If not every girl, a lot of girls have been given a talk maybe once in our lives about how to tell if boys like us. No, it’s not always by the flowers and candy but by harassment and annoyance. This behavior has been accepted in our societies, as “boys will be boys”, instead of giving them proper guidance to express their feelings. Think about it. A seven year old girl is at the playground, minding her business. Then some random boy she doesn’t know very well kicks her and pulls her hair. Why? He likes her (apparently). Some ignorant ones wouldn’t think twice about this, and simply shrug it off. But what happens when they’re eighteen or even twenty years old and that same behavior is inflicted onto the girl? Is that still acceptable? When does it stop? Address the harassment even at young ages. It can be parents who help promote this mistreatment and misogyny, but other times it’s not just them.
I know that some television shows or movies have scenarios of a couple supposedly in love: He would grab her when she’s clearly uncomfortable, or proceed to infiltrate her space, even when she says no. Chase her around maybe, or perhaps forcing a kiss/any other physical touch. Abuse and abusive traits are romanticized and normalized so much that we look at this and think that’s cute. “That means he loves her.” Since when did harassment become a sign of affection? This society has given us a twisted perception of affection for girls, turning it into a dangerous, yet somehow attractive, love story.
How is it harmful to unknowingly approve of mistreatment? It teaches girls that this the equivalent of “true love”. Not caring for our consent, the hitting, the harassment, the overall disrespect can be ingrained in young girls’ minds to expect that behavior for future relationships. People often wonder why some girls can’t exactly see the domestic abuse they’re facing. Whether it be physical, verbal, emotional, etc, those traits we were taught as children meant affection, has been hurting us without us knowing it.
Oh but it gets even worse: We’re not allowed to hate it, we have to accept it because we somehow “deserved” this type of attention. We are sometimes told that what’s being done to us is a good thing because if you’re “ugly”, guys won’t even look your way. Over time, every punch, kick, hair-pull, and harmful action has been excused in the name of a natural, masculine, hormone that signals love. But if we are too hurt, and start to see the abuse for what it really is, in order to protect a fragile male ego, the women and girls must always be accused of offending him. They can’t be blamed for their actions, even if they’re as young as seven; force feeding us the ideology that something is wrong with us, and that we deserved it.
Young girls are not punching bags. There are better ways of showing that you like or love someone without causing any damage to them. Misogyny and sexism has poisoned our very culture as a society, corroding our very morals and lessons we teach our children. Of course, not every parent feeds into this horror. Good parents know better. They teach their daughters self defense, and at the same time, teach their sons how to respect girls and women alike. But as a good parent, you also have a responsibility to call out self-destructive, misogynistic behavior when you see it taking place onto children.
(Follow Nzinga Muhammad on Twitter @QueenNzinga13)