“Are you trying to break families?” asked the principle of the school.
A few years ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak to a group of young women about violence.
During the talk, I asked the audience about violence in their homes and under what circumstances they would accept violence from future boyfriends and husbands. They all said they would not accept, but I knew better. One in three women will be abused in her life.
The sad truth is that women don’t really think about future violence and when they don’t put an end to it quickly, they begin to believe it’s too late.
IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO WANT VIOLENCE TO END.
IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO BEGIN TO LEARN THE TOOLS ON HOW TO END VIOLENCE.
At the end of the talk, the school principle asked the question that started off this blog post.
The ONLY answer to this question is this…
IT IS THE ABUSER WHO HAS BROKEN THE FAMILY full stop.
Say NO to abuse. Don’t leave yourself unfinished. Inspired by business executive and author, Seth Godin. Read the post here.
If you don’t have time to clean up, you don’t have time to cook.
Professionals understand that the project is the whole project, not simply the fun or urgent or interesting part of the work.There are countless productive shortcuts along the way. But not finishing the project isn’t one of them.
I have been reading Seth’s posts for a whole year and I am amazed that his posts take the simplest things and make them mind blowing business advice.The above post made me realize this:If your lover/husband/anyone feels they have the right to hit you then you better feel you have the right to leave.
You see, when we stay inside of abuse we leave ourselves unfinished.We were sent into the world to work on ourselves and complete the work we need to do and accepting abuse is not part of a success scenario.
Getting hot or getting cold or getting burned is a never ending game with abusers.
I love a hot shower and I realize that it is a privilege to have both water and to have it hot.
This post is not about water privilege but I will use the mechanism of the water heater to illustrate some abusive behaviors. If I take a shower about 30-40 mins after a family member I can usually get a little bit of tepid water that is still in the pipes and if I forget that this is simply left over from the last person and jump in without thinking, sooner rather than later, I will be shocked with gallons of cold water coming out of the shower head. I have to have the presence of mind to allow the water to heat up again so that all the water I need or want is at the temperature that is comfortable for me.
If I am living with an abuser and he comes home in a good mood, it’s probably left over warmth from a work friend or his girlfriend and if I pretend that his “ warmth” has anything g to do with me, then I am in for a big shock. I might find myself saying things like “but you were in such a great mood” what happened?
The answer will be that the warmth left over from his friend has run thru his veins and his emotional distance has reappeared. If I push and push for the “warmth” to return, he may jump from ice cold to scalding hot in seconds. Scalding hot could look like punching, screaming, cursing or worse.
When we normalize abusive behaviors and pretend that we are strong enough to fix the chronic dysfunction, it’s like pretending that we don’t know that after the cold water runs out, the hot water will appear and we will get burned. I do not mean to suggest that dealing with these mood swings is easy, but pretending that the mood swings are not happening and continually bending over backwards and tying ourselves up in knots trying to figure out what we did wrong, it’s ignoring reality.
We need help and advice and we must be steady enough and grounded enough to look for it.
We teach young kids to take chances from a young age. We encourage them to take the next step and when they stumble we cheer them on. We try as best we can to allay the fears of middle schoolers who are afraid of a multitude of things, some real and some imagined. We ask our teenagers to stand up for those who can’t stand for themselves. We recognize when humanity rises to challenges like defeating the Hitlers of our world and tearing down the stupid Berlin Wall and the greatly needed work that so many non- profits do in our ever-closer world.
The thing that still surprises us is when a BRAND like Nike uses controversy to do the right thing (Colin Kaepernick) and when Gillette puts out an ad calling for the males of the species to Be the best.Some people are very upset and vowing to never buy their product again. I am sure many new customers will. I plan to buy razors today to give as gifts!
Some of people are saying that their men are “fine.” Yes, many men are fine and many need to be reminded to be better. We can all be better.
If 1 in 3 women is being abused then as many men are committing the crimes. Visit UN Women for statistics if you want to challenge the above statistic.
We need more brands to use their powerful voices to move the needle on this issue. Now if only the feminine hygiene people could throw their weight behind ending violence to women. Maybe they can put ads on the packaging?
Well, until they do, the rest of us must use the platform we have.
Almost a year has passed since I wrote the original “Female Avatar” post, and I have been waiting, and waiting, to write a victorious follow up. A post where I could tell you that using a female character in that video game, and the conversations that followed, made a difference in how my son views gender.
The problem being, there were no earth shattering changes for me to report from that original conversation.
Sure, there were little signs of change. My son would get excited and cheer on the female contestants in America Ninja Warrior competitions, but he would also comment that “the girls never make it as far as the boys” (which is true, but still made me wonder if his view was changing).
We read, Wings of Fire, a series of books with some female main characters. However, these characters were also dragons, and my son LOVES everything dragon. So, I wasn’t sure if he was accepting the female characters completely, or if he was accepting them because of their dragon status.
My son has also become more accepting of the colour purple, which may seem unimportant, but for years purple has fallen into the category of “princess colour” and “boys don’t like princesses”. Unfortunately, pink, is still a colour that forms a grimace on his now 8-year-old face, and a disgusted comment of “pink is for girls.”
Now, to give the poor little guy a break, he is only 8 years old, so I am not expecting him to approach me and ask to have an in-depth discussion about gender norms and how he can work towards behaving in a manner that supports equality (to be honest, if that DID happen I would be a bit wigged out). But, I have been hoping that something “8-year-old big” would happen, showing that he was starting to see that boys and girls are equals.
That 8-year-old-big event happened last week.
We were in Kids Books, an amazing bookstore in Vancouver BC, shopping with Fionn’s cousins for some books for his birthday the following day. I was looking through some 7 to 10-year-old book series when I felt a poke. Looking down I saw Fionn, three books precariously clutched in his arms, looking up at me.
“Daddy, how about these books, they sound awesome”
“You’ve read the backs?” I asked, taking the books from his hands.
“Yes, they sound really cool.”
“For you to read, or for me to read to you?”
“I think I can read them, but I want you to read them to me.”
I looked down at the first book and the 8-year-old-big moment happened when I saw the cover:
Let’s break this down from the view of a Dad, trying to teach his son about gender equality, and see that boys are not better than girls:
The picture on the front of the book is clearly a girl, and he still chose to pick up the book and read more.
The subtitle of the book has the word “witch” (a “girl” word) in it.
Most importantly, and amazing for me:
The subtitle has the word “princess” in it. A word that my son, and all of his friends usually have an allergic reaction to, with much frowning and spitting, followed by “princesses are dumb.”
All right, as earth shattering as this book selection already was for me, it might not be convincing for you. Totally understandable.
I smiled down at Fionn as I turned the book over to read the back, which read:
“Silk tells stories. It sings of secrets long forgotten. It sings of fire. Maia dreams of being a Story Teller, or a Weaver, like her father, Tareth. But when the Watcher names her Sun Catcher, she must face a destiny that Tareth has kept hidden from her. For Maia is more powerful than she knows, and she is about to discover that though the sun’s fire may be dangerous…so is she.”
The back of the book makes it clear that the protagonist is female, and, from the sounds of it, a female that will be kicking some serious butt. Looking at the backs of the other two books, each book is clearly about girls leading the way and being the focus of the story. Not just a side character in the book, but a female protagonist.
For me, after just a year ago when my son refused to even think about reading Tamora Pierce’s “Song of the Lioness Quartet” because the main character was a girl, this is a big sign that our conversation around gender equality has shifted.
Whether it was switching my video game avatar to a female character, or the follow up conversations we have had, or the changes I have made in my own behaviors that has brought about this shift I cannot say.
To be honest I don’t care what has made the difference, but I cannot explain how much pride I felt in this simple moment in the bookstore when my son chose Sheila Rance’s trilogy of books to be our next “Dad and Son” reading project.
I looked up from the backs of the books and smiled, “you bet buddy. Let’s get them all, they sound awesome.”
Fionn smiled, turned, and ran off down one of the aisles to look for more books.
I was speaking to a very dear friend the other day.
She said that she had 6 beautiful bowls that someone had given to her a long time ago.
The other day she noticed that there were only 3 and she realized that some of them were broken.
She felt happy that she had 3 left.
She began to tell her young daughter who had been helping with her dishes.
She turned away to do something and heard the awful sound…
She froze and realized that something had broken.
She did not know what it was. She turned to the sink full of dishes and saw her sweet daughter, shaking and fearful and she heard these words, “Sorry mom it was an accident, I did not mean it. Sorry mom.”
My dear friend said, “Now there are two.”
And then she smiled.
The worry on the daughter melted away and the mom showed her child how easy it was to show compassion and to to teach her child that mistakes can and will happen.
As my friend was telling me this story I saw the realization on her face that her child had been shaking because she fully expected to be yelled and screamed at.
My friend knew that she had been a teller and she had parented with anger in the past.
She also knew that she had been intentional in the way she had been parenting the past few years and that she had significantly changed the energy in the family.
She had been able to forge a deeper connection with her son and she had been showing her daughter what unconditional love really is.
Here, at this moment, it meant that she loved her daughter MORE than she ever could love those dishes.
She chose to NOT break her child.
She chose to parent with understanding and respect.
I have known this woman for a long time. I know how hard this woman has worked to get to a place of peace and tranquility.
I applaud her willingness to change the way she used to parent and to seek new ways and to know that she was doing the best for her kids.
Most people say, “My parents did it this way and I turned out ok.”
My view is why just settle for OK when we can be wiser and better than OK?
Let us thrive as parents and constantly better ourselves so we can raise a brighter generation. One that will know more than we will ever know and will be in charge of the welfare of our grandchildren.
Self-respect is defined by Nathaniel Branden as “the conviction of our own value. It is not a delusion that we are perfect or superior to everyone else. It is not comparative or competitive at all it is the conviction that our life and well being are worth acting to support, protect and nurture, that we are good and worthwhile and deserving of the respect of others; and that our happiness and personal fulfillment are important enough to work for.”
When a woman is forced into a marriage that she does not want, when she is forced to birth more children than she desires or is forced into aborting fetuses that are the “wrong” gender, that is not respecting a woman.
Some of these issues are couched in cultural language that makes it seem iron clad for women to “behave certain ways and accept traditional roles.”
I would like to float the idea that NOTHING is iron clad and traditions had to start somewhere, so we can be brave enough to make new ones.
This kind of bravery can only sprout from deep and abiding self-respect, nothing short of consistent self awareness.
We cannot fall asleep to how we live our daily lives, make daily choices and then wonder why our self-respect is in shambles.
“To appreciate why our need for self-respect is so urgent, consider the following : To live successfully, we need to pursue and achieve values. To act appropriately, we need to value the beneficiary of our actions. Absent this conviction, we will not know how to take care of ourselves, protect our legitimate interests, satisfy our needs, or enjoy our own achievements.” Nathaniel Branden
I urge you to read, no, to devour, Six Pillars of Self Esteem. It is by far one of the best books that anyone who has received abuse or is presently receiving abuse can read. It will give you the language to demand the respect you need for yourself, the respect you will expect from others and the strength to say NO, I will not accept disrespect anymore.
Self Responsibility… The “Philosophical Principle (that) entails ones acceptance of a profoundly moral idea. In taking responsibility for our own existence we implicitly recognize that other human beings are not our servants and do not exist for the satisfaction of our needs.”
The above quote is from the book Six Pillars of Self – Esteem by Nathaniel Branden.
Can you take some time to read the above sentence out loud, maybe more than once.
When I first came across this sentence in the book, I was stopped in my tracks.
If the above is true, and it is, then all of us who have been abused in one form or another would KNOW without the shadow of a doubt that we were wronged.
We would not have to ask others for their opinion of whether we were enough wronged as to take swift action and demand justice.
The married woman who is forced to be a servant to her husband and in-laws would know that she is not there for their implicit or explicit exploitation. She would know that she had the right to say an empowered NO.
If she could accept that she will not be made into an unpaid servant, how might she approach marriage differently? Might she ask the intended in-laws how they expect to treat her? Might she tell her future husband that she will not be forced into a life of servitude and sexual slavery?
I really have no answers to these broad issues but I do know that we must empower women BEFORE marriage to ask harder questions than “do you have a job and where will we live?”
The college woman who is gang raped would know that she needs to report the crime as often as she needs to until something is done. She would have to find the courage to stand against the friend circle who will most likely accuse her of being disloyal and being short sighted about her reputation.
Where did I get these examples of what the friend circle might say? It comes directly from the report of the gang rape at a frat house on the UVA campus.
The 18 year old woman was made to question her loyalties. She was made to stay silent about the horror that was done to her body and her mind by silently suffering.
If we could get women, especially High School and college women, to respect themselves as much as they respect what their friends say, we might be able to bring more rapists to face the music.
Please do not think that I am putting the burden of this whole thing on the shoulders of the survivor of the rape, I am not. I am, however, sure that taking responsibility for extracting justice for a crime that was done is one of the most powerful ways to begin the long and arduous process of healing.
We cannot expect society to change without each individual taking a stand for what is no longer acceptable.
This is how we got rid of slavery.
This is how women got the vote.
This is how dictators fall.
It is only speaking up, as often as we can, and as loudly as we can, that will bring change. It will still be slow, but we can never. ever give up.
I am sitting with a bunch of guys in a dressing room at the local hockey arena. Everyone is taking a break from a game of men’s floor hockey, drinking a few beers, and telling tall tales.
Then it begins…comments about the wives and women in our lives:
“I came home the other day and the house wasn’t even clean. What the hell is she doing all day while I am at work? Sitting around growing her ass or what”
“I told her I was coming here and it was blah blah blah, you never spend time with me. Of course I don’t, all you do is nag”
“Did you see that girl in the bar Thursday night….she had huge guns, they were amazing”
“I totally took her home, banged her, and showed her the door…”
And so it goes. Degenerating into inappropriate jokes and comments that no one in that room would say in public or outside of a room of a bunch of men drinking beer and kidding around.
Now, with my new realizations around Gender Based Violence, and the treatment of women, I need to stand up and say:
“Ummm….hey guys…this isn’t cool, you know. Aaaahhh…talking about your wives this way isn’t helping how your son sees women. That, ah.. that girl in the bar is someone’s daughter. Do you want someone talking about your daughter that way?”
Dumbfounded silence mixed with shock, and looks of “who the hell invited this guy?”
Jackson Katz, in the Ted Talk below, clearly explains why focusing on women when talking about gender based violence is wrong, and why this focus needs to shift to men, and what men are doing (and not doing about it). He also clearly explains that men need to become leaders around this topic, and that the true battle will be won, not in public, when we are openly defending women, but within the small groups of men where so much of this harmful talk continues in a “safe zone”.
I hear what Jackson is saying, and it terrifies me. I want to be this leader. I want to make sure my son’s view of women is healthy. I want to protect all the daughters out there. I want to help eliminate violence against women.
Writing for Indrani’s Light Foundation – check.
Helping train others to help women in shelters – check.
Speaking out about gender based violence in social media – check.
Share the message with local schools and other people – check.
Stand up, in the moment, in a group of guys, and call them on their bullshit statements.
That one I NEED to work on, and it isn’t going to be easy.
But I am going to try.
If you are a man, or have men in your life who could use help developing this leadership, and taking this plunge, share Jackson Katz’s video and let’s get started.
Your donation will be used towards eradicating gender violence, training community leaders and sharing behaviour-change tools with people who are ready to leave violence behind and create a brighter, more peaceful world.