Many of you know that I am a mom. Some of you know that I like to touch on some feminist topics. This post will touch on both of those! After the UCSB shooting and articles about cosplayers being sexually harassed, I have been asked one sobering question:
“What is it like raising a son in this world?”
It’s a hard thing to face; that women are often victims of attacks. I’m not saying men don’t suffer from harassment or attacks as well. But for the sake of keeping this “simple” I plan to only stick to one thing: How can I raise a son to respect women to the fullest?
I wish I was the mom that easily used a conversation about Jabba the Hutt to teach her son about respecting women. Seriously, this mom uses just the right words and I someday hope to be so awesome. I’m lucky that my son is only 2 years old and doesn’t quite understand those sort of lessons. Instead, we implement something in our house that I feel is lacking from a lot of video games, from a lot of nerd cultures, and apparently conventions when it comes to cosplayers being harassed: consequences for actions.
I can’t help but wonder if that’s what’s lacking in all of these situations. One of my greatest fears is that, without consequences, we will continue to see cases like Ethan Couch who got away with killing four people because he’s “too privileged.” I’m sorry but if you ask me affluenza is just a bullshit excuse. Unfortunately, I think too many people get away with slaps on the wrist when in reality, punishments need to fit the crime. Parents who love their children often mistake that love with the act of over protection and end up denying their children important life lessons.
At 2 years old, my son knows that if he hits, bites or kicks someone he gets a warning and then, if he repeats the offense, a 2 minute time out. Does it break my heart if that makes him cry? You bet your ass it does. Will it teach him not to hit, bite or kick if I “protect” him from his punishment and let him off scot-free? No, no he won’t. All that teaches him is that mom will let him get away with whatever suits him if he cries. This may seem small to you if you’re not a parent but these life lessons develop. They grow from hitting, biting and kicking into a bigger problem: not respecting another person’s boundaries.
When a cosplaying woman has her chest groped for a photo, do you think her boundaries have been respected? When her boundaries are trampled, what is the consequence? And is it really up to the convention and on-lookers to deal out a punishment?
Here’s the thing, I have to worry about both sides of the spectrum: I’m also raising a daughter. And though I worry that she will some day have to deal with attacks of a sexual nature, I know that I will at least be sending her into the world with tools that she will use to protect herself. I also think it’s important to realize that these life lessons are not exclusive to one sex or the other. We are all prey if we allow ourselves to be, just like we are all antagonists if we allow ourselves to be.
What it boils down to is that my kids are learning 2 keys things that I wish were easy to teach adults: respect boundaries and expect consequences when you don’t. As nerds, I feel we are accountable to each other to not only set our own boundaries but to also respect someone else’s boundaries. That means understanding and accepting that when you ask something of someone that they are allowed to tell you “no.”
“Can I take a picture with you?” No. “Okay, well, I think that you look amazing as [insert character name here]. Enjoy the con/Have a great day!”
See how easy that is? All this is to answer the question “What is it like to raise a son in this world?” It’s easy for me because we allow ourselves to say “no thank you” to our son and we allow him to say the same to us. By doing this, he understands that he has personal boundaries and so does everyone else. We allow ourselves to show our son that there are consequences for trampling on someone’s established boundaries. And it really is that simple. Now, if only we could remember this as adults. Until then, just remember to play nice on the playground!