#MeToo At Home by M.E.VanWalleghan


Following the line of #MeToo into our homes can be painful. One of my biggest complaints about the coverage of Harvey Weinstein is his portrayal as a monster. He’s no monster, but rather the most egregious version of male power running unchecked.

But where does it all start? Where is the beginning point of rape culture? More than 25 years out of college, I think “Really, still? Aren’t these women just being dramatic.” At my age, I don’t feel anymore the intensity of male gaze or desire. I no longer, after more than twelve years of marriage, feel the intensity of male dominance in my interactions with strangers, probably because I’m shielded by my husband, even more when he is present. Frankly, I have forgotten the feel of that cold wind of male dominance that I felt on a daily basis as a young single woman walking through the world.

Now I’m a mom. A mom with a 12-year-old daughter and my fear is back. My rage is starting to rise again too, because as she moves through the world, in my heart I know nothing has changed. In the intervening 35 odd years since I was a teenager, the opening of a flower that is a girl must still be shielded. Shielded from patriarchy. Yes, there’s that fancy college feminist word that gets dismissed so easily.

Patriarchy

  1. a system of society or government in which the father or eldest male is head of the family and descent is traced through the male line.
    1. a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.
    2. a society or community organized on patriarchal lines.

By definition patriarchy still exists. We are still organizing ourselves around male dominance. A bright spot though: the change in English laws permitting the secession order to the crown, which no longer favors males. Let’s count our blessings where we can.

The sad thing about #MeToo is seeing that across so many cultural and economic lines the intensity and pervasiveness of male power abuses are still very much with us and run deep in our near recent past.

Meanwhile back at home, how does one address the nuanced process of managing boundaries and raising a child? For me, #MeToo acknowledges the most egregious boundary violations and is at one end of a continuum connected to the notion of microaggressions, which are so common place as to be invisible.

How do we, as parents, help our children expand themselves to develop internal resilience and fortitude and at the same time also grow strong healthy boys and girls that have a clear understanding of their boundaries and other people’s boundaries? How do we break, nay, shred the line that begins as boundary violation in the home and leads to enduring the Harvey Weinsteins of the world and his lessors?

This morning getting our daughter up was difficult. Today is a ski day (the last one) and ski mornings we have to be to school at 7:00am. Even going to bed at very reasonable 8:00pm, 5:30am comes early. Listening to the interaction between my husband and my daughter to get her out of bed made me feel the pain of male power. He was pulling the covers off of her head each time she refused to get up when she instead buried her head under the covers yelling “Stop it!” What was happening was subtle; in the gray area of pushing boundaries. I live there myself at times. The physical presence that say, “I am bigger than you,” doesn’t actually need to have much physical action attached to be felt by a child. In fact it is implicit in many interactions even when not intended.

Fathers bring so much to child rearing about where the physical boundaries are. Research is beginning to monitor and describe what fathers do that contributes to raising healthy children into adults. My husband’s play is not what I would do and at the same time I can see that it contributes to my daughter’s wellbeing and makes her happy. So where’s the place of boundary?

#MeToo has me thinking about our daughter and how to grow resilience and also how to guide her so that a fear of boys and men is not ingrained in her thinking and at the same time help her to have boundaries about what is acceptable during intimate encounters with men. I also want to acknowledge the play that happens with fathers that is so integral to the health of a child: boys and girls both—even when it makes me nervous.

COMPLEX!!!!

Run away screaming with hands thrown up in the air!!!

Very very very complex…

This stuff is hard!!

Just for clarity’s sake let me say that my husband is my daughter’s birth father. And they have a great relationship. I feel the need to justify and/or defend myself against Internet trolls as I try to have a nuanced conversation about the complexity of a gigantic issue that #MeToo is.

After I brought up my discomfort with my husband about the morning wake up process, we discussed another facet of what my daughter was doing this morning. My husband reminded me of an article I found and we read, which explains the ways in which girls transfer their discomfort about a situation onto us, the parents. The article in The Globe And Mail entitled “It’s Not Just Hormones”—an excerpt from the book Untangled by Lisa Damour, Ph.D.—gives great insight into this process and has been helpful in seeing our daughter’s emotional intensity in a new light.

And there’s that nasty nuance that creates difficulty in living in a black and white world about boundaries; about #MeToo. It can be overwhelming to negotiate the playfulness of fathers, the intense emotional transference of daughters—which made the hearing of the exchange sound worse than it probably was—and navigate when “no” means “no” to teach how to maintain healthy boundaries for a girl just beginning to awaken to the world of physical attraction.

I don’t have answers. My goal is to stay aware; to speak up when I feel uncomfortable with any interactions I see, hear, or experience for myself and my daughter; and to maintain an ongoing dialogue with the most important man in our lives—my husband, the father of my daughter. If I can do that as we muddle through on the journey of parenting our daughter then I’ll feel like I’ve done something right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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