Over breakfast on Saturday morning, I reminded the children that we were going to a rally. To protest, as I simplified for the children, when people are mean and hurt other people, then say it's the other person's fault because of what they were wearing. I told them, as I often told them, "You're in charge of your body, and nobody is allowed to touch your body without your permission."
"There will be lots of people with signs there. I think most people will have signs. Would you like to carry signs, too?"
"What would you like them to say?"
DD answered in typical DD fashion: "You should wear whatever you want to wear because you get to wear what you want and people shouldn't be mean to you because of what you wear and you get to wear what you want and if people are mean that's not okay because they don't get to choose what you wear and you do get to choose what you wear and they don't get to be mean to you."
"That's an awful lot to put on a sign. How about, Wear What You Want To Wear?"
"Yes! Can it be pink?"
"Yup! SI, what do you want your sign to say?"
"How about, I'm in charge of my body?"
And so I made the kids signs, and RH freaked out. "I want a sign! I want a sign!"
As we were on our way out the door, I grabbed a sharpie and whipped up a quick little sign for her, without asking first. Considering that RH is the most stubborn kid I've ever known, I thought a message she's approve of was that she makes the decisions regarding her body. This is already as true as it can be for a two year old. "What's it say, mommy?"
"My body, my choices."
"MY BODY! MY CHOYZIZ!"
Forty minutes later, we were at the fourth annual Chicago SlutWalk.
Of course the kids were a hit. Everybody who stopped and asked what their signs said got an earful. SI especially loved telling people EXACTLY what her sign said, and what that meant. She got a lot of high five from essentially topless women.
I was so proud of them. I was so proud of them for asking intelligent questions all afternoon, and being patient through over a mile of marching. I was so proud of them for being polite and kind to the people there.
I took a picture of them with their signs, and when we got home, I put it on the Becoming SuperMommy facebook page and twitter.
Within hours, the backlash came.
Let me be clear- I have taken my children to SlutWalk twice before. I have published pictures of my children at SlutWalk twice before.
Never have I experienced anything like this.
@OMFG_Josh @bcmgsupermommy it is creepy giving signs 2children 2hold in that setting. Who else does that? Oh yea, #westborobaptistchurch O.O
— ....... (@onwrongplanet) August 24, 2014
“@bcmgsupermommy: Took the kids to @slutwalkchicago #slutwalk #rapeculture pic.twitter.com/3AbLZUUm58” Take this fucking whore's kids away!
— Mr. Mayhem (@OMFG_Josh) August 24, 2014
.@OMFG_Josh @bcmgsupermommy @slutwalkchicago this woman should be arrested and put under the jail for what she did to these kids #slutwalk
— Alexiis Starr (@AlexiisStarr) August 24, 2014
Maybe it's because all the responses I've had to previous year's SlutWalk posts have been so positive, I was blindsided. And more than that, I was hurt.
Because, knowing full well that one should NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER engage with a troll... I responded to them.
And what they said pained me in my soul. Not because of the personal nature of the attacks, that didn't bother me at all. It was their profound blindness to reality.
@bcmgsupermommy @slutwalkchicago who the hell says people are blamed for being attacked? I know nobody who says that.
— Rusty Shackleford (@mattohmyjones) August 24, 2014
@bcmgsupermommy @onwrongplanet And the fact of the matter is that chicks who dress like sluts are treated like sluts. As they should be.
— Mr. Mayhem (@OMFG_Josh) August 24, 2014
@bcmgsupermommy @mattohmyjones @slutwalkchicago Having sex w/ someone who doesn't want to have sex, is NOT rape.
— J M B (@JahMMARastafari) August 24, 2014
What got to me was knowing that in attempting to help my children escape and change a culture that devalues them for being female, that will condemn them for what they wear and blame them for their own victimhood, I have exposed them to a form of that violence.
I knew it was possible that as we marched people would shout unkind things. I was ready to talk to them about it. To teach them.
What I wasn't ready for was being personally attacked for teaching them. And I realize now how profoundly naive that was.
The fact is that we live in a culture where events like the SlutWalk are still necessary, because we live in a culture where college students are devoting their time to inventing nail polish that detects date rape drugs. We live in a culture where thousands of people think it's a good business idea to produce rape-proof jogging shorts.
And there IS a need, and a market for those things, because sexual violence is RAMPANT.
When they go to college, I don't want to have to take my daughters shopping for anti-rape pants and nail polish that changes colors when exposed to roofies. I don't want my children going to high school and being able to relate to a new generation of teen political anthems, like this punch-to-the-gut country song:
Yes. There's a country song about Steubenville-esque high school date rape. Because this story is so damn common that it's horrifically relatable.
THIS is the world we live in.
This is the place I have to teach my daughters to navigate. To survive and thrive in.
This is the world I have dedicated myself to changing so that the burden my daughters bear will be lighter.
I took my children to a place where women were dressed provocatively, some wearing only thongs and pasties. Because the point is that IT DOESN'T MATTER. It doesn't matter what a person wears- they are STILL a person. They are STILL in charge of what happens to their body.
It doesn't matter if they expose their body, that's not an invitation to ignore their autonomy. It's not an excuse to dismiss their ability to say 'no.' It's not public property, even when it's visible.
After the hate mail started coming, I asked M if he was glad we took the children.
"Of course I am," he said. "While I was walking, and reading all the signs and everything, it really hit home for me in a way it never had before. How one out of three women... and we have three daughters..."
I will not apologize for taking my daughters to SlutWalk.
If I had sons, I would be even more determined to take them. Because it is our sons more than our daughters who constantly hear messages that women exist for their pleasure. While I've had many fears about raising girls in my years of motherhood, until Saturday I hadn't really understood what it must be like to fear raising boys. To fear the mechanism of our society that wants to taint them, to train them, to pat them on the head and permit them to become abusers.
I would take my sons to the SlutWalk, and say to them- "These are people. All of these people are PEOPLE. And when you see somebody in next to nothing, or naked, they do not stop being people. They don't suddenly lose their right to control what happens to them. Remember that for the rest of your life."
I will not apologize for teaching my daughters that they control their bodies, and their fates.
But I will apologize for this world, because I am a part of it. And until I can be confident that I have more than done my part to make it safe for them to exist here, as girls and then women, the guilt that has plagued me most of my life will continue.
I am responsible for them. For now. For a short window in time, I am in charge of keeping them safe- and more importantly, teaching them to remain safe.
I'm going to keep doing it the best way I know.
|At SlutWalk '14|
|At SlutWalk '12|
|At SlutWalk '11|