Okay, I know everyone is getting tired of hearing the ongoing saga with Hannah, and when I get up on my soapbox about the whole issue I am sure eyes are rolling and heads are shaking and people want to say “Just get over it already!” but I have to share this. I really do.
There is a boy at Hannah’s school who has been grabbing her ass. More than once. A tit-starer (and don’t EVEN tell me “that’s just what teenaged boys do,” because knowing that to be true in no way makes it okay. Just sayin.’), an ass-grabber, a dirty-joke teller. So Hannah came home from school on Monday quite upset because despite her having told him to stop, he did it again, in the lunchroom, and people laughed at her for getting mad at him. She talked to me about it and told me that she was going to talk to Mr. K about it the next day, and she and another girl who is also a target for this boy went in to talk to him together. The first thing HE said was, “I will address it, and if it happens again he will be escorted off of the property by his probation officer.” The boy was waiting outside Mr. K’s office and promptly began saying things like, “Hey, baby, why you want to get me in trouble? I’s only tryin’ to be nice to you (and okay, I don’t know if he really sounded like that but it was something to the effect of “what the fuck did you tell on me for?”).” So understandably she was both pleased at Mr. K’s response and scared/upset by the boy’s behaviour all the way around.
But this mama? This mama is furious. Oh, about the situation, of course, but also about the fact that this boy put his hands on my daughter without permission and had the balls to get angry with her for attempting to stop it. I am furious that people-other girls and boys-laughed at Hannah’s reaction. And I know that there are other people, even women, who feel the same way; “Oh, it’s just boys being boys,” or “come on, it was just a grab of the ass, it happens to all of us,” and that’s what I am mad about. Yes, it happens; we get touched and grabbed and stared at, ogled and whistled at and have obscene hand and tongue gestures made at us, so that somehow makes it okay that it is happening to our daughters? It makes me feel so angry that we have all been put down and made to feel like pieces of meat, that our only value is that which is between our legs, that I want to scream.
Yes; he grabbed her. In the big picture, it isn’t the worst thing to have happen; she has already been through that. I found myself, for an instant, thinking, “Of course she is upset about it, after everything that has happened…” kind of mentally being condescending to her, but I quickly changed my thought process because it shouldn’t EVER be okay to be touched without asking for it. EVER. Regardless of what has happened. Her body, my body, your body, they are ours. That’s it. We should get to say whether or not we want someone not just touching our butts but even hugging us or putting their arm around our shoulder. And every time we allow it to happen and excuse it, or simply ignore the fact that it makes us feel uncomfortable, or simply try to avoid the person, well, aren’t we implying that it is, in fact, okay?
I told my daughter that while she should try to avoid this boy, she also did the right thing by talking to Mr. K; and that if it happens again, she needs to tell, again. I told her that she never has to put up with anyone touching her, no matter how innocent a gesture it might seem. I told her to trust her gut, and if ANYTHING makes her feel uncomfortable, she needs to tell someone. Because it just.isn’t.okay.
And for me? There is a guy I know who is Mr. Touchy-Feely; I have excused his behavior, or rather tried to tell myself that it isn’t that important, not a big enough deal to make a fuss over. He is getting old, he is basically harmless, all of those fucking lies we say because we don’t want to make waves. So in honor of my daughter, and every other woman who makes excuses and tamps down feelings of discomfort (including myself), the next time he comes over to give me a hug I am going to say, “Stop. That makes me uncomfortable.” And I vow to not care if he gets mad or embarrassed, because it is my body, not his.
What will you do?