MeToo – Mom on a Mission by Amy Wall Lerman


Earlier this year, while watching the Golden Globe Awards, I suddenly realized I’ve been a coward my whole life.  Seeing powerful Hollywood women, whom I’ve admired from afar, with their “Times Up” buttons pinned to their black evening gowns, speaking up about sexual abuse, made me realize I had to do something too.  A something I’d been toying with for a while but, like with many of my creative ideas, pushed aside to focus on more practical things (like my job that actually pays a salary).

The idea?  Before Bill Cosby, Matt Lauer and Harvey Weinstein were powerful, abusive men, they were little boys.  Before the women at the Golden Globes became “survivors,” they were little girls.  What happens between childhood and adulthood that makes things go so terribly wrong?

So it hit me.  It was time to do what any good TV producer would do: Make an intelligent kids TV show that flips gender stereotypes upside down and shows kids who they really are and who they can be.  I was tired of bad TV programming for kids, anyway.  They’re screechy, lots of overacting with inane plot lines.  Okay, I know, they’re all fun and entertaining, but are they?  Even worse than the actual shows are the commercials.  They do nothing but boost gender stereotypes.  Stereotypes build boundaries and create a whole world of misperceptions – but stereotyping is even more dangerous than we think.

Here’s why:

When boys are little we tell them to be “men.”  We tell them that “men don’t cry.” We tell them “John Cena” and “LeBron James” don’t cry.  We teach them expressions like, “you throw like a girl,” “he cried like a little sissy.”  We make boys swallow their feelings so they won’t be teased and won’t be seen as weak.  Being a man means being tough emotionally and physically.  It also means getting the girls and certainly not being gay.

With girls we use words like “feisty” when they speak their minds.  You wouldn’t refer to a boy as “feisty.”  You’d expect him not to be “weak and small” and to be “lively, determined, and courageous” (dictionary definitions of the word “feisty”).  We expect girls to be good, sweet, and accommodating.  When they’re not, they’re “difficult” or “bitches.”  Girls (and women) are also told to smile a lot.  Smiling is very pleasant and accommodating, isn’t it?

As a mom of a boy, I know it’s my responsibility to raise a good man.  The kind of man who will be respectful, kind, appreciative, secure, loving, empathic, non-defensive, self-reliant, trustworthy…and every other descriptive that makes up the qualities of a good man.  I try to break down stereotypes with him every day.  But I also try to protect him. When it comes to crying, I tell him that it’s something personal.  Something we share only with those we trust the most.  I tell him that because I know he’ll be teased if he cries or appears weak in front of other boys.  He could be teased by both boys and girls.  So I tell him vulnerability is critical to being human, but our feelings shouldn’t be shared with just anyone.  I don’t know if this is right but I hope he knows that having feelings is normal.

As a woman, I have a stake in the MeToo movement.  I’ve been cat-called, groped, threatened, and bullied by different men over the years.  I’ve kept as low a profile as possible so as not to have these things happen to me.  I’ve tried to be invisible in life and at work.  All an effort to avoid unwanted interactions.  I’ve been quiet, nice, and accommodating.  Now that I’m older, I’m free of a lot of the harassment that younger women experience.  Looking back, I think I was scared, so I have some guilt about that now.  Did I stop myself from reaching my full potential because I was afraid?  Probably.  I should have stood up and just been a feisty ole’ bitch!

When the MeToo movement started gaining momentum, I heard a lot of people on TV talking about how we can turn this around.  How do we make MeToo a thing of the past?  My mind kept going back to the kids.  It has to start there.  We have to protect our boys from becoming abusive men and we have to protect our girls from becoming silent victims (“survivors” I prefer to say).

The gender stereotypes are perpetuated by all of us.  They’re reflected in the expressions we use, the words we choose, and by our actions.  On some level we’re all guilty.  So if we have the power to perpetuate stereotypes, don’t we also have the power to tear them down?  That’s why I want to make this web series.   And it has to be a web series because we all know kids don’t watch anything but YouTube these days.

The web series will be aimed at a child audience but I do hope adults will watch too.  We want to show kids the damage words can do and the power actions can have.  We want to show extraordinary kids doing extraordinary (and ordinary) things.  We want to empower boys and girls to be the people they want to be.  We want to give them a venue to express themselves.  We want to level the playing field between boys and girls by helping them deal with their feelings, their circumstances, and the confusing world around them.  We want them to know they are good and strong and full of potential, not because they’re girls or boys, but because they are human beings.  We’ll also address the issues that transgender kids deal with too because that’s a population that is not only marginalized, but deals with horrific abuse.

There are 4 of us involved in this project.  Two female friends who have long-format television production experience and my brother also in the television business and…a good man!

I hope you will donate to my Kickstarter campaign so I can get this show on the road.

If you can’t donate, please share this link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1090529441/no-kidding-webseries-pilot?ref=user_menu

It’s not about making money.  I’m just hoping to change the world.  (Okay, even if I make a little dent in the world, that’ll be enough for me). #EndMeTooNow

 

Amy Wall Lerman is a later mom, television news producer and author.  She lives in New Jersey with her husband and 10- year-old son.  

 

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