You can find articles everywhere about how this young – “new voters” – generation may just be the one to bring real, necessary change. I agree… to an extent. I, unfortunately, have witnessed, first-hand, incidents that give me pause, and prevent me from throwing the confetti.
Don’t get me wrong. I ran out and purchased my copy of the Time magazine featuring the handful of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. I want to document for my kids the time when we saw kids rise up and take on a challenge bigger than themselves. This generation does definitely give me hope things can change for the better.
Then, there was this 7th grade boy this week that reminded me… we still have a long way to go.
There is also another sad, and unfortunate, chain of events that led to one girl wondering if her life is worth living.
First, the boy.
A 7th grade girl was working with her team on a project in one of her classes. She had 3 other students on her team. They were a bit behind in their presentation work, and she was trying to stay on task.
What was making it difficult was a boy in the class, who was on another team. His team decided to go near the other team’s area to practice their presentation. He also thought it would be fun to be loud and mess around with a member of the first team I mention.
This 7th grade girl tried several times to ask the boy from the other team to quiet down and let them work. He didn’t listen. Then, the girl said to the boy something to the effect… she’s getting really upset… she’s trying to control her anger, but she really needs him to leave them alone…
And he responds:
“What? Are you cramping or something?”
The women reading most likely have been asked more than once in their lifetime if they were “ragging” it… or if it’s “that time of the month”… or if their “nasty friend is visiting”… or straight up: “What… are you PMSing?”
Some men reading may not understand the implication of these phrases, but they are strong statements for women. Basically, any passion or emotion is minimized to: “You are a woman. You are weaker. Your feelings/thoughts/emotions don’t count because you bleed once a month.”
This boy, this kid, said that in front of the group, without pause, followed up with a good ol’ chuckle, and stared her down to show…. Her desire to get work done was not as important as his desire to mess around in class. In fact, he implied, strongly, her feelings must only be because she is cramping. (Not that it matters, but she wasn’t.)
It can’t be anything to do with the fact that she is trying to accomplish a task she is required to finish.
Just right there, in a 7th grade classroom, sexism showed its ugly head. Demeaning a girl is still acceptable to some people.
When I told my husband about this, he made a great point. That kid didn’t just make that up. He learned about cramping somewhere. He most likely has heard someone demean a woman this way somewhere.
So, the cycle continues. (Oof, sorry, I couldn’t think of a better word.)
In related news… as I was proof-reading this blog, a story popped up on my news feed that shows just how far we still have to go. I need to add it to this blog. Here are the details of that story:
(Wednesday, in Japan,) Ryozo Tatami, the 67-year-old mayor of Maizuru in northern Kyoto, collapsed during a ring-top speech. Two women, apparently medical experts, rushed in and started performing first aid as several male sumo officials surrounding the mayor looked on.
When two more women rose to the ring trying to join the first aid effort, announcements demanded the women get out of the ring.
“Ladies, please get off the ring,” a sumo referee said, determinedly. “Only gentlemen go up.”
That really happened. Yesterday. Before you say, “Well, yeah, but that is in Japan.” Remember, the cramping story was here at home.
While we watch a generation rise up, and speak about issues that matter, and ask for changes that are necessary, we have to remember… within that group are still children who are still learning how to demean and knock down a group they feel are less than them. Women, people of color, people in the LGTBQ community, people with fewer means… the list, unfortunately, goes on.
We can’t completely stop this wave of insensitivity, discrimination, lack of empathy that still exists in many places.
We can try. I will always try. However, at the end of the day, some boys will learn it is ok to look at girl and degrade / demean / disrespect her passions and desires with a phrase that lets her know he thinks: You are a bleeder, so you are less than me.
And, about the girl wondering about her life’s worth. I don’t want to dive too much into this one. There are privacy issues, and people out there who could read and figure out about what I am speaking.
What I will say is this: She was trying to make some other kids feel safe. She was punished for her part in all of it. She is sad. She wonders if things will ever get better.
Her story is of the highest importance for us right now. We have figured out some ways to make sure she knows she is not alone. However, just like the boy above here, we can only work from the outside.
And, that brings me to my point.
We are making progress in our country and in many parts of the world to bring real, concrete change. Kids are rising up and doing their part.
However, there is still a lot of work to be done. Those of us who welcome the change and the shift toward empathy and acceptance of all still have a lot of work to do. We cannot get complacent and think, “Yes! They’ve got this.”
We need to support kids who want to be the defenders of those being left behind, or bullied, or even worse…
While I believe in the marches, and will always participate… the real work is in the day-to-day interactions we have.
Please, help kids learn. Show them examples that will build their empathy.
Please, help other kids feel accepted and loved.
How can we do that?
Listen. Love. Be the light for those in darkness.
And, try like mad to drive away that darkness.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
Thanks for reading.