Threatening t-shirts aren’t helping our girls or our boys

Friday, May 1st, 2015

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Oh hooray! Another dad has sent his daughter to school in a shirt with the message of “do anything bad to my daughter and me and my big muscles will find you and rip your head off!”

Stupid threatening tshirt

What a wonderful message to send to young kids out there. Don’t rape because I’ll cut you. Don’t call my daughter a slut because I have a knife. Don’t post pictures of my girl online because my arms are bigger than your head.

The thing is, what does this actually teach young kids (or anyone)? Well it seems to reinforce that girls are the property of their men folk. Or it seems to suggest to young men out there that adults know you’re up to no good and that the only way to keep you from doing that is to threaten you with guns or muscles so large that just looking at them can break your bones.

All of this, of course, is horseshit, even if that dad could easily dismantle my frail, rapidly aging body with any one of his fingers.

Young women don’t need men with guns protecting them from rape. Young men don’t need guns pointed at their faces keeping them from raping. They (and we all) need men who stand up and say don’t assault or harass my daughter because she’s a human. Period. No guns, no muscles, no picture of a dad on a shirt flexing after his lift session.

Is there no other reason a young man or another woman shouldn’t mess with your daughter other than you being her dad?

As a human being, I do understand the urge to “always be protecting” the people we love. I understand that if we had the choice, we’d be beamed to our kids any moment they’re about to be hurt. Truth is, I’m terrified at what could happen to my daughters today and as they grow older. I’ve concocted hundreds of scenarios in which they come into harm and how I might react to that. I know what I’d like to do if they’re met by bears, if they’re stuck on the other side of the road from me in a Santa Claus parade and if they’re out an hour past the time I asked them to be home from a date at. None of these include me sitting at my front door with a shotgun or threatening young kids from afar by showing them how strong I am although a few of them have me crawling on all fours with some blueberries and a slingshot.

Yes, sadly I recognize my daughters will likely experience sexual harassment in their lives. Even at the age of five our oldest has already been the subject of a blonde joke while out for dinner. This happens and will continue to happen. They might also become the victims of sexual violence. All the shirts in the world won’t change that.

Women aren’t asking for it if they aren’t wearing a shirt and sexual violence isn’t stopped just because someone else is.

If you want to help young people understand the importance they have, look at some youth who are doing that right now. In the city my girls go to school there’s a group of young high school men who have started ManUp LDHSS an initiative that helps men understand the role they play in ending violence against women. There are programs like #MANifestChange that calls on boys and men to challenge violence against women (VAW) and gender based violence (GBV) wherever it’s encountered. And there are programs like It Starts With You which asks men to recognize that whether they like it or not, they’re  model for the young people around them, and to make sure their actions reflect how they want young people to grow up to be.

To treat women with respect because they’re people and not because there could be repercussions for hurting them.

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