My 11 year old son is desperate to play the video game ‘Grand Theft Auto’. Some of his mates, of the same age, are allowed to play it. I have strictly forbidden it, for various reasons, but I have specifically stated the main reason is that the game is disrespectful to women. In GTA it is possible for the characters to pistol whip a prostitute. This is a difficult explanation in itself. The notion of a prostitute and pistol whipping are not part of his everyday parlance, but he is a curious child and ‘no’ is never enough. He needs a rationale. This response extends his thinking.
My son has tried every trick in his negotiation book to change my mind but I am resolute. In the end, I warned him that it was no longer a point for discussion and if he did not accept what I was saying I would begin a campaign to lobby every parent is his school year to draw their attention to the unsuitability of this game. Indeed, not only would he not be allowed to play, but neither would any of his friends. Finally, he knew I was serious and knows me well enough to know that this was not a veiled threat. As a result of this decision we often talk about ‘respectful behaviour’. Especially, as he is sexually awakening and becoming very aware of women’s breasts. Yesterday, he said to me, “it is normal mummy, that 11 year old boys notice women’s breasts.” I explained that it was normal, but it was impolite to stare at them and make lewd, personal references to them. It is essential to respect women, their bodies and their feelings. But more importantly it is essential that we have these conversations with each other as a mother and son. As uncomfortable as some of the more challenging conversations have been at times as he explores and learns about his own evolution at least I can guide him and talk to him without creating a culture of shame, or secrecy. I, too, am respecting his transition into adulthood.
Actress Emma Watson has eloquently managed to bring the feminism debate into 2014 and I salute her. I have been writing about my feminism since 2010. Gender inequality is an issue I have battled all of my life by unapologetically, challenging the status quo.
Watson states: “For the record, feminism by definition is: ‘The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.'”
The purpose of her speech was to invite men into the debate because gender inequality cannot be tackled by women alone. It is a partnership.
“I want men to take up this mantle. So their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too – reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned and in doing so be a more true and complete version of themselves,” she said.
I agree with her wholeheartedly and I believe this conversation begins in the home. Last month, my estranged military husband finally, agreed he was a feminist. It was a landmark moment in our relationship’s evolution. Over the years we have battled continuously about who is in charge when really we should be focussed on creating an environment of empathy, where we challenge conventional behaviours, treat each other with courtesy and respect, and value each other’s role and contribution. Emma Watson has raised the stakes in gender equality. It is no longer just a woman’s issue, it is now a societal issue, where men are stakeholders too. It’s elementary dear Watson. #HeForShe
Clare Macnaughton; a modern military mother; a feminist, British military spouse, and lifestyle journalist, writing about real life adventures.
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