You Are Needed To Shine

We have been called on to shine.

We have been called on to shine.

A late night request to my community —
Whether you are awake late into the night with me now or you read this in the morning or days later, I need something from you.

 

For two days I have had women messaging me, telling me they too were raped. They say thank you for talking about the Stanford case, thank you for sharing his mug shot, thank you for calling him a rapist and not a swimmer.

 

These women tell me they too were raped as a teen or young woman. In the wake of the firestorm around convicted sex offender Brock Turner, they have come to realize they were raped, that what happened to them is rape. They have come to be able to admit it was rape and not some other category of unwanted, coerced, forced sex. All of the discussions on social media have given them the courage to speak for the first time. Some of them have been speaking out all the years I’ve known them.

 

It is just past midnight on my side of the world. I am sitting at my dining room table working in the quiet while my family sleeps. The only way I’ve been able to write about the Stanford rapist Brock Turner is when my children are sleeping because when I look at my daughter while this story is swirling in my head I feel a scream build and rage inside me that would crumble the mountains that surround my home if I were to let it out. So I wait for night.

Night is hard for those of us who survive being raped. Maybe it is because so many of our attacks took place at night. Maybe it is because at night your thoughts always seem so much louder. Maybe it is because the dark makes it more difficult to see and you no longer like surprises. Maybe night is worse because of something primal, something deeply embedded in our brains from the days we lived in caves and were hunters as well as the hunted.
Women and girls should not be hunted. We carry a natural born right to dignity and security. We deserve to not fear the darkness of the night. We deserve to not fear walking home from class. Or fear riding the subway to work. Or fear dancing and flirting with someone, and to have that confused as an invitation to commit sexual felonies on our bodies. Or fear showing up female while in public. Or fear the ability to name ten other friends who have also been raped.

 

We deserve to have parents teach their sons not to rape.

 

We deserve to have society support us with that one, simple request: Teach your sons not to rape.

 

Teach your sons instead to leap off their bicycles to aid a woman in distress, to testify on her behalf in her quest for justice, to share her voice so the world better understands the impact of rape.

 

In her letter to the court, the courageous Stanford victim spoke of offering hope to other rape victims by sharing her story and quoted author Anne Lamott, “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save? they just stand there shining.”

 

“And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. As the author Anne Lamott once wrote, “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save? they just stand there shining.” Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you. Thank you.” -Stanford survivor

 

We need a community of light houses around our girls and women.

We need a community of light houses around our girls and women.

So that is what I ask of you. Stand there and shine. Let us know you are a lighthouse. Tell the Stanford survivor you are shining for her. Tell us you are #StandingShining for all. 

 

If you support the women who have shared their experiences with rape, stand there and shine.
If you support girls and women struggling to overcome sexual assault and rape, stand there and shine.
If you support the idea that rape stops when we stop raising rapists, stand there and shine.
If you support the idea a convicted rapist is not brought to justice with light sentencing, stand there and shine.
If you support the movement led by parents to teach consent, respect, and dignity towards all bodies, stand there and shine.
If you support the idea a woman can get blazing drunk and hold the expectation she will not be raped, stand there and shine.
If you want to expose the Rape Culture that allowed the Stanford attack and trial to exist, stand there and shine.

 

Let survivors know you are shining for them.

 

Let parents know you hold their sons to higher standards, and they will be in your spotlight.
Let women know their nights are no longer dark, that we will become a community of lighthouses.

 

Let’s take good care of each other. Let’s stand together and shine.

 

Melissa headshot 1 fb sizeMelissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author ofRedefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween”. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can connect with her onFacebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals) and Pinterest (Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies).

Pitch Perfect 2’s Rape Culture Scene Hits a Wrong Note

Even when we get women behind the camera and a cast full of female protagonists, usually touted as a cure to Hollywood’s ills and missteps, we can still have media go terribly wrong. In the just-released trailer for Pitch Perfect 2 there is a scene that is very troubling because it strikes a chord to a much bigger issue. Perhaps there is more to this scene than first meets the eye. Hopefully it ends with a affirmative PSA promoting consent and taking a stand against college men raping college women, delivered in the hysterical way that only Rebel Wilson can. That would be grand. If not it only serves to mislead the film’s fans, many of whom are teens and young adults, about what consent means and looks like, as well as what girls really mean when they say ‘no’.

Because you know, she didn’t mean it. She wanted it. And she liked it.

In this scene (at 2:11) we see a guy hitting on “Fat Amy”, Rebel Wilson’s very funny character. At a party scene full of alcohol and underage drinking – known contributors to campus and high school rape – we watch a rival singer hit on Amy and ask if she wants to have sex later. She acts appalled and voices a loud “NO!” immediately followed by a confusing wink at the boy. Not understanding, he tries to clarify and we watch the same schtick again. There’s a lot that could have been done with these few minutes in the film, but these minutes don’t pass by in a vacuum. They have meaning to the culture at large.

For a film written by, directed by and starring women this is irresponsible and insensitive. That most of these women have been previously heralded in the media as great feminist role models, this scene is really all the more troubling. If you’re going to be sex-positive, show your character going all in. Go Fat Amy, get some! With enthusiastic consent that better represents most college women’s sexual agency. Comedic sexual come on’s are something Rebel Wilson is phenomenal at. No need to be coy about her desire. She can still make a clandestine lover out of her rival, which actually could have led to some truly funny scenes. No need to make an ass out of a guy trying to understand if consent was there or not.

Media perpetuates Rape Culture and mocks the idea - and neccessity - of consent.

Media perpetuates Rape Culture and mocks the idea – and neccessity – of consent.

This trailer is filling my newsfeed and twitter stream and no doubt yours, as well as any tween/teen social media users you have at home. In fact, this party scene is the final frame of the trailer as it was meant to have lasting impact and influence by the people who want to earn money from this movie. So talk about it with your kids: the responsibilities media content creators have, unpack Rape Culture and how it is perpetuated, the roles young men and women play in Rape Culture, how kids learn to navigate sexual relationships, and how maybe women have a responsibility to each other not to make a joke out of rape.

It isn’t dark or salty humor. It isn’t satire. Much like the rape whistle joke Kay Cannon included in the original Pitch Perfect screenplay, it isn’t doing any of us any favors.

It is SO disappointing to see women in Hollywood be so insensitive to the campus rape crisis by including this scene that only further reinforces the “No means YES!” belief far too many college men (and apparently administrators) hold. Like when they chant outside their fraternities and parties “No means yes and yes means anal!” HILARIOUS!!!

Incredibly irresponsible for a film directed by Elizabeth Banks and a scene starring Rebel Wilson, who have been cheered for their feminism, and who are capable of better comedy. Because if there is anything that is not chuckle-fest inducing, it is the fact that one in five women will be raped while trying to get a higher education, usually by men they considered friends or lovers.

That’s not a statistic I’m in love with. Hopefully by the time the film is released, this scene will be cut or reworked.

 

Rape Alert Nail Polish and Stopping Rape

Yesterday I posted a link about nail polish that alerts the wearer to the presence of date rape drugs in beverages. The article was titled “I Shouldn’t Have to Dip My Nails In a Drink to Reduce My Risk of Rape“. Comments heated up quickly, so I want to readdress this. On the surface, the nail polish sounds like a great idea and a way to keep women safe. Perhaps in a very few cases, it will. Those women matter. I think it is okay to say this is a clever idea and kudos to the men who developed it.

I was drugged and raped in college, during that “red zone” for freshman women. Could that have been prevented by me wearing the right nail polish? Who knows.

Could my rape have been prevented by my rapist being taught to not rape? Yes. Absolutely. Unequivocally.

You know, when I think back to that night I don’t think “I really wish I had been wearing rape alert nail polish.”

I think, “I really wish the boy who raped me and the boy who drugged my drink had been raised with the understanding that men should never rape. Rape is never okay and never excusable.”

Many years later I the mother to a son. He will be raised to not rape.

This issue isn’t about me, it is about THOUSANDS of women who will experience rape this year. Girls, boys, and other men will all suffer the experience of being raped at the hands of men. I share my story only because I want you to reach a level of better understanding. I could be any thousands of other women out there. I am not unique in my experience.

Consider this nail polish the front door mat on the porch. What I’m asking you to do is to have the courage to open the door and walk through, we have A LOT of work to do.

“However well-intentioned, there seems to be an awful lot of resources, time and energy dedicated to telling women how not to get raped, and comparatively little going to preventing men from raping in the first place. This provides women with a false sense of comfort and the illusion that a product or a precaution can actually solve the problem of rape, which it won’t.

Moreover, the more we depend on women to prevent rape, the easier it is to blame them when it happens to them. Here’s a look at the well-documented ways we can actually stop rape. Maybe it’s time we invest a little more time and resources into implementing them before we send gallons of nail polish to colleges across the country.” -Elizabeth Plank

Please finish reading Plank’s article “11 Ways to Solve Rape Better Than Nail Polish“. It is excellent. And it is everything we should be talking about when we talk about ending rape. 

Image from Elizabeth Plank's piece for Mic.

Image from Elizabeth Plank’s piece for Mic.

 

Thank you in advance for being respectful with your comments.

 

Melissa Atkins Wardy owns and operates Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a small business in Wisconsin, where our shirts are printed and shipped with love.

If you would like to order empowering apparel and gifts for girls and boys, please visit www.pigtailpals.com.

Find Melissa Atkins Wardy’s book “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween” on Amazon.

Join the PPBB Community in conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest

Tonight I Will Be Attacked: 1 in 5

**TRIGGER WARNING**

“The price of a college education should not include a 1 in 5 chance of being sexually assaulted.” – Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

One in five collegiate women will be raped during their time at school. One in five.

One in five collegiate women will be raped during their time at school. One in five.

Tonight I am going to be attacked. The lights will be off so I won’t be able to see but I’ll probably be able to feel it coming, if only a second before contact. A man who is bigger than me and stronger than me is going to grab my wrists or grab my throat or come from behind and bear hug me with so much force my lungs empty with a blasting cough. His hands are huge and his arms are strong, stronger than mine, so I really have to scrap for any inch of freedom I might gain as we struggle. Stomp, kick, hit, bite…I’ll do whatever it takes. I’m going to try to fight him off while I’m still on my feet and hope he doesn’t take it to the ground. If we do end up on the ground with him on top of me I am going to try break his choke hold before he starts bashing my head on the floor or block his punch to my face, wrap up his arm with one of mine and grab his head and neck while I flip us over so that I can deliver a hit and kick before I try to run. At that point I’ll be hoping there isn’t a second attacker.

I know the man who is going to attack me, kind of. I’ve spent several hours with him over the past six weeks, so we’re acquaintances I guess you could say. That is usually how it goes, right? You know the guy who attacks you. So many times it is a friend or a date or a boyfriend, and that is what makes it so much worse. I remember thinking that when it happened to me a month before I went to college. In my case tonight my attacker will be one of my self defense instructors. We’ve worked for the past five weeks on fight and survival skills and tonight is the last class, when the attacks come in the dark. I’m scared out of my mind. I’m still showing up for class.

The same could be said for countless collegiate women all over this country. They are scared yet they still show up for class.

1 in 5.

Despite the bruises I have on my wrists and arms from previous classes, this is all just practice. It is pretend. We laugh and joke around during class. If we didn’t do the break away correctly they choke hold or head lock us again, making sure we understand how to correctly break free and get to safety. During class we’ve said how important it is for high school girls to take this course and I keep thinking what epic bullshit that is. We have courses that teach women how to not get raped, but nowhere in my town is there a course teaching boys and men not to rape. The male instructors at class are beyond respectful and nice to all of the women. They take extra time to really make sure we understand the moves, they are invested in our safety. The head female instructor is great. Still, every minute of every class I think about what happened to me at 18 years old.

I think about my daughter, when she will be 18 years old. 

I essentially have no fear of my young daughter being kidnapped, therefore I let her run free to explore her world. Of the 74.5 million children in the United States only 115 are abducted by strangers per year.

Yet even though her journey to college is ten years away I am already worried about her safety there. She has a 1 in 5 chance of being raped. 

1 in 5. 

When we look at the mathematical probability of our children being abducted by a stranger they have a greater chance of being struck by lightning on a trip to Florida than being abducted by a stranger in your neighborhood. And I’ve never worried about my kids being struck by lightning. I think stranger abduction is a deep, dark fear for ALL parents because it is our worst nightmare. But it is EXTREMELY rare. Yet our entire generation has changed the way we parent because of fear mongering and misinformation.

What we should be concerned about is our daughters being raped and our sons being rapists. Yet I never hear parents talking about that. Ever.

1 in 5.

I read about these issues online, but in my day to day life I have never heard a parent correct another after “Boys will be boys” or “that just means he likes you!” is uttered, explaining that is what builds Rape Culture. I almost never hear a parent teach their sons about consent. Maybe the occasional, “We don’t hit girls.” Perhaps it is because my kids are still young, but I don’t hear parents talking about what seems like the systematic covering up of rape by high schools and universities. I have never, ever heard a parent of a boy wonder aloud if they could be raising a rapist. And this is odd, because many of these mothers would have gone to college, so they either were the 1 in 5, or they were the other 4 but knew someone who was the 1.

Why aren’t we talking about this?

1 in 5.

Which numbers do you think American parents should be obsessing over and completely changing their parenting in response to? Which number should inspire a rash of safety products and apps to be developed and marketed? Which number should be discussed by parents at playgrounds and playdates? Which number should be covered relentlessly by media?

1 in 5.

Tonight I will be attacked, I know it is coming. I know who is going to do it. And I know when it is over that I’m going to be okay. This should never be what goes through the minds of our daughters when the embark on their journey to college. Rape should not be a foregone conclusion, part of the checklist we review when packing our children off to university.

Rape should not be the price of college admission.

 

This is how I teach my children:

1. Your body belongs to you, no one may touch it in a way that upsets you or hurts you. You own the right to demand people respect your body.

2. You must respect other people’s bodies. It is never appropriate to hurt or violate someone’s body. I will teach my son never to rape.

3. You must ask if it is okay to give a hug, kiss, hold hands, etc. Wanting to show affection is sweet. Making sure it wants to be received is critical. No means no.

4. My husband and I demonstrate respect towards each other so that this is the foundation my children grow with: Men and women respect each other. We are equals.

5. My children are young and establishing their framework of the world. I do not allow media that normalizes violence against women nor that which sexualizes and objectifies them. (As my children grow our conversations about this will dig deeper into cultural attitudes about women’s bodies and Rape Culture. We will also talk about boys/men as victims.)

6. If you see someone hurting someone else you must speak up, stop it, or seek help. You may not be silent.

More on this:

One Student – become a change agent on campus

NPR: Rape On Campus: Painful Stories Cast Blame On Colleges

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month 

If You Don’t Like “Rape Culture” Then Focus For A Minute On Sex and Status

Huffington Post series for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

The Integrity Of My Son’s Body: Consent, Respect, Touching and Teaching

As the mother of a young, affectionate son who has been taught about consent and respect of personal boundaries, it is upsetting to me to hear the number of people (mostly women) who feel an appropriate response by a girl to an unwanted kiss/touch is to physically assault a boy in his genitals.

One of these things is not like the other.

If we are demanding respect for the integrity of our daughter’s bodies, then so too must we do the same for our sons. My son’s body is just as precious to me as my daughter’s. Both deserve respect, as do your children.

I have taught my children the only reason that you would ever assault someone in their genitals is if the situation presents imminent bodily harm and that is their only means to get away. Assaulting a male in his genitals is not the correct response to a troublesome or annoying behavior that does not leave you in physical danger. In teaching our children to do so, we teach them that the easiest way to solve a situation and degrade someone is to violate a person’s body in their most private part.

I don’t want my children raised in a generation where cunt punts and racking nuts are the way we handle unwanted affections, even if it is repeated and even if it is bothersome or out of line. In fact, this horrifies me.

This morning I posted the story of the Colorado boy , six year old first grader Hunter Yelton, suspended for kissing a girl’s hand. Knowing the story was not as simple as this, I waited 24 hours after first hearing of the story to post anything because what has struck me in the past is that the offended parent of the perpetrator goes quickly to the media to cry foul and what we don’t accurately hear is the story from the victim (cc: the Town of Steubenville). I read no less than twelves links on the story from various sources and watched several videos, all featuring or quoting the boy’s mother. Because I searched by the boy’s name and the school’s name (the victim’s name obviously has been withheld), I did not come across this article which as of this morning was the only media piece featuring the voice of the family of the girl (the victim). But because the article talking about the girl didn’t use the boy’s name, it didn’t hit my radar.

And here is the problem: This story is about how consent and respect weave together, not about she said/he said with stories so opposite that the other party’s information is not included in the same piece. Maybe we need to change the way we report and talk about sexual misconduct, harassment, and assault in our culture.

The story has now descended into threads about who was right or wrong, what is the real history, what the appropriate punishment should be, etc. Yes, it is important for the boy to learn his repeated behavior is unacceptable and that he needs to respect the personal space of his peers and that “no means no”. The boy may or may not have some underlying behavioral issues that prevent him from learning this on the same curve as other children. The girl’s family seems to have done a good job teaching her how to establish boundaries and seek help.

What concerned me was that there was no representation in the media of the girl, and that we were only hearing the boy’s side which was being chalked up to a cute school yard crush and an innocent kiss. The boy’s name and the institution were all over the media, yet there was nothing of the girl. And isn’t that usually the case? Granted the girl’s mother came forward with a statement much later than when the story broke, and I would imagine she wanted privacy for her family. The problem is, none of these media outlets questioned what her side was or that her point of view should be taken into consideration. MOST IMPORTANTLY: I didn’t hear any media question whether or not the touching was consensual.

The media downplayed it, and in so doing they played a card from Rape Culture each time they talked about how cute the boy was, calling him a Don Juan or charmer or Casanova, saying the girl’s mom overreacted, and excusing his behavior as “boys will be boys”. The boy’s mom excused it because she said the children were “boyfriend and girlfriend”, it was an innocent crush, and the girl was okay with the kiss. The important question is: Was she?

The other concern I had was that in being suspended the boy and his mom didn’t seem to be taught the lesson they needed about consent and respect. They were taught punishment and isolation. The school followed policy, and whether or not a six year old is capable of sexual harassment isn’t really the issue. The issue we should be discussing is how do we teach our children the concepts of body integrity, consent, and respect.

As the conversation unfolded in the PPBB community I was contacted by my friend and colleague Dr. Rebecca Hains who had written a piece this morning on the subject. In her piece Hains questions why we are getting lost in the trees and not seeing the forest:

But it really bothers me that no one is talking about the bigger picture: the fact that we need to teach our children—even very young children—about bodily autonomy and consent. Shouldn’t that be the takeaway from this case? We should be having a cultural conversation about how to raise boys who know that girls’ bodies are not theirs for the taking—who respect both themselves and others.

Girls bodies are not there for the taking and boys bodies are not punching bags when they get annoying. Girls and boys have the natural born right to have their small bodies respected. So how do we teach consent, respect, and body integrity (Hains calls this bodily autonomy) to our kids?

We start by teaching them that this concept begins with them self. Teach them the appropriate words for body parts. Teach them who are the trusted circle who can touch their private parts for toileting, bathing, or medical reasons. Teach them they have the right to say “No” at any time. With both of my children we had instilled these lessons by age two.

Next – we teach our children that affection is a wonderful part of a friendship, but we need to ask before we give it. I love this example from Hains’ piece linked above:

My five-year-old son loves to hug and kiss his friends. He is sweet and affectionate, and when he first sees a friend or when it’s time to say goodbye, he wants nothing more but to wrap his arms around that friend and give him or her a big kiss. Sometimes, his friends reciprocate, but sometimes, they clearly don’t want the physical contact. So, since about the time when he turned four years old, and he seemed old enough to understand, we’ve told him that he needs to ask his friends for permission first. We taught him to ask, “Can I give you a hug and a kiss?” We’ve also told him he needs to respect their answers, even if it’s disappointing, and I’m glad to see that this is now his usual approach. He gets their consent.

The other side of this coin is that we should not expect our children to want to return affection just because someone wants to give it. Whether it is a peer at school or a rarely-seen uncle or the neighbor lady you bump into at the store, your child is not required to hug or kiss or cuddle anyone. If the child declines, no means no. The child is a person, not a teddy bear. Included in this is tickling or play wrestling — when the child says enough, that means enough, not continue playing and teasing.

Then we need to teach our children how to establish boundaries and that at any time they are made to feel uncomfortable they can turn to a trusted adult to share their concerns and that they will be taken seriously. Phrases like “My body belongs to me” or “That is my private part” or “This is inappropriate” are concepts preschoolers on up understand. As the child is older, you can teach them “Your words/touch are making me uncomfortable and I am telling you to stop” or “This is inappropriate and you need to hear me telling you NO”.

Sometimes, I feel like teaching advocacy is the easy part. Teaching our children to hear it – to respect another – is sometimes not as easy. Our children need to be taught that it isn’t funny or cute to pressure someone into physical contact, even if that contact is (in their mind) affectionate. Our children need to be taught that when someone says no, that means hands off or walk away. Our children need to be taught that when someone uses their voice, it is our responsibility to hear it and honor it. Our children need to be taught that when they see harassment, they seek help for the victim and not remain silent and blind for the perpetrator.

Body integrity (bodily autonomy) means that every human body is sacred and comes with a voice and that voice deserves respect. It means that we do not cause harm to the body of another person. It means that every human has the right to their body as their own and the right to their personal space. Full stop.

I hope the conversation around this story shifts and that we get out of the he said/she said mentality and instead focus on what the take away should be: Consent, Respect, Touching and Teaching.

 

July 16 Shoot 044 Special thanks to Rebecca Hains for discussing this topic with me in a way that creates meaningful change.