Why I Chose the Title “Feminist” by 14yo guest Makena McElroy

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Today we have a very special guest, 14-year-old Makena McElroy has me speechless. What a brain! Please welcome her to the blog and be sure to check out her article “Young Voices | A 14-Year-Old’s Look at Rape Culture” on Sweatpants & Coffee. Comments are welcome. Trolls are not. 

I call myself a feminist. I could choose the word “egalitarian.” I mean, I do believe in equal rights for all people. Why not just label myself that and call it a day?

But I choose to call myself a feminist, because feminism means that you believe in the equality of the sexes. And I do.

People have a skewed definition of feminism.

Isn’t that dismissive of men? – People ask me. If you call yourself egalitarian, no one will think you don’t care about men. But I choose the word feminist because I want to acknowledge that in every single country in the world, men are held in higher regard than women. In some countries, this means that women can’t drive, can’t vote, can’t leave the house without a man’s permission, oversight, and approval. In the US, it means something different. It means a few years from now, I will be able to get my driver’s license, vote, and own property. And maybe I should be happy enough with that. But I’m not; I believe in the equality of the sexes, and there is much more to equality than these few things.

I believe that little girls should see their gender reflected on TV, in books, and in movies as whole, developed characters, not as accessories for guys. I think that no little girl should have to hear her brother being told to “stop being such a girl.” I think that little girls should be able to look at a list of presidents and feel proud to see women on that list. I think that what I’m saying should apply to every little girl no matter where they live.

Women make up 51% of the United States population, and 0% of US Presidents.red nails camera

I call myself a feminist out of respect for the women who came before me, the women who rallied and protested and fought until they won the right to vote. I call myself a feminist because I want to be like them. They, too, were bombarded with anti-feminist propaganda. They, too, were called crazy for wanting equal rights. I stand with their memory.

I’ve been called a “crazy feminist,” by boys and girls alike. I know that being a feminist is a “turn off” for some guys. But feminism is way too important to me for me to back down just because other people think I’m crazy. In a way, their criticism solidifies my beliefs. If caring about women’s rights is a turn off for guys, something needs to change.

Emma Watson’s speech at the UN was powerful. Important. And true. She talked about how feminism, in our society, is perceived mainly as man-hating misandry. But she knows, and I know, that that is nowhere near the message of feminism.

Feminism is women’s right to vote. Feminism is saying it can’t end there.

Feminism is ending the wage gap between genders. Women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. That can’t be true, you say. Actually, you’re right; that’s 77 cents for white women. For black women it’s 69 cents and for Latina women it’s 59 cents to a man’s dollar.

Feminism means wanting another role model in the media for girls besides “the love interest.” Feminism means wanting another physical role model other than the stick thin supermodel. Feminism is not wanting girls to be defined by their weight, their looks, or how much skin they do or do not show. Feminism is being able to wear that dress, that skirt that makes you feel like the goddess you are without having to worry that you will be stared at, whispered about, cat called, judged for what you wear when there is nothing wrong with showing skin and it shouldn’t mean anything about who you did or did not sleep with. Feminism is being able to cover your entire body and be given the same respect.

Feminism is wanting the words “slut” and “whore” to never be used by anyone again. Ever.

Feminism is saying that 1 in 4 women are raped in their lifetime and we need to do something other than blame the victims for how they dressed, or say the solution is to not go out alone. There will always be a woman in a dress in a parking lot alone. We need to change our attitudes toward this problem.

Feminism means never using the argument “men get raped too” as an excuse or a way to stop people talking. Because “men get raped” should be its own sentence, not something tacked on to the end of an argument against women’s rights.

Feminism is acknowledging that while women in America have come so far, the battle for gender equality is far from over.

I will fight for that equality. For me, for the people who come after me, and for the ones who came before me, the people who created the word “feminist.”

 

About Makena McElroy:
Makena McElroy is a 14-year-old sophomore who is fond of all things nerd. If she is not at the theater, she can be found catching up on the latest episode of Doctor Who. Makena writes for Sweatpants and Coffee’s Young Voices column. She lives in California with her family and her computer.


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What Can We Learn from the Stephen Collins Case? by @TruthIsHers

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Trigger Warning: This post discusses child sexual abuse. Those sensitive to this topic need to exercise both caution and good self-care if they choose to read it.

Last week the internet exploded with the news that actor Stephen Collins had confessed to multiple incidents of child sexual molestation. Collins is best known for his role as the minister-father of the Camden family in the long running television show 7th Heaven. Since then he has had a recurring role in Scandal and was also in the process of filming for the Ted 2 movie.

Over forty years ago Collins allegedly exposed himself to three girls between the ages of 11 and 15. With at least one of those girls there was also touch involved. Apparently, Collins’ soon to be ex-wife taped the confession, without his knowledge, during a marriage counseling session in 2012. While the tape was made available to the New York Police Department at that time no charges were pursued due an expired Statute of Limitations.

As a result of these tapes being leaked to the press, by an as yet unknown source, criminal investigations have now been opened in both New York and California, the other location of one of the sexual assaults, Collins has been released or terminated from all of his acting jobs, networks have stopped broadcasting re-runs of 7th Heaven and his talent agent cut ties with him. He voluntarily resigned his position on the national board of the Screen Actors Guild.

As a Trauma Recovery Coach, I’ve been asked many times this week to comment about Collin’s confession and the resulting repercussions. As a survivor of years of childhood sexual assault myself I can’t deny that this makes my anger rise up. I know what it’s like to live with the after effects of that kind of trauma. So far, I’ve endured 25 years of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression. While I’m hopeful of reaching remission sometime in the future, I’m not holding my breath.

I don’t see a great deal of value in my dissecting the details of Collin’s case in order to give a well thought out opinion of whether he’s innocent or guilty. From a personal standpoint, it’s tempting! But I don’t know what greater good that would do for Survivors, whose voices I strive to represent and encourage every day.

However, I think there is tremendous merit in looking at what we can learn from the situation on a larger scale. Collins’ case has much to teach us about sexual assault perpetrator stereotypes, victim stigmatization and ways parents can protect their children from being victimized.

Many people were shocked to hear of the allegations against Collins. His role as the beloved father & minister in 7th Heaven and well respected position within the acting community definitely placed him in a “least to be suspected of being a sex offender” category. The reality though, is that no one can be removed from the potential offender list. No one.

Despite being confronted with the reality of who sexually offends over and over again, our culture continues to cling to the stereotype that they are scruffy, unkempt middle aged men who live in their mother’s basements subsisting on Hot Pockets, unable to hold a job, driving a cargo van and spending their days slouched on a bench in the local playground leering at children they don’t know.

But the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Ninety percent of children who are sexually assaulted know their perpetrator. Ninety percent! The typical sexual offender isn’t that mysterious stranger we teach our children to run away from. He/She is their teacher, soccer coach, family member, minister, relative or even the sweet lady who lives down the street and always has an open door and fresh cookies for the neighborhood children. We must ditch our stereotypes and expand our minds if we’re ever going to properly educate our children about who is a danger in their lives.

The Collins’ case also provides us with valuable information about how child victims respond to being sexually assaulted. I have heard people question, over and over this week, why the alleged victims in this case didn’t come forward immediately after their assault to report the crimes. As a society, we need to stop evaluating why a child does or doesn’t report sexual assault with an adult’s logic and reasoning. We cannot place adult expectations onto children whose emotional and cognitive processing capabilities have not yet fully developed.

SHAME

Having worked with hundreds of survivors of childhood sexual assault, I can tell you why most children don’t report: shame, safety and confusion. I will never be able to explain the depth and breadth of shame a child feels when they are sexually assaulted to someone who hasn’t had the experience themselves. That shame gives rise to self-blame, self-loathing and emotional pain that shake a child to their very core. Demanding a child report their assault in the midst of that emotional tornado is a very difficult thing to ask.

SAFETY

For children who are assaulted by a family member on whom they are dependent for care, safety is a huge reason for why they don’t report. Children are dependent on adults for food, shelter and protection from life’s difficulties. They are incredibly vulnerable beings in a world filled with potential dangers. Fostering dependence on one’s caregiver is an innate, hard wired human characteristic. When one of the people who is supposed to keep them safe is in fact hurting them, a child will often choose denial over acceptance. We need to understand and respect this powerful dynamic rather than judging children for trying to preserve their sense of safety in the world.

CONFUSION

The shame a child feels as a result of being sexually assaulted and their fears about their safety combine to create great confusion. Their brains are not yet fully developed, leaving them ill-equipped to deal with such significant and complex situations. We cannot expect them to be able to sift through the incredible vortex of emotions and consequences they fear will befall them in order to come to a logical conclusion. The best way to avoid a child having to face this situation is to help prevent it from ever occurring.

IMPORTANT ADVICE FOR PARENTS

I always give parents two pieces of advice to help protect their child from sexual assault:

  • teach them to be 100% obedient to no one and
  • always keep communication flowing and non-judgmental with their child.

I was raised in a generation where children were taught to obey their elders without question. We were expected to respond with immediate compliance when a teacher, minister, coach, relative or known neighbor gave us a directive. Doing otherwise earned sharp, and often physical, reprisals.

However, children who are taught this standard of 100% obedience to any adult with a position of authority in their lives, are vulnerable to having that expectation used against them. When 90% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone our child knows, we must teach them to have a healthy resistance to obeying any command that makes them feel uncomfortable.

To help protect our children even further we must keep lines of communication both open and non-judgmental. Our kids need to know that they can come to us at any time to discuss any topic and we will be open to listening and helping them. We should ask them, whenever they have engaged with a new situation or group of people, if they felt safe during their time there/with them. When we cultivate open communication, especially about issues of safety, we dramatically increase the chances that our children will report any discomfort with an individual before they are assaulted. And we’re also more likely to receive their report of an assault if one occurs.

I don’t know what will happen with the recent charges of sexual molestation against Stephen Collins. But what I’m certain of, is that if we take these lessons we can learn from his case and apply them in ourl lives, we will diminish the chances that other children will fall victim to sexual predators.

 

Sign up for my newsletter and never miss a post again! I will never share your email and that’s a promise. Follow me on Twitter @RachelintheOC or @BadRedheadMedia for social media, branding, or marketing help. Increase your blog traffic by participating in #MondayBlogs (a Twitter meme I created to share posts on Mondays — no book promo) and entering my free feature giveaway.

Starting NOVEMBER 3: Author Social Media Boot Camp! Take a look: group sessions for authors on a budget. Now you too can get affordable, effective help FAST! Follow @ASMBootCamp on Twitter and sign up today here

All content copyrighted unless otherwise specified. © 2014 by Rachel Thompson, author. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to use short quotes provided a link back to this page and proper attribution is given to me as the original author.

The Day I Became Anne Frank by Guest Sarah Fader (@osnsmom)

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Please welcome Huffington Post blogger and Stigma Fighters leader Sarah Fader to the blog today as she shares her story of battling depression.  When I was a teenager, I began struggling with anxiety and depression. I would wake up to my heart … [Continue reading]

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#MondayBlogs Giveaway October 2014

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#MondayBlogs Giveaway September 2014

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Since I created #MondayBlogs in late 2012, even I'm shocked at what an amazing success it has become! Thousands participate each week, generating more than 5,000 tweets! And it is because of all of you that we can say that with a lot of pride and a … [Continue reading]

Shame (An Excerpt from the Upcoming Broken Places by @RachelintheOC)

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#MondayBlogs Giveaway August 2014

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Since I created #MondayBlogs in late 2012, even I'm shocked at what an amazing success it has become! Thousands participate each week, generating more than 5,000 tweets! And it is because of all of you that we can say that with a lot of pride and a … [Continue reading]

Talking with Maurice, a WWII story by guest @ScottTheWriter

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  Today please welcome author and journalist Scott Bury to the blog as he shares the inspiration for his latest non-fiction work, Army of Worn Soles, the true story of his father-in-law, Maurice Bury, a Canadian citizen drafted into the … [Continue reading]

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