“What Kind of Brother Are You?”

This is the title of a song by Joe Jencks. You can find the words here. I have it on my iPad, so if you see me at Roller Derby or some other place and want to hear it, I will be happy to play it for you. This song came to my mind after an incident last week that left me feeling like a slightly bad mom. Not as bad a mom as when Maggie started her period and, when she told me, I said, “Are you f*cking kidding me?” Maybe I will tell that story, too, in another post of what NOT to do when your daughter has her first period when you are out of town for your grandfather’s funeral and have been home from the viewing for an hour before she decides to tell and looks at you as if you asked her to skin a kitten when you ask, “Did you tell your grandma so she could get you a pad?”. Errr … I guess that about sums up that experience.

What has me thinking about this song is last week my daughter and my son’s girlfriend’s little sister were “catcalled” in a parking lot of a UDF (local convenience store). Maggie is 15 and Callie is 14. Spencer, Michael’s girlfriend, was already in the car and Michael was walking out with the girls. Now, Maggie has bright blue hair so she is used to attention around her hair. One of the guys said something about her hair and she thanked him for the compliment. They then started whistling and making other comments, though I am not completely sure what was said. Michael walked out of the store and one of the guys said, “Hey, guy, is one of those girls your girlfriend?” Michael responded, “No. One is my sister and the other is my girlfriend’s sister and they are both under 16”. The men, and they were men not teens, rolled their windows up and drove away.

I grew up in a time where things like this were common place. My dad would toot the horn or whistle when he thought  girl was pretty or had a cute figure. I started to talk to Maggie about it … I said that it was not nice that this happened. I mentioned that she had worked hard to change her figure, roller derby has helped that, and that her pants were “skinny jeans” and she did have a cute butt. Callie is a gymnast so you can make inferences there about her figure. I told Maggie that while it still wasn’t acceptable, when I was growing up, it was common and she could be proud of herself for what she has accomplished. She just kept staring at me. I was backtracking but … You know how when you are saying something, and you know it is not quite right when you are saying it, and you are being given a blank stare and you keep on talking and wondering to yourself why you don’t just shut the fuck up? Yeah, that was me.

The conversation moved on. About an hour later, I apologized to Maggie for trying to trivialize her experience. I told her that I don’t know what  was thinking. That what she experienced was, plain and simple, sexual harassment and that it was wrong. (At least I apologize when I mess up with the kids … lol) That it was wrong for men to behave that way and that even if she had been naked, they had no right to comment on her body. Her hair? Yes … she expects to get comments and enjoys them.

I have talked with a few people about this and it was just accepted back when I was growing up (late 70’s). It was something to brag about. To be proud of. I worked at my dad’s doughnut shop starting when I was 13 1/2. It was filled with dirty old men (and some not old dirty old men) so I was certainly used to that mentality from a young age. Even though it made me very uncomfortable at times, I was accustomed to that sort of attention and didn’t know how to deflect it. Besides, I was too meek to speak up about something like that anyway. (Oh just shut up, I know what you are thinking! Yes, me. Really. I have worked so damn hard to be sure Maggie is not meek and has spunk and is not afraid to take someone down, if need be. I have done a pretty damn good job of it, too).

Just how would those men feel if that happened to their daughters or sisters?  Nieces? Mothers? A friend was in the mall with her family when her daughter was still a young teen — she may not have been been 13 yet — when she was oggled by some adult men, until her dad said, “THAT is my 12 year old daughter. Would you like to say that again?” They were chagrined. But, dammit, we shouldn’t have to worry about walking through a mall, out of a convenience store, down the street, ANYWHERE. Our daughters, sisters, mothers, nieces and friends should feel free to walk anywhere they please without fear of sexual harassment. What makes it right? What will it take for our society to become less tolerant of this behavior? Hell, I was even trying to excuse some piggish men to my daughter who was harassed.

Read the words to the song. Buy the album and listen to it (I love the whole CD, truth be told). Play it for the men in your life. Have them listen to it. Maybe if more and more men stop to think about how they are potentially making the women feel, they will stop. Or at least call others of their sex on it. It is degrading.

It would be interesting if others wanted to have a discussion about this, either here on the blog or on FB. It is so important that we, living in this country with such a culture of rape and blaming the victims of rape, start standing up for ourselves. Our sisters. Daughters. Nieces. Friends. Even strangers. No one deserves this treatment. Ever.


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