Have you ever been subjected to street harassment by a seven year old? I’m sad to report that I knocked that off my anti-bucket list last week. A coworker and I, both in skirts and heels, were leaving a meeting and were about to pass a father and his young son. I glanced down at the child, who couldn’t have been more than seven or eight, just as he gazed up at his father and said, “Rawr!” Ladies, you know the noise. The message cannot be misinterpreted or misunderstood. And that gaze, you know what that was? A request for approval for a job well done, as in, “Daddy, I used that word just like you, right?”
Responding wasn’t an option. I was wearing my work ID and my brain just didn’t come up with a suitable response in time. A knee-jerk reaction indicating how offended I was would not have helped the situation. To be honest, offense was not the primary emotion I felt. I was sad. Sad for the way this child was being raised to disrespect and objectify women. Sad for his future girlfriends. Sad for his mother. This occurred three days ago and I’m still not sure what I would have liked to say if I had the chance.
Initially this post was going to be a judgmental rant about how terrible it is for this man to pass along his lecherous behavior to his son, but what would that achieve? If you are reading this, you and I likely share a similar world view on the subject of feminism and you need no convincing that this type of behavior is offensive. After sitting on it for a few days, I dismounted my moral high-horse and instead reflected on my own not-so-noble tendencies. What pieces of my own baggage might I pass along to Ruby if I’m not careful and reasonably self-aware?
- “Hey, asshole, where’s your turn signal?”
- “No, P.J., we can’t go to breakfast until I get a shower. I look awful.” (This came out of my mouth today. We didn’t leave until I got a shower, put on makeup and styled my hair.)
- “I need to get a new swim suit this year. This one makes my thighs look too big.”
- “Oh my god, look at that little skirt she is wearing!”
Road rage, body image issues, judging other women for what they wear, what they don’t wear, with whom they sleep. Those last few seriously pain me to admit it because I spend an inordinate amount of time posting things on Facebook condemning that kind of behavior (e.g. http://tinyurl.com/kdddghw). And I am fundamentally against it, but that doesn’t stop those awful, intrusive thoughts from popping into my head from time to time. These are things I absolutely do not want to pass on to Ruby because they are thoughts and actions I want to shed and I refuse to believe they are indicative of who I really am as a person.
Maybe this is the perfect time to start behaving like the person I want to be. Those big eyes and that sponge of a brain are continually watching me for social cues. She will look to me for approval in the same way that little boy looked to his father. I want to be proud to offer her the approval she seeks, not embarrassed at seeing myself reflected in her. My daughter will grow up to be a strong feminist woman, not a judgmental hypocrite. So that’s who I need to be.