"It is time for a Sane Mom Revolution, in which we decline to take any more of this crap." -- Light and Momentary
I've been pushing a hashtag, here and on Facebook (where, fyi, I only friend friends; it isn't personal) and on Twitter: #sanemomrevolution . Check it out. It's for sharing stories of kid-independence. The stakes are high; a Reason/Rupe poll the other day showed that a large fraction of Americans (originally reported as 63%, later corrected to 43%) would criminalize letting 12-year-olds go to the park unsupervised.
I find that the #sanemomrevolution sparks some interesting discussions, though. Here's some of one I had on FB the other day. What do you think?
Me -- "Yeah, I can't help but think that part of my 'Will I feel the same?' uneasiness is because right now she's 8. Having been a 14yo girl myself at one point, I'm annoyed at myself for having extra protective impulses. And at the same time don't want to be stupid about it."
C. B. -- "I wish I knew more of the details so I COULD make a sane decision. Right now, our 14 year old girl walks her dog by herself. He's 55 lbs and goofy, so I don't know that he would "protect her" per se. We were just having a discussion. I want the 16 year old to ride 2 miles to the library on his bike and dad is worried."
J. M. S. -- "I'm curious about the data: are girls more vulnerable than boys? I know it is exceedingly unlikely that someone would snatch my 5yo daughter from the sidewalk, but my perception is that the risk is less teeny-tiny for her than it was for her brothers at 5 (still teeny-tiny, but less so). Teen girls get catcalled and propositioned more than teen boys do, but how does that actually affect them?"
Me -- "I get being worried about the risk of assault (and I would be more concerned if I had recent evidence that gangs of violent kids were roving my near neighborhood without interference by local police or parents). It's a matter of balancing that with the risk of your kid reaching age 18 without ever being allowed to take risks. (But as I said, if there had been a recent assault in my neighborhood I might wait for more info)"
K. M. M. -- "I'm not sure I feel that boys are less vulnerable than girls. You've read The Gift of Fear right? Does [your 14yo] know what to look for in grooming behavior from sexual predators? How to handle men in bathrooms? I would have said that I feel boys would be more likely to be beaten up by roving gangs of teenagers but I see the anecdote above kind of contradicts that."
K. M. M. -- "But these are all issues that continue on well through college, and will need to be handled at any point. Maybe a self-defense class would be good for teenagers of either gender? I'm glad you're having this discussion, it's giving me a lot to think about. Although we're still not exactly in the urban public transit area."
K. M. M. -- "I think that male statistics are grossly under reported because of stigma."
K. J. C. -- "K.M.M. do you think there are underreported stats of men being catcalled or rubbed up against in the subway or bus, etc? Because I have so many of those stories I can't even number them, and my husband, who is unlikely to lie to me, has zero."
Me -- "I believe that men are propositioned less than women. I also believe they're non-sexually assaulted more often. Boys and girls might be equally at risk but from different kinds of risk."
J. M. S. -- "See, I just don't think that kind of crap is as common for boys. I think Kelly is right about underreporting, but even so: people feel license to comment on my daughter's appearance in a way that just doesn't happen for my sons once they're older than about 3. I mean, the stuff that happens around me is all well-intended: beautiful girl, cute haircut, nice outfit, blah blah blah. But I think it arises from an unspoken view that girls' physical selves are regarded as community property in a way that boys' are not. Agree or disagree?"
J. T. -- "A woman is more likely to be groped. A man is more likely to get punched. Neither is fun."
K. J. C. -- "I agree that neither is fun... I think where 'feeling' comes in, is, is it more damaging to the lives and psyche of our girls to experience *sexual* damage, or is the *physical* damage the same. My gut leans towards yeah, neither is fun, but the sexual part is more damaging. Which I base on no evidence."
J. M. S. -- "And that feels risky for me. Most of the world would never make the leap from "You are a beautiful girl and I want your mother to know that" to "You are a beautiful girl and I'm going to violate you," but how large is that most? NOT LARGE ENOUGH for me at this moment, I'm telling you."
J. M. S. -- "If I had to pick between physical bullying and sexually tinged bullying, I'd pick physical any day of the week."
K. M. M. -- "I agree that girls receive more of the catcalls and rubbing up against. But I agree with the others that there are different risks for the genders. How often do women get propositioned in bathrooms? How often do you think your daughter will hear 'Hey, come here, I want to show you something' by a woman in a bathroom stall who has a porn magazine in her hand? I think any discussion of who has it worse or who is more damaged is not productive. We need to take any individual's experience seriously and not diminish it by saying 'Well, so and so has it worse.'"
Me -- "I agree with that part -- individuals' experiences can't be compared directly in that way. The question for the #sanemomrevolutionis whether sane parenting means treating girls' permissions/curfews/errands/adventures differently from boys.' "
P. G. B. -- "My kids are still little, but I am starting to let them outside in the back or in front of our house unsupervised for short periods. I get nervous about giving them more freedom, but I hope we allow them what they can handle. Ultimately I think it's about making sure they are mature enough to send them off on their own, and to teach them to be aware of surroundings at all times. Especially to keep their phones/music tucked away. A few years ago I was held up at gunpoint near the shoe zoo, on a Sunday afternoon. But I was yapping away on my iphone, covered in a bright green case, walking to my car, compelety unaware and with my guard down as I was in a "nice" neighborhood. I really do think awareness and being on guard makes a big difference and possible less of a target?"
B. H. -- "I think any differences in permissions would be personality based, not sex based. I [male] was allowed a lot more independence on that kind of thing in my teens, both because I was better at not getting lost and because my brother had the kind of vagueness which projects "fun and easy to beat up" to other teens....Our oldest are girls, an I don't have an issue with letting the older ones (12 and 10) walk through town to the library and such. We don't live in an urban core, so I haven't had to deal with that so much."
K. J. C. -- "The reason I am considering potential consequences of each gender's more likely assault, is because it is an assessment of, do I treat my girls differently, because being raped is more likely to cause a lifetime of mental issues and will affect her sexuality forever, whereas being propositioned in a bathroom or punched in the face might not do the same to my boy? If true (and as I repeatedly say above, I have nothing to back it up with but "feel", which is why I'm musing) then YES I absolutely will treat my girls differently and curtail their freedom to just walk around in public as teens."
Me -- "I do think the question of "which risk do I feel ickier about, physical assault or sexual harassment" is germane to the discussion because one is more likely for boys and one more likely for girls."
Me -- I wonder if it does not feel just as violating (subjectively speaking) for a young male adolescent to be assaulted, if he doesn't have comparative experience with sexual violation. Many of us mothers have some experience either with sexual violation or sexual intimidation [not to do the yes all women thing again!] and if we haven't been non-sexually, physically assaulted as well, maybe that "doesn't seem so bad" to us.
Me -- Obviously *most* of our decisionmaking hinges on the perceived maturity of the specific kid in question, relative to perceived external circumstances... so all things being equal are the external circumstances also equal? Sexual assault in broad daylight or physical assault is quite rare (even if more rare for one gender than the other). Harassment, not so rare (and let's not forget that some young boys in some places will be more vulnerable to race-based harassment, an experience which I imagine feels quite violating). We really need to teach boys a similar set of awarenesses to fend off sexual harassment, because even if more rare overall than sexual harassment of females, we send boys (not usually girls) into all-male environments and males are more likely to be perpetrators.
K. M. M. -- "From my perspective: 1) We want to help our adolescents to learn independence as well as how to assess the safety of situations while being aware of the dangers. 2) We need to be aware that both males and females are vulnerable to verbal, physical, and sexual aggressions, but of different types and in different situations. 3) We need to be able to assess what the dangers are for the particular kid and situation we are considering allowing."
K. M. M. -- "I really doubt of us would keep a daughter home while sending a son out late at night to a sketchy area because the "worst" that could happen to him is that he'd be beaten up while she might be raped. We're trying to give them freedom while avoiding obviously dangerous situations, right? I was thinking earlier on the idea that physical assault isn't violating--you often read that people feel violated by having their house robbed when they aren't home. Violation involves a loss of sense of security and feeling that your body or in the case of a house, personal space, was used by someone else and you had no control over it. I think someone absolutely could feel violated by being physically assaulted. If I can still have some ptsd symptoms regarding my c-section when I'm in a medical setting, then yes, someone could possibly have lifelong effects from a physical assault. Those feelings are probably different from violation and trauma from a sexual assault but I'd like my children to avoid feeling any sort of assault if possible."
Me -- "I wonder if my confidence in my kids' ability to navigate the city safely is on the high side because (a) I've lived in cities/urban-style suburbs pretty much all my life, and am not startled anymore by random encounters with people who don't look like me; (b) I perceive busy urban areas as objectively safer, because busier, than relatively isolated parts of the suburbs or rural areas; (c) my experience with harassment as a young woman was largely not in unsupervised situations but in "supervised" situations such as school or my first job as a teenager."
Me -- "Don't you sometimes feel that it sucks that the responsible thing to do is to be the bearer of the Bad News about the world outside? I feel like preparing my kids to avoid being violated by the outside world is itself damaging. And feels wrong because it's me who has to inflict it. Like inoculation."
L. H. B. -- "Well. My daughters are 16, 14, and 11. I haven't had a teenage son yet (he's 8) but I will guess that I do restrict them more than generally teenage boys are restricted in exercising their freedom. I try not to be irrational about it. The reality is, we live in a pretty safe small town. They walk within a mile radius or parents drive them places. Public transit is inconvenient. ...
My daughters each have a black belt in taekwondo, which is something of a comfort when they are walking to school alone on dark winter mornings. I try to encourage freedom by having them take care of errands on their own, but they are driven places, not biking or bussing, it's too far and takes too long. My 16yo is working on her driving license and for some reason, driving doesn't seem risky in the same way taking public transport does.
I get concerned comments sometimes from well meaning friends when they see my girls walking to school or shopping alone. I get stressed about being perceived as a Bad Mom or a negligent, foolish, and permissive one, more so because I am a widow and feel vulnerable myself (though I have a black belt too, it doesn't protect against determined violence).
My most irrational rule I think is that they can't wear dresses if walking to school in the morning. It just sets off my Spidey sense...vulnerable female walking alone in the dark!
In contrast, I walked to school alone at 5 several blocks, at 10 rode my bike all over, at 14 took the city bus to downtown Seattle to buy comics at the market and visit my hairdresser aunt, where I did get the catcalls and creepy guys following me, but nothing really bad happened."
Me -- "Liking the black belt idea in a big way, L. H. B."
M. S. "As a scout mom, I believe in the buddy system. Groups of 2-3 just make safer errands/trips/events....."