I am a 49-year-old mother of two daughters, and I want my daughters to live in a world where they are free to be the women they choose and to have power in our society.
When I became a mother, particularly of girls, I swore I would work hard to help them achieve confidence both of body and mind. They are now 16 and 18 and have the confidence to speak their minds and dress as they choose, and I can only hope that the world will be ready for them. For this, there must be a cultural shift, and I know they will be part of making that shift happen, but it will take all women to move that needle.
The #MeToo movement is portrayed in the press as being about sexual misconduct by men, and for critics it feels like it is about dredging up a past that should be long over. But what it is really about is the demand for a cultural shift in our society where women are respected as people and for men to start learning that they are responsible for their own actions.
The movement started in response to America electing a president who was caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women. Over history there have been moments — Anita Hill and Monica Lewinsky — but this was the last straw, this was the moment when women said, “Enough!”
In order to make this very difficult shift, a cultural change must occur. Men must stop assuming that women welcome their advances, or worse, that women are inviting their advances because of the clothes that they wear or by the amount of alcohol they consume.
We must have conversations like the one started by the news that Joe Biden is a tactile individual and whether it is OK just because he distributes his touchy love to both men and women. It is not. If you are in a position of power, yes, you have to consider if your touch is welcome and start by assuming that it is not. The cultural feeling right now, for a certain number of men, is that they assume they are in a position of power just by being men, so we have to deal with that, too.
If women are empowered to wear what is comfortable for them no matter the tightness of the clothing, the length of the skirt, the plunge of the neckline, without the assumption of an invitation, then we are getting somewhere, we are shifting the culture. These small changes mean something.
Women being able to publicly show themselves when they are pregnant, even expose their swollen bellies, this was a cultural shift. Women being allowed to breast feed in public because it is natural and amazing, is a cultural shift still in the works. And women being allowed to wear leggings, miniskirts, crop-tops and plunging necklines without men assuming that it is an invitation to ogle, catcall, fondle or worse, is a cultural shift we must make.
If another mother of sons writes another article about how women need to stop wearing these clothing items so that her sons do not have to be tempted by their bodies, then we are failing in our message. If women continue to vote for men who think that it is OK to sexually assault women, then we are not only failing in our message but we are continuing to put men in power who perpetuate the idea that women, not men, are responsible for sexual assault because of what they wear and/or how much alcohol they consume. We are not holding men accountable.
And remember those men who just assume they have the power? They see men in power without consequences and they are empowered further. It is a cycle that must stop. Men must be accountable for their actions past and present, and we must hold our leaders to a higher standard.
Cultural shifts take time, but for the safety of women, for women who have suffered the cost of our not making this shift sooner, we have to hurry, because it is enough.