Hi! As I write this, I can hear you singing “Baby Shark” quietly to yourself in bed, trying to fight sleep. You’re so funny these days. You make me laugh every single day, and I love nothing more than watching you grow and learn.
I also worry about you all the time. Like all parents, I worry about you like I breathe — constantly and involuntarily.
You were just a baby when #MeToo entered our national consciousness last October and immediately become a cultural touchstone. At 18 months old, your most pressing concerns were Sesame Street, grilled cheese, and fire trucks. You won’t remember how it felt to watch those floodgates break and see the collective pain that women have carried in silence for so long spill out into the open. You won’t recall the distinct blend of pride and anguish as woman after woman reached into the darkest corners of their souls and pulled out their secrets to lay bare, many for the first time.
You won’t remember, but I will. More than anything, I’ll remember watching your carefree exploration and feeling simultaneously terrified and comforted. Terrified because I know I can’t wrap you up and keep you safe by my side forever; comforted because women are amazing and you get to be one of them. Since #MeToo went viral a year ago, 429 prominent figures have been publicly accused of sexual misconduct. Many have lost their jobs, been blacklisted from their industries, and even faced criminal charges. Women did that. We took our trauma and manifested it into real change. I couldn’t be more excited for you to join this incredible, worldwide federation of fighters.
The gut-wrenching truth, my sweet girl, is that you are very likely to experience sexaul assault during your lifetime. One in three women will, and you may be one of them. This fact causes me physical pain, but it would be naive to ignore. As visceral and all-consuming as my worry is, it can’t shelter you from the world we live in — a world in which women are still too often seen as objects for the taking.
What I can do is fight for a world in which shame and silence are no longer the status quo, and a society in which victims are given the benefit of doubt over perpetrators. That world is possible. I felt that possibility as I watched news footage of Harvey Weinstein being led away in handcuffs. I tasted it when I saw women and men take to the streets en masse to protest the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. We are within reach of a society that gives equal weight to womens’ voices. As with all significant cultural shifts, it will be too slow and too painful, and it will be accelerated by the next generation — yours. As I prepare you for the world, I am also preparing you to continue this fight. As I do, I make you these promises:
- I promise to grant you complete autonomy over your own body. If you don’t want hugs, kisses, or cuddles, I will respect your no without question. Nobody is entitled to physical affection from you, not even me.
- I promise that you’ll never hear me ask what a victim was wearing, how much she’d had to drink, or why she was out so late. You may hear from classmates or talking heads or internet comment sections that the burden of preventing sexual assault falls to women. You won’t hear it from me.
- I promise that I will never ask you to mask your own discomfort for fear of seeming rude, as women everywhere have been taught to do since birth. If you are accused of rudeness, so be it.
- I promise to remind you every day of your incomparable worth; that you are smart and kind and brave and can accomplish all you can imagine and more.
Being that I am far from a perfect mom and person, I’m almost guaranteed to mess up or get something wrong. When I do, I ask that you guide and educate me, as young people are often required to do.
I wish desperately that I could shield you from your own #MeToo moment, but the truth is that I can’t. I can, and will, fight tooth and nail to ensure that if and when you need to stand up and say “me, too,” you will be supported. You will be listened to. You will be believed.
We are in this fight together, and we can win.
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