October 11, 2016

He said… WHAAATTT?!?

Addressing Rape Culture in the Age of Trump

This weekend has been a doozy for parents. Who would have thought a Trump candidacy would lead to political pundits arguing about p*ssy on TV! There seems to be no way to avoid the bile coming out of Trump’s mouth. Even when you don’t actively watch the news. The toxic sludge is everywhere.

Nonetheless, I’m doing what I always do and using these “opportunities” as teachable moments to talk with my now 11 year old girls about sexism and rape culture. I’ve decided, if Trump is going to be the poster child of how NOT to behave, I and other parents need to step up and talk about what’s right.

If I’m really honest though, I have to reflect on the fact that it has to take someone so awful to get us talking about stuff we should already be talking about. Social norms may teach us not to pick our noses in public, but they also keep structural racism, sexism, and homophobia firmly in place. We are taught not to talk about certain body parts, rape culture and misogyny for a reason. Societal taboos tell us what we CAN and CAN’T talk about and ensure we never begin addressing oppressive systems in the first place.

Addressing Rape Culture in the Age of Trump

With that in mind, I’m saying… “Thank you Donald Trump, for getting this conversation started!” (Yes, I’m saying it!) And now that we’re talking… let’s fight back agains rape culture and discuss some key points with our kids:

#1. It’s called a VAGINA

Look we all love the fun and funny names that folks come up with for various body parts, and especially those that comprise our reproductive systems. It’s important to talk about body parts and teach your kids the REAL names for all of them… Say it with me: nose! elbow! penis!

NOT using real names for sexual body parts communicates these parts “shall not be named” because they are shameful. This taboo goes beyond “said body parts” and ends up affecting our ability to talk about anything related to them. And that’s downright dangerous. Every woman I know has a story about a friend who’s parent never talked about menstruation and was panicked to go to the bathroom and find blood in her underwear for fear she was DYING. That’s just messed up.

Not talking about body parts can also be dangerous. Avoiding talk about sexual body parts makes it more difficult for kids who’ve been molested or abused to seek help, because they don’t have language to name what’s happened to them. Not talking about body parts also send the implied message that talking or even thinking about what happens “down there” makes you a bad person.

Talk with your kids about it: I actually suggest getting a book or going online to find an illustration to explain all the parts to your kids when they are still little. Talk about what various parts do, and weave in conversations about hygiene and what we do to take care of our bodies. (WARNING: If you are using the Internet as a source, do not google “vagina images” while your toddler is looking on, or you will have to explain a LOT more than lady parts!)

#2. It’s called SEXUAL ASSAULT.

No. Grabbing someone by the genetalia is not “locker room talk”. My locker room talk consists of “Phew! I’m sweaty!” and “Why are there paper towels all over the floor!” Or maybe, “Man! That was a good workout!”

(And by the way… people who actually make a living as athletes agree.)

I’ve heard (and used) vulgar language at times and it is NOT the same thing as physically violating another person’s body. Kissing someone without their consent or grabbing someone’s crotchal region is not “groping”. Groping is what my parents generation did in the back of a 57 Chevy at the drive-in movie theater.

Talk with your kids about it: Here’s the official definition of sexual assault from WomensHealth.gov:

Sexual assault is any type of forced or coerced sexual contact or behavior that happens without consent. Sexual assault includes rape and attempted rape, child molestation, and sexual harassment or threats.

This leads to my next point…

#3. No means no. Consent means consent. Keep your hands to yourself.

It is amazing to me that a presidential candidate doesn’t know a basic rule you learn your first day in preschool. “Keep your hands to yourself!” Touching someone without their permission is just not a good idea. It is disrespectful. It can lead to fights. It can make other people not want to be your friend.

And it is NOT OK.

Talk with your kids about it: Explain what parts or OK for other people to touch and what parts are NOT OK to touch. What parts are OK to touch in private but not public? Explain what to do if someone violates your consent.

If you have school aged kids and teens, talk about sexual objectification in the media, or discuss violence against women. Don’t think this conversation is just for older kids. Talking about consent doesn’t have to be complicated, as my favorite mother-daughter duo Staceyann Chin and Zuri of Living Room Protest share below:

LivingRoomProtest 35: Your Body is Your Body (AKA Message for Trump)

And if you really want to get heavy…

#4. Extra Credit: Talk about double standards between Black and White men

This is decidedly not a topic for toddlers. Nonetheless, tweens and teen can engage in intersectional discussions of racism, sexism, homophobia and clasism. Black men have been portrayed as sexual predators since the dawn of slavery, while White men are afforded the right to be assumed “innocent until proven guilty”. Or even worse, as the Brock Turner case shows, when they are affluent, they may even be treated innocent when they are proven guilty.

As the #BlackLivesMatter shows the assumption of criminality for black men. Meanwhile, Trump, a White rich heterosexual confesses to a sex crime and people are quibbling about “language”.

Talk with your kids about it: Watch the amazing rant by Van Jones below and ask your kids: How are people treated differently based on their identities? How would Donald’s recent behavior be treated if he were a Black man? If he were poor? A woman of any race? A member of the LGBTQ community?

Van Jones IF TRUMP WERE BLACK

What if Donal Trump were Black? Would he be called a thug?

How are you addressing rape culture with your kids? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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About alimcollins

Ali Collins is an educator, community organizer and mom. She lives with her husband and twin girls in San Francisco, CA.

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Boys vs. Girls, Uncategorized

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