Every month, a member of our family chooses a phrase to go on the white board near the dining room table. Last month a daughter chose: “Try and fail, but don’t fail to try.”
In December a daughter chose: “If it’s not nice, don’t say it.”
I liked it. But as a mom of three daughters ages 9-12, the word “nice,” paired with silence in the wake of the #metoo sexual harassment news waves, didn’t gel with me.
Nice doesn’t equal silent
“Sometimes,” I told my girls on the ride to school, “staying silent, and being nice, isn’t what you should do. Do you understand?”
I fumbled with more strings of words. But they eventually got the gist.
“You don’t have to worry about being nice when someone’s bullied,” one daughter said.
“Or when someone is hurting you,” the other daughter said.
Right. Oh so right.
Time’s “The Silence Breakers” as its 2017 Person of the Year will help our daughters (or sons) see that they don’t have to suffer alone, in silence or in shame when they are abused, assaulted or harassed.
The magazine recognized the women who forced a nationwide reckoning and launched the #metoo movement. Among them: Rose McGowan, Tarana Burke, Ashley Judd and Alyssa Milano.
Rise above the fear
Less recognizable women were part of Time’s story too, and they shared their fears about coming forward with their stories sooner, which included job loss, physical violence, fear of being killed and this:
Many of the people who have come forward also mentioned a different fear, one less visceral but no less real, as a reason for not speaking out: If you do, your complaint becomes your identity.
What would they be seen as:
- Not nice? (Actress Rose McGowan even references this in Time’s video saying women have been raised to be nice and she’s giving them permission to be angry.)
Speak your truth
But as more women shared their stories, the women in Time magazine, said they felt empowered to speak their truth.
The tide had turned. Even former Fox news host Megyn Kelly recognized it.
“I always thought maybe things could change for my daughter. I never thought things could change for me.”
We can’t protect children from everything. We can’t even prepare them for everything, though we try.
My daughters have a lifetime of experiences in front of them — not all good, not all nice. Because, life.
Powerful lessons we learned
I can encourage them, as Megyn Kelly said in the story, to speak their truth in their strongest voices and insist those around them do better.
The lessons in the article about choosing to play nice and staying silent to men who aim to hurt you are strong:
- You don’t shake it off when someone tries to grope you without your consent. (That’s what happened to Taylor Swift. She took the groper to court and won.)
- You don’t ignore it when a moviemaking studio head tries to coerce you into bed. (That’s what Ashley Judd wouldn’t allow. She told everyone. Good for her!)
- You don’t bury it down deep and forget it, as one lone creep who forced a sexual act asked one actress to do. (Actress Selma Blair stayed silent for decades because her alleged attacker said he would kill her, she told Time.)
Thanks to Time and all of the brave #metoo movement souls, maybe my daughters won’t feel they should stay quiet. That they must be nice. They’ll feel empowered by the women who have spoken out before them.
I can show my daughters that when they use their voice to stand up for themselves in the moment, they just may be starting a movement. They may be at the beginning of making things better for all women.
They just don’t know it yet.