answer is (hint: almost never), what does it mean?
What’s shocking is the lack of statistical documentation about this. There hasn’t been a single study done on approach and consent in film. It’s simply there, and taken for granted, which is intensely troubling.[2]
As I said earlier, the media is not the only influence on adolescents but there is evidence that safe sex messages in popular TV shows can change attitudes,[3] so maybe the presence of clear discussions of consent would help too. Such messages would certainly be a good starting point.
I am not the first to talk about consent, of course, but I will join the chorus calling for more emphasis on consent in sex education and popular culture because it is so incredibly important. If the boys in Steubenville and Cole Harbour had known to ask for consent and understood what consent actually sounded like, two young women would not have suffered in the terrible ways they did.
Consent and boundaries go hand in hand. When you ask for consent, you respect boundaries, and people who respect boundaries respect the individuals those boundaries protect. Consequently, they do not make jokes when someone’s boundaries are violated, nor do they continue the humiliation of another person in social media or in school hallways.
One commenter on Facebook called the Rehtaeh Parsons case a complete failure of society. True. And educating our sons about consent, boundaries, and respect is one way of ensuring that things get better instead of continuing their downward spiral. 

For more on culture and consent, read this post from Jennifer Shewmaker.http://jennifershewmaker.com/2013/01/05/steubenville-and-sexualization/
And for a great post about Steubenville and the importance of “total sex ed”, read this one from Henry Rollins.http://www.underthegunreview.net/2013/03/18/henry-rollins-comments-on-steubenville-rape-verdict/ 
[3] Farrar, Kirstie M. “Sexual Intercourse on Television: Do Safe Sex Messages Matter?” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 50, no. 4 (2006), p. 645.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Crystal Smith is the author of "The Achilles Effect" and "Boys, Sex & Media." Through her blog and social media channels, Crystal discusses current depictions of masculinity in popular culture and their potential impact on boys. Her work has been covered in The Boston Globe, Advertising Age, and Feministing, and she has appeared on HuffPost Live and The Roy Green Show.


This blog was initially published at AchillesEffect.com Republished with permission from the author.

Rape Myths and Denial: The Brock Turner Case

I was away this past weekend and not tuned in at all to the news or social media. I have just now begun reading the details of the Brock Turner case. In light of the shocking statements being made by his supporters, all of whom have chosen to ignore the impact on the victim and focus only on how Brock’s life has been altered–as though he had nothing to do with his downfall–I am sharing something I wrote about rape myths.
In this piece I reference the Steubenville rape case from 2012, which bears many similarities to the current case: star athletes get drunk and sexually assault an unconscious woman who remembers nothing until the details of the crime committed against her are made public, for all the world to see. In both cases the athletes’ supporters defended them as “good guys” whose  lives have been devastated–again, as though they were not the authors of their own demise. Writing about Steubenville at that time, I harboured hopes that the publicity surrounding that case would provide a valuable lesson, resulting in fewer such crimes in the future. Given that Turner did almost exactly what the boys in Steubenville did, it is clear that those lessons were too easily forgotten, not only by him but also by friends and family who fail to see their golden boy’s actions as a crime, and the judge who sentenced him to just six months in a county jail.
Rape myths are at the heart of the denial seen in this story, which has resulted in the light sentence and some highly tone deaf responses from Turner’s supporters: his dad, who referred to the crime as “20 minutes of action,” and his friend who said that political correctness led to Turner being labelled a rapist, since his behaviour was just a huge misunderstanding caused by excessive drinking.
It is unacceptable to have crimes like Turner’s dismissed as “not real rape.” Talking about rape myths will open people’s eyes to what the crime and its perpetrators really look like so there can be no doubt when another case like this comes to light, as it inevitably will.
This excerpt is from my recent book. I am sharing it not for promotional purposes but, rather, to shine a light on rape myths and the damage they do. (Note that this section of the book speaks specifically about male aggression toward females. I discuss male victims of sexual harassment and assault in another area of the book.) Here is the introduction. To read the entire excerpt, please download the PDF below.
…Portrayals of sex in many of the media favoured by many boys are based in a man demonstrating his constant need for sex and his entitlement to get it any way he likes. He, the dominant player, calls the shots and uses her, the sexual object, as he sees fit.
This reduction of women to a sexual role can have a profound impact on boys and young men, creating a fixation on women’s sexual activities, linking women’s attractiveness to their ability to look and act “hot,” and promoting the idea that women are “sexual playthings” who are always eager to fulfill men’s wishes.
Sexual objectification can also open the door to aggressive behaviours. In fact, studies have shown links between objectifying and stereotyped media portrayals and various types of sexual aggression:
  • regular exposure to stereotyped video game characters is associated with a greater tolerance for sexual harassment and increased rape myth acceptance;
  • reading men’s magazines, which typically contain objectifying imagery, is linked to lower intentions to seek sexual consent and adhere to sexual consent decisions;
  • television portrayals that objectify or degrade women have been shown to play a causal role in gender harassment and sexual coercion intentions.
 In short, many of the sexual narratives in teen media reinforce the worst stereotypes about male sexuality and blur the line between what constitutes “normal” guy behaviour and criminal acts. In this grey area many misconceptions about sexual relationships emerge, with rape myths perhaps the most damaging…
Download the PDF of the full excerpt here: Boys, Sex & Media–Rape Myths
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Crystal Smith is the author of "The Achilles Effect" and "Boys, Sex & Media." Through her blog and social media channels, Crystal discusses current depictions of masculinity in popular culture and their potential impact on boys. Her work has been covered in The Boston Globe, Advertising Age, and Feministing, and she has appeared on HuffPost Live and The Roy Green Show.


This blog was initially published at AchillesEffect.com Republished with permission from the author.

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