However horrific the many tales of the #MeToo movement, us moms and women know these stories are as old as time. And it's not just women and girls, as we know. Yesterday in the car, my daughters and I were listening to a Radiolab episode on immigration from Mexico, as one aspiring immigrant described having been raped multiple times while trying to cross the border, never making it across and being deeply traumatized along the journey (I tried to mute this part, but the kids insisted they were ready for the story). Of course, he experienced other, countless traumas of families being separated, dying, and going missing along the route. As we listened, we drove past the homeless shelter where, on a hot, holiday weekend, bodies poured in and out, slept on the sidewalk, or glanced vigilantly to protect their space, their food, their opportunities. We had picked up pizza and drinks, headed to a friends' house for a night of fun and food, oh, the contrast.
In a way, my kids are highly protected. They have escaped unbearable brutalities of so many's human conditions. But we are all vulnerable. It's just a question of when and how we will get hurt. What we will learn and what we should have known already. Personally, we are learning a lot about suicide. This also fits in the category of what we should have known already, but we almost never recognize that category until we are already there.
In other ways, I feel a little more prepared to protect my girls, including thanks to the #MeToo movement. I am so sad for everyone who went through it, including some still to come, no doubt, but this has also been a great time to educate my kids. I often protect them from the news, but not this news. They have heard countless stories that I know will impact their self-advocacy, their ability to speak up for others who might not feel empowered, and their ability to carve out workplace and societal reshapes, marking the beginning of a forever-different era.
By coincidence, I had recently read the book Girls and Sex, by Peggy Orenstein. It describes the changing landscape of girls/women's sex lives in the "hook up" culture that seems "post-feminist" but is not at all. It is as patriarchal and sexist as ever, and we are complicit, especially in the US. There are some European countries that can teach us about how to talk to our girls about their bodies, their sexuality, what they are allowed, what they don't have to compromise, and how to build their sense of value from the inside out. I highly recommend it. I have spoken to my kids differently since then, and I am glad to be prepared, at least in this category.