I’m not surprised – Me, too

The news has been inundated this past week about Harvey Weinstein and his decades of sexual harassment and assault of women. When the story first broke, I wasn’t surprised. I know a great many women who were not surprised. This is par for the course in living life as a woman. (Yes, there are men who deal with this as well, but it is a pervasive issue for women.) John Oliver rightly chided the Academy for congratulating itself on getting rid of seemingly the one man who does this kind of thing in Hollywood.

Sunday evening brought forth a different way to highlight the pervasive nature of sexual harassment and assault in our society. This message filled social media –

Me, too.

Copied: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

 

It is really difficult to find a woman who has not dealt with this at some point in her life, and oftentimes on multiple occasions. It doesn’t matter how we are dressed, where we are, or what jobs we have (yes, women clergy deal with this all the time). And if we choose to report this, we know everything about us and our lives will be questioned as if it were our fault. We know people will doubt our stories, or think perhaps we just took things the wrong way. We know others will look at us with pity, instead of us as an autonomous individual who is competent and capable. And all that doesn’t even begin to touch on the nightmares or flashbacks – all the times we have to overcome fear or anxiety and attempt to trust ourselves or another person.

When I saw all the “Me, too” posts on FB, I continually tapped the anger emoticon. I’m angry. I’m mad as hell. The media keeps talking about being shocked, but this is a country who elected a serial assaulter as President, and wrote off his bragging as locker-room talk. This is a society that tells women they should dress in sexy and attractive ways, and then completely tears apart her clothing choices when she deals with harassment or assault. This is a society that encourages boys to be tough and powerful, and shames them when they are sensitive or cry.

The focus needs to be removed from the women, and placed on the men. What makes men think this is okay or acceptable? Certainly our legal system makes it easy to act in this way, and the falling back of Title IX (by a woman selected by Trump) does not help in the least. Men need to give other men loud and clear messages about what is appropriate and respectful behavior to women. And while I despise the men who say “since I have daughters I speak out about this topic,” we need to think seriously about the messages we give our children – whether or not they are our legal children. I have reared both a boy and a girl. It wasn’t easy talking about these things, but we did it. And we continue talking about these things. One of my goals for my son was to make him the best male feminist around. I knew it was critical to counteract the messages he received from society about how boys should treat girls, and what it meant to be a real man. As a mother to a son, I know I can do a great deal to help change this culture, one man at a time.

I hope people don’t just say they are shocked, or feel bad about the situation. I hope they get angry – angry enough to change our culture and our legal system.

Me, too.

 

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The Right to Parent

My daughter (center) with two of her best friends, also adopted from China and also my honorary daughters!

My daughter (center) with two of her best friends, also adopted from China and also my honorary daughters!

Today’s news is filled with a huge policy change in the world’s second most populated country. China has decided to end its one child policy. China is a major player on the global stage. More people speak Mandarin than English as a native language. Its economy directly impacts the global market. Its policies, both militarily and diplomatically, have major implications for numerous other countries. Yet, in my family, this policy hits much closer to home.

I always knew I wanted to be a mom. As a young teenager, I decided I wanted to adopt any children I had. Adopting babies domestically was quite difficult for many years (and is still not easy), and I knew there were countless children around the world who needed homes, so I intentionally chose to adopt internationally. When Angelina Jolie began to adopt children from around the world, I cannot say how much I envied her. She clearly articulated the thoughts I had on parenting and what it means to be a family. I eventually ended up with one birth child, and one child adopted from China. They are now college-aged adults who are the most important people in the world to me.

As people reflect on the one-child policy, there are so many different avenues to explore. We are facing a global population crisis, one which we never (or rarely) discuss in this prosperous nation of ours. China tried to deal with the issue when it instituted the policy so many years ago. However, the implementation of the policy has oftentimes been harsh, cruel, damaging and even inhuman. My daughter’s story (and so many stories of other children adopted internationally) turned out well. When we traveled to China to bring Ava home, everyone kept telling us she was a “lucky baby.” But we knew we were truly the lucky ones to have her in our lives. It has been vitally important over the years for her to understand her heritage and take pride in it. The Greensboro Chinese Association will forever be dear to me for all the myriad of ways they help adopted Chinese girls and boys to know their homeland.

Over the years, I have found myself oftentimes questioned about the situation in China which led to bringing Ava into our home. Many people who ask these questions do so from an elevated place, believing that our country is one of freedom where people can choose how many children they can have and not have the government interfere. Yet, the long-standing eugenics programs in the United States, including in my home state of North Carolina, challenge such assumptions. These forced sterilizations had nothing to do with overpopulation and everything to do with who has a right to parent. People in power believed they could play God and make those decisions for society. People on the fringes, who were seen as less than, were forcibly denied that right without their consent.

As so many people in our country hail the ending of China’s one-child policy, we set ourselves up on a pedestal, believing that our land of the free is above that sort of thing. Our history negates such a belief.

I feel quite fortunate to be a mom. I know not everyone is called to be a parent, but for those who hear that calling, the people in power should not deny it. This being said, we do have a global population issue that needs to be addressed. One of the major reasons I chose to adopt was because there were children who needed homes, and I didn’t feel a great compulsion to create a “mini-me.” Instead, I encourage each person to look into her own heart. Why do I feel called to be a parent? What does that say about a relationship with a child?

Parenting may be a right to some people, but instead I offer that it should be a calling, a privilege, a gift.

Perfect Parenting

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My baby girl turned 18 a couple days ago. I wasn’t with her that momentous birth day – a tiny Chinese woman was – a woman who, for whatever reasons, knew she couldn’t keep this precious baby and so made certain the local orphanage would have her so that a nice family could adopt her. I give thanks for that unknown woman’s gift every year. I do distinctly recall the birth day of my other child, and the entire 20+ hours of labor and delivery without drugs. The women who told me that you forget all the pain once you see that little baby must have had epidurals.

Parenting is always an interesting action. For me, it’s been thought-provoking and intriguing to rear one birth and one adopted child. The ridiculous questions I have received about loving a birth child more than an adopted one I have found tiresome and irritating. Can some people really think that small? I know the answer is unfortunately yes, but parenting in these circumstances is so much more compelling than such petty questions.

We live in a society where parenting centers around perfection. An accomplished mother is one who raises the perfect child – the little one whose smiling face fills the facebook pages and instagram accounts, who always has great adventures, whose pictures are filled with the best friends, who is showered with awards and accolades, who is destined to be the greatest success. Isn’t that the mark of a perfect parent? Yet, recent information about college suicide highlights that many students use social media as a way to mask their pain and depression. Parents who beam about the public image of their children are often stunned and surprised that the face does not reflect their child’s reality.

I know I’m not a perfect mother. No one is a perfect parent. There is no perfect individual on the planet. We owe it to our children to be authentic. If we hope they can live with integrity, then we need to model what that means. It does not mean treating a child like one’s best friend, revealing all the minutiae of our feelings and emotions. It does mean sharing honestly, in an age appropriate manner, about the realities of life and what it means to live each day. As much as we might want our children to think we are superheroes, with facebook enviable lives, we need to admit when we make mistakes and when we are wrong. We need to let them know that sometimes life is hard – we can’t always pay the bills, we are betrayed by friends, we have moments of despair. Yet, it is even more important to help them know that whenever we encounter these things, we can pick ourselves back up (usually with the help of our loyal friends), dust off the dirt, and take one step at a time towards the future.

Those smiling faces of the children and young adults on social media need to know that whatever happens, it’s not the end of the world. People aren’t perfect, and we all have difficulties in our lives. Yet, there is a tomorrow.

I know I’m an imperfect mother, and I know my children are not perfect either. They are perfectly wonderful, but one of my goals has always been to help them celebrate their strengths and find ways to work on their weaknesses. I’m thankful for all the years we’ve journeyed together, and hopeful that we can share many more in the future.