Mothering in the #MeToo Movement

2 min

The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements are proving to be powerful cultural forces, but as Shane Safir and many other mothers and fathers know they’ve created challenges and opportunities for parents.

I’ve been binge-watching the FX show The Americans. It’s about a couple who masquerade as comfortable suburbanites, but are actually Russian spies. It takes place in the 80s, when I became a teenager and long before #MeToo and #TimesUp were common parlance.

In an important scene, the mother, Elizabeth, is training her teenage daughter in self-defense and discloses that she was raped as a young woman. Her daughter’s face crinkles in pain, but Elizabeth says this: “Listen to me. I trained as hard as I could every day. I imagined that man’s face every time I fought… until one day I knew, no one was going to hurt me like that again. And I’m okay. I’m not afraid any more.”

Herein lies the power of the #MeToo moment: We don’t have to be afraid anymore. Of being exposed and shamed, or of exposing and shaming those who have hurt us. We have strength in our shared stories.

Like most woman and many men, I have my own #MeToo stories. Suffice it to say that the current cultural moment has been equal parts empowering and triggering. I often think about what it means to mother a daughter and a son in this era. My little girl just turned 12 and is negotiating every day the complexities of being young woman in a deeply patriarchal and misogynist world.

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I know that little steps have a big impact so I’m engaging my own children in conversations about sexual harassment and boundaries in those intimate parent-child moments, before bedtime, during the car ride home. Here are a few messages I hope to convey to my own children:

● Don’t ever be afraid to speak your truth and tell your story.
● Always trust your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, believe your gut.
● To my son, treat woman with impeccable respect and dignity as the equals we are.
● To my daughter, raise your voice, know your power. You are strong and fierce.

I think I say these words as much to the younger me as to my children. And with each word I remember: We are more than our wounds. We must no longer be afraid.

With a Perspective, I’m Shane Safir.

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Shane Safir is an author and educator who works with schools and organizations to promote educational equity.

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