“I’ve interviewed and portrayed people who’ve withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights. So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again.”
You might have seen Oprah Winfrey passionately close her acceptance speech for the Cecil DeMille Award at the Golden Globes with the said lines. The video of her speech has been shared and viewed a thousand times and for good reason too, as it highlights the two movements in one glorious moment.
But what exactly is the importance of #MeToo and #TimesUp for us parents and our kids?
#MeToo highlighted how pervasive harassment and sexual assault is. And for us parents, it serves as a harsh reminder of the dangers facing our kids. Much like sexual harassment and assault, child sexual abuse is quite common and yet, still not often discussed. So here are a few things we can do to equip our children with knowledge and skills that may help to protect them from – and prevent them from becoming predators:
1. Teach our kids the proper name of their genitalia. Calling it nicknames may be cute, but doing so can make it harder for the child to communicate to someone if an abuse has happened. At the same time, kids who can say “penis” or “vagina” conveys to the predator that he/she has been properly taught by an adult who pays attention and is more likely to tell on the predator.
2. Talk to our kids about sex without any judgment, and consider doing it even from a young age. The important thing for us parents is to convey to our kids that no one has the right to touch them in any way that makes them feel uncomfortable – no matter if that person is a relative, friend, or even us parents. And if anyone tries, our kids can (and should) speak up about it, with no fear of prejudice.
3. Be aware of cases of “grooming.” Grooming is when an adult tries to befriend and establish an emotional connection to a child and even to the family, in order to lower the child’s inhibitions with the objective of sexual abuse. So as parents, we should be vigilant of possible signs of grooming. Red flags to take note of are instances of special treatment from adults our kids may be close to or sudden changes in our kids’ behavior towards someone.
If #MeToo highlights the importance of speaking up and the collective voice against sexual harassment, #TimesUp, on the other hand, aims to ensure that no one says #MeToo again. It aims to provide legal defense for sexual misconduct victims, new legislation that will penalize companies with persistent harassment problems, and push for gender pay equality – across all industries. Overall, its success will mean a much ideal and safer future for our kids, but perhaps, we can also have a hand in ensuring that the movement attains its goals – by ensuring that the future generation, our kids are aware of and understand these issues and what needs to be done. We can explain #TimesUp to our kids by:
1. Telling our kids that in most professions, women make less money than men for doing the exact same job, and this should change to equal pay for equal work.
2. Telling and explaining to our kids that everyone has the power to make real change – just like those individuals who have tirelessly worked on the issues of sexual harassment and gender parity for years, and who are now seeing progress in their fight when these Hollywood stars have lent their voices, platform, and even resources to amplify the movement. At the same time, it is also important to let our kids understand that everyone has their battles to fight – including these huge Hollywood stars who at times have to find their own courage to speak truth to power.
3. Explaining to our kids what institutional misogyny is and that it still exists. Tell them that prejudice against women is a well-established fact, that it can happen anywhere at any time, and that it can affect women professionally, psychologically, and financially in every industry. Tell them that we can do something about it by speaking out when we experience or witnessed it – this goes for both our daughters and sons.
#MeToo and #TimesUp is not just an important lesson for our daughters – so that they may always have the courage to speak up and fight for what they know is theirs, but for our sons as well – so that they may grow up considering women as equals.