I saw a post on social media that inspired me. And it was the things that women are taught as girls growing up. I remember those lessons. They are as ingrained in my brain as when my parents taught me to cook or my dad taught me about the various tools and how to fix/assemble things as he would with his sons.
I remember them all. The importance of walking with a tall, confident posture because it makes you a less easy target. Holding your keys in your hand so that you can use it to defend yourself. The importance of a buddy system whenever you go out, especially at least another girl to go to the bathroom with you. While boys are not being taught to not rape, girls are forced to learn how to avoid it. Or at least try to. Sometimes, all the preparation in the world doesn’t protect you.
I remember being taught self-defense by my older brother when I was a teenager, my early teens. I remember he told me that this was one of the most important things I would need to learn in life. Mechanically speaking, I could probably severely injure someone if necessary thanks to those lessons. But we’re always taught to be afraid, aren’t we?
It’s always about being on high alert, that anything can happen at any second. We’re taught to be afraid because the unfortunate reality is that people aren’t safe in the world. The world is a terrible place. I have something I can use as a weapon in every room in the house. Why? Because I was taught that I should be afraid of the world.
This isn’t a bad thing, unless you let this fear control your life. These things that we learn are meant to empower us to be strong in the face of this fear. We’re supposed to take the threat of trauma, or our actual trauma, and take away some lesson from it that doesn’t involve blame. We have to take precautions, but knowing that every precaution in the world won’t necessarily protect you is important to not blaming yourself if it does.
The question isn’t about the lessons that girls learn, but what should boys learn? They need to learn about consent. They need to learn acceptable behaviors and how to properly interact with people. When my oldest became old enough to date, we gave him a talk that is almost as important as “The Talk”; one about how not to be a horrible person. We talked to him about how it’s not just “No Means No” but that it means “No” whether you haven’t even started or in the middle of it. How if you don’t get any actual consent of “Yes, this is okay”, then don’t. Someone who is drunk or under the influence can’t consent even if they did. Maybe we should focus less on teaching girls to be afraid and more about teaching our boys to be more respectful. Maybe that’s what our real problem is.