It feels as though we’ve been overwhelmed by a media storm in recent weeks, one that’s been hard to ignore. As a mother of three daughters, I’m compelled to share my thoughts on this particular issue: that we, as women and mothers, are failing to instill certain values in our children - both boys and girls - resulting in the fragility of the female spirit, and the predation of women by men in positions of power.
Harvey Weinstein. Roy Price, head of Amazon Studios. James Toback, film director. Michael Oreskes, Chief of NPR. John Besh, famed restauranteur. Mark Halperin, political commentator. The list goes on with stories and accusations ranging in severity, but the common denominators are undeniable: men of power, wielders of influence. All publicly accused of sexual misconduct.
These instances are symptomatic of a societal cancer: we blindly follow a distorted and sick culture in which the media and the Hollywood mafia are firmly in control of our daughters, portraying girls as hyper-sexualized and two-dimensional. Superficiality over substance. Exposed skin over exposed ambition.
Our daughters are depressed, normalized to sexual dating violence, consumed with their physique and believe popularity is in direct proportion to overt sexuality. Our sons are routinely absolved from responsibility with a simple “what can you do, boys will be boys” from their fathers.
Suggesting that boys and girls can be held to different behavioral standards perpetuates rape culture from an early age. By neglecting to emphasize that women are their equals, that women are more than objects, that physical and emotional intimacy is beautiful…boys fall prey to social and cultural norms, believing that women are inferior and sex is about dominance and conquest. We live in a world inclined to blame women for the violence or impropriety of men, breeding disrespect and violence. Freedom from wrongdoing, guilt, apology.
And where is our outrage? It should not be directed only at these individuals, caught and publicly shamed for their horrific acts, but at the entire media and Hollywood industry, selling young girls the idea that female value lies mostly in their youth, beauty and sexuality and inculcating our boys the idea that success is tied to dominance, power and aggression. We as mothers must actively stand up and teach our children otherwise...that people must be valued as human beings, not gendered stereotypes.
So how do we undo this deeply entrenched social and cultural ill? What is our part to play? We mothers must disrupt the narrative. It begins with talking to our children at home from an early age, and making sure the conversation continues as they grow. It’s also about taking charge of what they are exposed to: on television, in music videos, etc…we are their gatekeepers, one of the most important jobs we’ll ever have.
The values we instill in our sons and daughters today shape what our society will look like tomorrow. To the young women who find themselves dressing, behaving, and displaying themselves for others instead of themselves, I say: cherish and respect your self. Know thy worth, and remember that “no” is a full sentence; use it confidently. Recognize that you can pick and choose what adventures, personal and professional, you embark upon. Work hard. Ignore the haters and feed no ego. Be badass with sass!