When my parents dropped me off to college for the second time, my dad gave me ?the talk.?
While my mom finished putting away my clothes in my dorm room at the University of Northern Iowa, my dad led me out into the hallway. We squeezed to the side of the long corridor as my neighbors ? two guys ? walked past.
?You have to watch out for them,? my dad said as their door closed shut behind them. ?Unfortunately they have more than studying on their minds.? I could tell his cheeks were blushing behind his bushy beard.
He wasn?t talking about my neighbors in particular, just men in general. He continued, warning me not to drink too much when I went out to parties; I needed to remain in control at all times. He told me that I shouldn?t give guys the wrong impression of what kind of girl I am. Namely, that I shouldn?t dress in a way that would embarrass my mother.
He also advised me not to walk alone on campus at night and to always make sure I knew where the exit was, whether I was in class, a restaurant or a bar.
For the most part I always tried to take my dad?s advice. I know how dangerous it is to be a woman.
As I teeter closer to my 30s and my nieces grow from children to young women, I often find myself doling out advice to them, usually when they?re trapped in a locked, moving car with me.
We?ve talked about how the internet is forever so be cautious of what you post. If you?re asked for ?intimate? pictures, don?t send them because once an image is out of your hands, it?s out of your control. I?ve talked to my nieces about birth control, sex and rape.
I?ve reiterated to them time and time again that when she says no ? to alcohol, drugs or sex ? to stand firm, not to change their answer because they are tired of answering the same question. I have these conversations with them, not because I want to scare them or make them afraid of the world, but because I want them to be aware and have as much control over their lives as possible.
And then this week, as the allegations of sexual harassment and abuse against Hollywood producer Harvy Weinstein began to mount, I saw the hashtags ?me too? begin to take over my feed on social media. The hashtag was started to show the sheer amount of women and men who have been sexually harassed and abused.
I?ll be honest, it wasn?t the monumental amount of people typing #metoo into their status or tweet that floored me, it was the realization that by just having ?the talk? with my nieces, I wasn?t doing much to stop this trend. I started thinking about those two guys in my hallway, who were always pleasant when our paths crossed; had their dads given them ?the talk? when they were dropped off at college?
And now, I?m doing a disservice to myself and my nieces when I only talk to them. When was the last time I locked my nephews in a moving car with me and talked to them about what is and isn?t consent? When did I talk to them about respecting women? And not respecting women because they have sisters, but because they are humans, the same as them?
We have to shift the conversation. We have to stop using a passive voice. On Instagram, Jackson Katz wrote, ?We talk about how many women were raped last year, not about how many men raped women. We talk about how many girls in a school district were harassed last year, not about how many boys harassed girls ...?
?So you can see how the use of the passive voice has a political effect. (It) shifts the focus off the men and boys and onto girls and women ...?
So let?s shift the focus. Let?s talk to our children, our friends and family, heck, even our neighbors and aquaintances about what sexual harassment and abuse are. Let?s talk about how no means no and not ?ask me again? and that saying yes once is not an open invitation. Let?s talk about how respect earns respect and how it?s on all of us to be better and do better.
And to the men reading this, if you were blown away by the amount of women who said #metoo then maybe it?s time for you to think about what you will do (#whatiwilldo) to change rape culture.