Holidays and family get-togethers are a time for yummy food, sweet traditions, funny stories, and lots and lots of love. But they could, without you even realizing it, also be a time when your daughter gets the wrong idea about consent and physical affection.
Have you ever insisted, “Uncle just got here—go give him a big hug!” or “Auntie gave you that nice toy, go give her a kiss,” when you were worried your child might not offer affection on her own? If yes, you might want to reconsider the urge to do that in the future.
Think of it this way, telling your child that she owes someone a hug either just because she hasn’t seen this person in a while or because they gave her a gift can set the stage for her questioning whether she “owes” another person any type of physical affection when they’ve bought her dinner or done something else seemingly nice for her later in life….
…Give your girl the space to decide when and how she wants to show affection. Of course, many children may naturally want to hug and kiss family members, friends, and neighbors, and that’s lovely—but if your daughter is reticent, don’t force her. Of course, this doesn’t give her license to be rude! There are many other ways to show appreciation, thankfulness, and love that don’t require physical contact. Saying how much she’s missed someone or thank you with a smile, a high-five, or even an air kiss are all ways she can express herself, and it’s important that she knows she gets to choose which feels most comfortable to her.
Your Ethics Alarms Thanksgiving Ethics Quiz:
Is this responsible advice, or does it go too far?
Valerie Steighner authored a powerful essay titled “My 11-Year-Old Daughter Just Got Catcalled for the First Time and I Don’t Know How To Teach Her to Protect Herself From Predators.” Please read it. Here’s an excerpt:
She is 11 years old. She just graduated from elementary school and still plays with small plastic animals. And now along with vocab words, I have to teach her how to protect herself from disgusting men.
I told her that what that man did is called catcalling and catcalling is aggressive behavior and the best action is to ignore it. Usually, men that are willing to yell slurs about you and your body, if provoked, can be unpredictable and dangerous; it’s best to keep walking; don’t make eye contact and stand tall.
I felt so defeated as the words came out of my mouth. Basically, there is nothing we can do, but pretend it’s not happening….Obviously, I was sexually active all through my twenties, but there is a difference from being what others want and finding what you need…The predator lives everywhere. He lives on our streets, in our grocery stores, on our billboards and in our malls. He constantly reminds us what our value is and where we belong. How do I teach her to catch him, see him and to protect herself from him? How do I teach her that her body is not a source of shame but a source of power and strength? How do I teach her to hear the predator’s words to know what they mean and still stand tall and confident? How do I teach her to protect herself and still be open?
It sucks. It sucks that this has to happen to my daughter in 6th grade. It sucks that it’s only the beginning. It sucks that she has to learn about her body in the context of men noticing it.
What also sucks is that the problem is a failure of ethics and civilization to move fast enough. Men are programmed to want sex and to procreate, and once upon a time in America the kind of conduct a disgusting 50-year old focused on the writer’s barely pubescent daughter was a cultural norm. In some places, it still is. Women had no other function but to find a man, have his children and make the home run smoothly, and not finding a man was, in some settings, a catastrophe. In the American West, a woman in her thirties who was uneducated and unmarried was very likely to end up a prostitute: it was the single largest occupation for unmarried women. When so many women are whores, men get in the habit of treating women as whores, and women who don’t want that fate will provide positive reinforcement to flirtations that are really harassment and disrespect. [You can find the many Ethics Alarms posts related to this topic here]
Old habits supported by hormones, traditions and bad role models—like, say, Jack Kennedy, Joe Biden and Donald Trump–will die hard or not die at all. In many ways, the culture still supports the ugly behavior Steighner’s daughter experienced. Many ways. For example, in a current Geico commercial, the Gecko shows his trophy accompanied by that briefly popular song “Whoomp! There it is!,” which is essentially street harassment in song form. You will also hear it in sporst stadiums. Continue reading
All right, I know this is the lowest of low-hanging fruit, but come on.
The University of Missouri at Kansas City just opened a Women’s Hall of Fame and sought an appropriate female leader to speak at the gala luncheon launching it. It not only chose a non-leader, non-accomplished, non-much of anything except lucky rich kid Chelsea Clinton, but also paid $65,000 for her to speak (she’s also a non-professional speaker) for only ten minutes, and then to answer questions—which carefully crafted limitations on the questions—for another 2o minutes. The money goes to the Clinton Foundation, which makes no difference to the ethics of the transaction, which are revolting in many ways:
1. $65,000 for a ten minute speech—that rate is about 11 thousand bucks a minute— is outrageous unless the speaker is Abe Lincoln. It is virtually impossible to say anything in ten minutes that is especially valuable, and unlikely to the vanishing point that Chelsea Clinton is one of the rare people who could accomplish it.
2. Any college or university that cannot find a better legitimate educational use of $65,000 than this is too inept to stay open.
3. The school says that Clinton’s fee was funded by private donors, meaning that $65,000 worth of donations that could have gone to, say, scholarships were diverted into the Clinton Campaign and Influence Peddling Slush Fund. Continue reading
[In his Comment of the Day, Jeffrey Field endorses the actions of both the teacher and the superintendent that I labeled “ethics triple dunces” for making students write letters lobbying for more money in school budgets, raises some other provocative ethics issues related to teacher and student conduct, and questions my indictment of the ethics of the teaching profession. I think he’s wrong on every count (you can read my response with my original post), but it’s a terrific comment.]
“When I was a 5th grade teacher teacher at Clements school in North Alabama, the all-white Limestone County School Board voted to allow students the Martin Luther King holiday, but teachers would be required to work that day. So, partially in self interest and partially in empathy of the small percentage of black teachers, I got my 5th grade class to write letters to the board asking them to reconsider. Long story short, the board reversed position and everybody got a day off.
“Yes, I used this as a writing exercise, and I offer no excuses. You see, too many times teachers have students write a paper with no real purpose in mind. In this case, my students had a real purpose in penning a persuasive letter to the people who ran the schools (btw – no one was required to write the letter, but they all did). And boy, you should have seen the smiles and heard the whoops of joy the morning the Athens News Courier ran a story saying the board had reconsidered its position. Continue reading
North Carolina state legislator Mike Stone is a budget hawk, and is supporting a budget-cutting proposal that could eliminate 9,300 positions in the public schools. It’s a contentious issue, and the representative has received many letters—including a plaintive one from his own third grader daughter, a student at Tramway Elementary, who was one of several students in her class directed by teacher Melanie Hawes to write to the Republican and plead with him to save the jobs of their two teacher assistants.
“Our school doesn’t want to lose them,” she wrote. “Please put the budget higher, dad.”
Ugh. Ethics foul; in fact, three of them:
1. It is unethical for teachers to indoctrinate their students in political positions in which the teachers have a personal interest.
2. It is unethical to exploit children as lobbying tools, under the pretense of educating them.
3. It is extremely unethical to recruit a legislator’s 8-year-old daughter to carry a lobbying message. Continue reading