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A mother writes to her son, to work on creating a safe environment for women, wherever he goes.
#ShareYourStory is an initiative by Breakthrough to bring the conversation around sexual harassment into families; to get women talking about the harassment they have experienced with their family members, especially sons (or other boys and young men.)
If you would like to be a part of the #ShareYourStory initiative and create more changemakers, share your letter to your son (or young friends, nephews etc.). You can write a post or send us a short video at firstname.lastname@example.org. More details here.
You are just a month old. People look at me with admiration and your grandparents (both sets) are beaming at me as if I had a say in the matter. However, I am skeptical and I have started worrying about how you would behave when you take your place in society. This letter is a piece of advice to you and will remain in my locker till you are old enough to understand my fear and anxiety.
The society we live in lets boys get away with almost everything. Their behavior, however unacceptable, is considered as part of growing up and the usual refrain is ‘boys will be boys’. I strongly disagree. Boys cannot act as they please. They have to respect the women they interact with.
My son, your friends may think that it is cool to stalk teenage girls on their way to school and to relish the discomfort they are subjected to. I want you to be different. No, I won’t ask you to treat them like sisters. You can be their friend by all means as long as you understand that they are as human as you are and not objects created to satisfy the carnal instincts of menfolk. Dissociate yourself from anyone who thinks so and work at developing a healthy bond with all the girls around you. Work at building trust. Believe me, women have been at the receiving end for long enough and the fear of being groped or raped makes them feel insecure. Their best qualities remain suppressed or underutilized and the loss thus incurred by society has never been adequately estimated or compensated thanks to the men around them who think of them as inferior human being and objects of pleasure. And please be warned. You are likely to be ridiculed by a good number of your peers if you think and act differently by respecting your female friends. Don’t be put off by their attitude. Never encourage them. There are bound to be some among them who have values similar to yours. Form a group and lead by example. Soon more and more of them will join hands with you.
When you start working you will have female colleagues at your workplace. God alone knows the kind of harassment they face while commuting to office. The lewd comments and dirty looks notwithstanding, they wish to build a career and do well in life. Or else they may be under some financial compulsion to work. Help them by making them feel safe in the office premises. If you have office help that are women, please remember that they too have dignity to safeguard.
Once you are ready for a partner in your life I would expect you to treat her with respect. I want you to know that women have hormonal conflicts going on in their bodies and their desire for sex varies in the course of their monthly cycle of ovulation. There may be times when even your touch may be repulsive to your partner and others when she may barely manage to put up with your sexual advances. There is no rule that says that she has to always be at your beck and call or that she is under a compulsion to satisfy you in bed. She is entitled to say ‘no’ and I want you to understand her feeling and leave her alone instead of pouncing on her like a predator. Believe me, marital rape is an act of violence and can be very humiliating for a woman. No son, I am not blind to the fact that sexual desire among partners varies and it is not always the man whose desire is greater. It could be the other way too. A meeting point has to be reached and mutual understanding must prevail for sexual compatibility to be achieved.
Last but not least let me say this.
Life was not easy for your dad and me. It had its ups and downs. But our desire to inculcate values in your life brought us together because we felt responsible for you. It doesn’t matter to us what you end up doing professionally in life. All we want to hear about you is that you are a reliable and responsible person who can be trusted to accord women the respect that is not only their due but also their right. And I want you to do it wholeheartedly. I love you sonny boy and I am sure you will measure up to my expectations.
Cover image via Shutterstock
The Hip Grandma lives in a small industrial town called Jamshedpur and despite all its
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