One of the many things we do as an organization is public education. You know, anyone that will listen to us talk, we’re there! The more people who know what we know about domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault / abuse, trauma, victimization and so on, the better off everyone is. Not that we’re overly brilliant (well, maybe a little bit) but we just have a lot of information that isn’t always easy to come by unless someone tells you.
Yesterday we were teaching in the high school. We do this a lot and it’s actually a lot of fun. One of the comments and questions from yesterday’s class has stuck with me though. The teacher asked (on behalf of a student) what to do about younger teenagers who talk to each other like “what’s up bitch?” and call each other names?
On one hand I hear the arguments from people all the time about how we all take things too seriously (not meaning us specifically but people in general, usual females actually when you think about it). All in fun, just kids being kids, whatever. I think there was a point in my life where I would have agreed with that – you know, what’s the harm really? It’s just kids trying to be cool.
But there is an underlying issue here and it’s called respect (cue Aretha Franklin; oh wait, most of you wouldn’t even know who she is).
Some people may say “hey bitch!” and really think they’re being funny. Some people may say “hey bitch” and claim they’re just teasing but there is an underlying aggressiveness and disrespect about it. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the two apart. Almost always though, it has a residual impact and that little echo amidst the fun and games is the notion that;
– we, as individuals are okay with people putting us down in our quest to be cool or fit in or be funny or whatever.
– we as a society are okay with others treating our young people this way and give them the freedom to call our young girls and boys names and condone it and tell them – put up with the lack of respect kid because you deserve it or that’s what you’re worth and you have no right to get all upset about it.
As a culture and a society, there are times we don’t do a good job at teaching our kids how to be respectful because we don’t see the need to set limits with things like language with each other. Yes kids swear, yes they call each other names, no we don’t need to go marching in and raise a huge issue every single time we hear or see that but we should be setting the ground rules. That way, we don’t need to march in every single time, our kids can set the limits and rules about how they’re willing to let others treat them themselves and not feel like they have to apologize for wanting to be treated respectfully.
Why? Because these are the social and relationship rules the kids are incorporating into their sense of who they are and what they’re worth to others. If we accept “hey bitch” as a term of endearment and pass it off as “kids being kids” how do we expect our young people to tell the difference between a dating violent relationship in the early stages and a healthy relationship. We all know “hey bitch – I was just kidding, Jeez, don’t take it so personally” types of attitudes comments and behaviours are pretty common in violent relationships regardless of gender. Shouldn’t we actually teach them how to set limits and boundaries with their friends first so that when they start dating it’s not maybe too late?