As anyone who has ever read my bio probably knows (or doesn’t know because bios are boring :P) I’m an avid Survivor fan. I’ve only missed one season out of the 38 finished seasons of the US version. I implicitly know edgic though I don’t make charts. I know my contestants similar to how sports fans know their players. I have even dragged my family (some of them kicking and screaming) into my obsession.
When the Varner-Zeke controversy happened, I felt that pain and railed privately about what happened, but in that situation we were given a certain amount of closure immediately with Zeke’s entire tribe standing up for him and Varner instantly feeling the backlash before being voted out.
But last night was something different.
Survivor is a family event in my house. We watch this together, we play an in-house fantasy survivor game (I have yet to win–argh!), we chat about our favorite contestants or who’s winner pick will pan out. This show reflects all types of people and gives rise to conversations about real-world situations, and I always think that’s a positive result of us watching together.
Last night wasn’t just hard, it was heart-wrenching, because this is the world my daughter is growing up in. A world that will invalidate her feelings, push against her boundaries and vilify her when she stands up against situations she has every right to stand up against.
She isn’t going to just have to fight men like Dan who constantly reach through her boundaries despite requests not to. She’s also going to have to fight against people like Elizabeth and Missy who will lie, manipulate and undermine victims.
She will also have to fight against people like Aaron, who think that because a situation didn’t apply to them directly, it must not exist. She will also have to suffer with people like Tommy, Dean, Elaine, and Lauren whose silence is deafening.
But this morning, I’m feeling better, because she’ll have Janets on her side who will always listen to what she has to say. She’ll have Jamals on her side, who support her right to her feelings and the right to choose when and how to be open about those feelings.
My winner pick is Missy. Both my kids chose Elizabeth. Unlike a lot of people, I’m not furious with these two women because I know that they have become normalized to a behavior that should not be normalized.
I know this because I have been that same person. I’ve been the silent one when I should have said something. I’ve been the one to lie and say “everything’s fine” when everything was not fine. Because I was made to feel afraid of saying anything contrary.
I tell my daughter that she has a right to her body, a right to choose who hugs her, who kisses her, who picks her up. I’ve taught her that her “stop” should be respected, no matter what it’s referring to, whether it’s to me stroking her hair, tickling her, hugging her. I spent years asking what I had permission to do and her response being “only hugs and loves,” precluding all pokes, tickles, pick-ups or nose boops. It became a game. I asked if I could do bird kisses, dragon kisses, gnome kisses, butterfly kisses, zombie kisses (she actually came up with zombie kisses in order to pretend to eat my brain). This game always, at its core, was about respecting her saying “no” to anything I came up with if she was uncomfortable.
And you know what? It was worth it. Because one day she started saying “Mom, you can tickle me…if you want.”
So instead of having horrible memories of being tickled and hating it, she requests it and knows that if she says “stop” that’s exactly what it means. So she doesn’t yell “stop” or “no” when I tickle her. She yells “don’t stop” despite being breathless with laughter.
I think it’s inordinately important for this to be a tenet in our lives, to teach our children to be respected at a young age, especially young girls, so that when they grow up they will expect and demand to be respected when they say “stop” rather than being forced to laugh inappropriateness off because that’s what they’ve been conditioned to do their entire lives.