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HAGER: #metoo has made us uncomfortable, and rightly so

• Nov 29, 2017 at 3:00 PM

News seems to be breaking all over, as if the scandal that follows Donald Trump has unleashed an unholy flashlight that shines brightly on all our flaws. Colluding with foreign governments, banning people based on their country of origin or religion, and being made to look and confront our own deep prejudices have all risen to the surface in the last year.

Now we weep and wring our hands over the sexual abuses and harassments (not the same, both awful, but not the same) that are coming out of the woodwork. Right and left, liberal and conservative, comedians and producers, our president — no one is safe.

As my social media sites flooded with #metoo a few weeks ago, it was like a dam had broken, the tide of tears and memories and damage done continues to flow, swallowing up all that we thought people were and could be.

Roy Moore apparently has a thing for younger girls, and I’d like to tell you why. I’d like to tell you that we are complicit in that, in every single girl who is abused or harassed or taken advantage of. We are complicit because we market pushup bras to tweens, because we sell teeny-tiny bikinis to young girls and teens, and then turn around and blame them for how they were dressed when the abuses occurred.

We encourage an ideal, a saint to the world and a pinup in the bedroom, but we can’t deal when those ideals collide, when the pinup leaves the house or the saint says no. We cover magazines and television with beautiful, half-dressed women and explicit sex scenes, and then we complain when those same women won’t let us touch the flesh that is artfully displayed for our pleasure, we call them liars when we hold them down and touch anyway.

We’ve created a culture in which girls who are 13 look 18, where those girls who were playing with dolls not two years ago are now being sold a sexual ideal that not only doesn’t exist but is dangerous in regard to their own burgeoning sexuality and selves. We are teaching them that they are objects to be displayed in lace and small bathing suits, we are telling them that what is in their hearts and in their heads doesn’t matter.

Most damaging of all, we are sending the message that their culture expects them to look sexy and act that way at very tender ages — we are telling them not only that it’s expected to look that way, but that the prize for looking that way is the attention of men.

And then these girls grow up and they write a horrible outpouring of #metoo posts and tweets and editorials, and we’re shocked. We’re floored that the message we’ve been sending to them was picked up and ran with; we can’t believe that they did what our culture told them was the right thing to do and now they turn on us with their own allegations of abuse.

We are complicit. This is our fault.

We have not raised men who believe that no means no, we have not raised men who see the little girl inside the skimpy bathing suit — we have not raised men who value and respect women as equally created and divine creatures, bearing the image of God.

We have raised men who will touch anything that comes too close, who think a butt grab is OK, men who hug too long and do much, much worse.

And we have raised and are raising up women and girls who will think this is OK until some learn that it isn’t and speak out. Those first voices were the hammers against the dam, the light turning on and revealing the skeleton that so many have hanging in their closets.

I don’t have the answer for how we are to combat an entire culture. But I am trying my hardest, in the trenches on a daily basis with my own girls, trying to teach them that what is in their heads and their hearts matters more than how they look or who believes they are desirable. I am trying to show them that they don’t have to be who their mainstream culture demands. I am driving into their beautiful minds that they do not ever have to be touched or manhandled or poked, they do not ever have to sit down and accept cat calls or comments on their appearance — and that they should fight with all they are worth when the worst thing, the worst man comes knocking.

Tell your sons that my daughters are smart and kind and funny — tell them that they are not objects, they are people with feelings and histories and dreams and family stories and inside jokes. Ask them to not bend my girls to their will or desires. Keep on teaching them to be decent.

So much of any change has to come from us, you and me, here on the ground, grinding out lives for our families; somehow making it work every day. We are the only ones who can change the world, the only ones who can make a future where men and women are equal because that is what we will teach our kids.

The #metoo movement has been uncomfortable, and it is in your very discomfort that hope is found. We can make this stop.

— By Alicia Hager, Tribune community columnist

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