We Need To Talk: You Can't "Invite" Rape

The other day a friend of mine posted THIS LINK on Facebook. It's a good read (quick, with good bolded headlines--haha), that basically says we have to stop judging other mothers about what they are or aren't doing. Which I totally agree with.

But some people misunderstood the exercise...and took it as an opportunity to get up on their weird-ass soap boxes. One woman in particular went OFF about how breastfeeding mothers need to cover up in public or (oh my god!) take it to the bathroom. To the bathroom. I can't even. When I tried to explain to her (nicely) about how eating in a bathroom is gross, the conversation got EVEN MORE STRANGE, and she talked about how not covering up when breastfeeding was inviting rape. Rape.

It's been on my mind for days. Not because it was infuriating, which it was, but because of the inaccuracies and the belief that women can invite rape in the first place. The entire breastfeeding issue aside, I was completely bowled over that someone would lay responsibility of even an imaginary assault at the feet of a woman...

Some might say that this is a matter of opinion, which is precisely my issue. YOU ABSOLUTELY CANNOT INVITE RAPE. PERIOD. FULL STOP. 

If we presume that women can somehow prevent rape, the flip side of that is the belief that men cannot control themselves and their sexual urges. I believe this was the cornerstone of the argument the woman on Facebook was presenting...that breastfeeding publicly without covering up entices men to then assault women. The danger (aside from the total inaccuracy) in this kind of thinking that is that it absolves assailants of of their personal responsibility when it comes to this vicious crime and instead places it on the victims.

But that isn't how rape really works. From what science and research tell us, sexual assault is rarely (if ever) about sex--it's about control. And women (or men, who can also be victims of rape) cannot possibly know how rapists think, what turns them toward a particular victim, or any of the rest of it. The best way to prevent rape is for rapists to stop raping. And in our culture, that has to start with good foundations of parenting, sexual education, and ultimately, removing the stigma from victims who come forward.

How on earth can we remove the stigma if our attitudes are that women can prevent their own assaults? It's egregious to me that any woman would be so  unsupportive of other women in this regard...and maybe it's belief born of fear. Maybe it's some religious thing. Maybe it's a lot of things. But what it's NOT is okay with me.

I know that rape isn't a pleasant topic. Sexual assault isn't something people want to hear about or think about, but the reality is that is happens, whether we ignore it or not. It's a huge issue for women at home and abroad. Luckily, some celebrities are beginning to help shed light on the topic, like Lady Gaga's new music video. But there are also set backs...like the fact that Ke$ha is being essentially blackballed for coming forward about her own sexual abuse. 

So what can we do? Well, for one, we can continue talking about it, unapologetically. Mothers and fathers need to talk to their sons and daughters about what sexual consent means (and does not mean.) When you see or hear someone victim blaming, don't tolerate it. Share this blog post. Or write your own. But don't sit idol as people say these things, whether it's online or in real life.

Because an attitude that women can prevent their own sexual assaults is dangerous for all of us. 

I'm Not "Back" (And I Don't Want To Be)

I remember when my daughter was about a month old and I kept thinking "if I can get back to my old routine, I'll be okay." Ha! Sure. That type of thinking was naive and it was never gonna happen. But in hindsight, I have to ask myself,"why did I feel that way to begin with?"

I think it's because our expectation is that we--as women-- need to get ourselves "back" after childbirth... Back to work. Back to body. Back to life... As though it never happened. Part of this has to do with the fact that we are completely discombobulated by the entire experience. We are irrevocably changed, hormonally on the ropes, and it's all a little disconcerting at the start.

But the truth is that childbirth is a singular experience. It's unlike anything else and, once you've come through it, the icing on the cake is you've got a whole new family member. Life will never be the same.

So what does going back really mean, anyway?

I found myself thinking about this as I simultaneously kept my child from jumping off the settee in the living room and read THIS Hello Giggles article about Kerry Washington speaking about how utterly unproductive the language of "going back" is. And I couldn't agree more.

The day my daughter was born, a new version of me was also born; only I didn't know it then. It took me a while to grow into and accept my new roles as a mom and person. I was changed in some unexpected and great ways. Sure, I sometimes mourned the changes, but mostly, I celebrate them. There is, as Washington says, no going back. There was never a way to go back, and we've got to stop telling women this outright lie

A lot of emphasis on this theme has to do with our bodies. On that note all I can say is that my body now is a thing if wonder. I have stretched myself to the brink of its capability and I'm so proud. Breastfeeding is an amazing weight loss regimen (inadvertently I had to give up dairy and lost even more!) I don't mourn a single second for my prebaby body. I know that some women do, but I want to urge self acceptance.

As for work, what can I say? I work from home, as I have for the past several years, and I continue to evolve in my career. My newspaper column was canceled, but at the end of the day, I had to just keep my chin up and continue to press forward in ways that felt fresh and healthy. Because it's not about getting anything back--not even the things that clearly have been lost as a result of motherhood.

All I want for myself and my family is be whole. Mothers and fathers have to find new ways to do that once a baby joins the family, and I think mothers have a few more changes to sift through than fathers. So we should support one another on our journey. No pressure. Don't strive to do anything other be yourself as the new mother who was born on your child's birthday. Scars and all, we are fabulous, strong people!

If women could stop using wrote language with one another when it comes to our childbirth/mothering experiences, it would be easier to do this. Stop asking mothers if they are feeling "back" to things...back to their old size, or back to normal. These things don't truly mean anything. It's like asking if your baby sleeps well (no one really wants to discuss this, do they?) Instead, maybe we could ask one another how we are moving forward. Ask: how has this monumental life moment changed things for you? Ask: how do you feel differently now that you're a mother (or father)?

These questions have value and they start new conversations that allow us to think and process our new challenges as women and parents.

I don't feel back to anything...and I don't want to be. I'm evolving in new ways since I've become a mother, and I'm damn proud of it!