“Do you want to see the ugliest teacher in the world?”
A young tween boy said this and held up his phone, showing other children – including my own – a picture of a female teacher. Without giving it much thought, I blurted out loud, “that’s not nice.” The boy’s father responded, “what’s the big deal? They’re just kids.”
Because it wasn’t appropriate for me to argue with the boy’s father, I simply made eye contact with my own children and shook my head no, so they knew that I disapproved.
With the recent politics and election results, I find myself trying to find ways to better our world.
Recently, I read a Facebook post about a well-known person in the media stating, “if you can’t handle harassment, don’t enter the workforce.” I think this statement is as ridiculous as, “if you can’t handle being bullied, don’t bother to go to school.”
There are laws against harassment. Unfortunately, it still happens, so many still think it’s a cultural norm.
We perpetuate the norm by allowing people in the media to say derogatory things about other people. Judges have given light jail sentences to rapists, because they worry about the rapists’ futures. What kind of messages are we sending here?
Taking it one step further, some people justify derogatory statements by passing it off as “just locker room banter.”
We all must try to stop these types of comments. While NFL players have said adult locker rooms aren’t like that, I imagine adolescent locker rooms are. There must be boys out there somewhere talking about doing things to girls with out their consent and using derogatory comments about girls, because sexual assault is happening everyday in our country.
I don’t think we should focus on “is this locker room banter?,” but instead we should say, “this type of talk is not allowed in a locker room or anywhere else.” While some men continue making disrespectful comments about women, I love hearing that so many men out there are saying that they don’t and are repulsed by it.
The problem isn’t simply that a public figure said it. The controversy should not be about whether or not people agree that it’s common for some men to speak like this. The problem is that there are still men out there who think it’s OK and not that big of a deal.
Those men were once kids.
“They are just kids” is what the parent said to me about the demeaning comment about the teacher. Yes, they are just kids, which is exactly the reason why we should not tolerate such behaviors.
It doesn’t matter that they were talking about a picture and not saying it directly to the teacher. When we allow our children to degrade other people – women or men – about their looks, it is perpetuating this epidemic.
Teach them at a young age that teasing someone about their looks is not OK. Judging someone based on their appearance is not OK.
Teach our children to respect each other and to respect the people around them.
I will not raise my children to have a blatant disregard for anyone, because that is the first step toward accepting derogatory statements and sexual harassment. This disrespect leads to a feeling of superiority and a feeling of doing whatever they want to anyone.
Obviously, a comment, such as “look at the ugliest teacher” isn’t necessarily going to lead to harassment or sexual assault. However, the mentality must stop if we want harassment and assault to end.
Allowing children to talk negatively about others teaches them that it’s OK to disregard the feelings of someone by judging them on their looks or other characteristics. If children are thinking it, then they’re likely showing it, either directly or indirectly to that individual.
Nothing positive results from an individual being disrespected, having a low self-esteem and/or when an individual feels superior. In fact, this drives the vicious cycle of individuals believing that they are dominant and are able to treat others poorly. Sexual harassment, sexual assault, racism, bigotry all exist, because some people think they are dominant and have disrespect for others.
It’s simple: teach our children to respect and treat others with dignity. Teach them that it’s never acceptable to say derogatory things about each other. By doing this, there will be less children who grow up to be adults who believe that harassment is acceptable or that locker room talk means a discussion about sexual assault.
- Never allow children to make fun of others looks, abilities and characteristics.
- Never excuse disrespectful behavior from children.
- Always model the behaviors that you want to see in your child.
- Expose your children to role models that you want your child to emulate.
Image by: talula hoogie