Wishing you all a beautiful day!
Spooky was spookily on the ball with today's CoC topic. I have read a few decent books recently, but nothing I absolutely love. And I'm ready for one of those books--a summer read that sucks me in and compels me to sneak in a few pages anywhere I can. I have a distinct memory of taking the peperoncino to the playground one summer day a couple years ago so he could play with some trucks in a sandbox while I perched on the side with Sweetbitter in hand. (A prize to anyone who can dig up the LTE where I talked about that book; the search function is failing me.)
Have you read anything lately that you loved? That you hated? That you found maddeningly mediocre?
The office is practically empty, so I'm going to turn up my music and do All The Things. What are you listening to today?
What have you done today to protect yourself from sexual harassment or assault? What has your wife done? Your mother? Your sister? Your daughter?
Someone you love was sexually abused as a young child. Someone you love wanted to say no and didn't know how. Someone you love believed she was dirty, damaged, worthless because of something that was done to her.
I have had this post on my mind since the Weinstein allegations came to light last fall, but I somehow kept putting off writing it. I don't need to tell you that sexism, harassment, and assault exist. We don't need to talk about any of that as a dynamic of this community (thank goodness), but I want to share a few things from my own life and share some thoughts about raising kids in a world where sexism, harassment, and assault exist.
The summer when I turned 18 was one of my favorite summers. But thank God I'm not 18 anymore. There is a particular vulnerability in being a young woman that brings out the worst in men. They somehow seem to know that you aren't prepared for it, don't know how to respond. That you'll let their comments get to you. My parents have always been loving and supportive, and on the whole, they did a wonderful job of raising me. But they never told me how to handle catcalls, how to brush off men drawn to my youth and naïveté.
Your mother, your wife, or your sister has almost certainly experienced at the very least some type of low-level harassment. Your daughter almost certainly will, if she hasn't already. And while the experience may have been nothing more than a comment from a passing stranger or a brief hand on her back, the shame and disgust she felt afterward likely lasted much longer than the incident itself.
So for those of us who are parents, how do we raise our children in a way that doesn't perpetuate sexist beliefs and behaviors? I don't really know, but somehow I don't think that simply saying to our kids, "everyone's equal, we're all the same, be nice to everyone" is going to do it. Before I had children, I had a lot of ideas about how to raise kickass girls. And then I had two boys.
We've talked before at the WGOM about ways of addressing consent with young kids. Tickling is okay only when the child says it's okay. A child (or an adult) can say they don't want a hug. It's not okay to touch another person in a way they don't want to be touched.
I also try to put into words when my kids touch me in a way I enjoy: "That was nice." "I like when you hug me like that, it makes me feel really loved." It is my hope that this will help them develop their own vocabulary for navigating all manner of physical encounters as they get older.
After the Weinstein stuff came out, I talked a little to the jalapeño (who is 7) about how women haven't always been treated fairly. That they have been paid less for doing the same job as a man, that there have been a lot of jobs they were told they couldn't do at all. His response. "Well, that's really dumb." Sing it, brother! It feels weird to point out inequality, but my gut tells me that he needs to know about this stuff if he's going to play a part in not perpetuating it.
Earlier this year, I had a rather unpleasant experience with a man while I was waiting in line to order a burrito bowl at a large grocery store near my job. There was a creepy comment and a hand on my waist. But lucky for me, I'm no longer that 18-year-old girl who doesn't know what to say. I turned and looked right at that guy and he asked in a slightly sarcastic way, "Is that not okay?" I said, "No. It's never okay to touch someone without permission." And he left. That night after dinner, I told the jalapeño about it (without many specifics). He didn't say anything, but he gave me the kind of hug that makes me feel really loved.
And yet, women talking won't by itself fix everything. That's where I'm hoping all of you come in. Men have to talk with other men about these things. They have to talk to kids about these things. And kids have to see the men in their lives making their way through the world in a way that is respectful toward women. Because nothing is going to get better for anyone unless we're all in this together.
Thanks for reading, guys.
Minutes ago, I finished reading The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang. Near the book's end, Kalia's grandmother dies*, and I cried my way through the chapter. It occurs to me that I was fortunate to finish the book alone on my couch and not while riding the bus.
I don't believe that a book's ability to make a person cry is any way correlated to its literary merit. However, in this case the book is quite good by any measure.
What's the last book that made you cry?
*not a spoiler, she's an old woman and we're all going to die
I have fond memories of my mom reading chapter books to me when I was young. We went through all the Little House on the Prairie books* at a pace of one chapter per night, with me curled up next to her in bed. I also recall a summer car trip when she read Johnny Tremain out loud. I don't know that I even particularly liked the story of Johnny Tremain, but I know I loved being read to.
When I had children of my own, I was ready to follow my mother's example. Starting when the jalapeño was around 4, I tried reading him chapter books, but they just didn't hold his interest. There's certainly no shortage of picture books in the world, so it's not as if we were wanting for reading material! Still, I've been delighted that recently he's been taking more of an interest in chapter books. In the past few months, we've read and loved Armstrong & Charlie by Steven B. Frank, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, and The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman.
Do you have memories of a parent or other adult reading aloud to you--or reading a particular book to your child? And what have you been reading lately?
*I am certain she pointed out at least some of the problematic content related to Indians, though I think at the time a lot of that went completely over my head.
So, are you all set for Monday? Got the webcast bookmarked so you're sure not to miss a single moment? Don't forget, it begins at exactly 9:00 a.m., central time!
Wait, what? You have no idea what I'm talking about? It's the YMAs! (Yes, I realize that the all-caps of the post title makes it look like I merely misspelled "yams." Hush.) It's one of my absolutely favorite days of the year! This is the day when the American Library Association (and a number of related groups) announces the winners of the Newbery Medal, the Caldecott Medal, and a host of other awards.
While I loved both my elementary school library and my public library as a kid, I didn't care all that much about seeking out books that had won awards. That said, if I had to pick a favorite Newbery winner, it would without question be A Wrinkle in Time. Following that would probably be The Black Cauldron, in Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain series. What about you?
Got any hot tips for keeping warm this weekend?
I'm a fan of Baker's whole new album, but I chose this song because midway through it sounds to me like there's a little tip of the hat to Joni Mitchell's "River," which I nominated for this year's WGOMXMASMIX. Please listen and tell me if you hear it too!