I have been stewing about the #MeToo movement for a while now, ever since I saw the first hashtag. It had this “bandwagon” feeling to me: jump on and shout out. I was silent. What kind of assault, harassment, and abuse were so many women lumping into #MeToo? It confused me, and still does; were they whistled at, groped, abused as a child, harassed with rude comments, grabbed, raped, or forced into the sex trade? Surely anyone could see the varying degrees of vast effects, from PTSD to irritation. (Is it belittling to say that being whistled at is irritating, not life-altering?) I have been trying to compose a thoughtful, intellectual response to my feelings and emotions but it’s complicated, so I have come to one reasonable thought; my children will know they are precious, their purity worth fighting for and their brothers and sisters in Christ worth defending.
#MeToo was tweeted, posted, copied and shared to express the vastness and magnitude of the problem and an attempt toward awareness of sexual harassment and assault. This topic is exhaustive, touching on: culture, power, sexuality, pornography, and abuse. I am not about to delve into all of its components nor do I want to — the movement itself fills my head with unwanted debates, defending and opposing arguments. The reality is, every day I wake up a mom and that is where my duties are.
If we, the American culture, are going to recognize and be aware of a “problem” please, dear mothers and friends, can we help each other with some solutions? In my opinion posting #MeToo does not help me or protect my children. I don’t have to understand it, I suppose, but I do have to mother my children. I do have to teach my boys to respect the gift of their sexuality, to be noble and to respect women as their equals; honoring and recognizing their inherit dignity and purity. I have to lead my girls by example and teach my girls that they are precious, to be respected; they need to be taught that they have something to protect and fight for.
Every day my responsibility is to help my children navigate through life with a Christian worldview. There are so many things I do not know and was never taught. I can complain about what I lacked growing up, or I can choose to teach my children about their sexuality within the comfortable confines of our faith.
Can the problem of objectifying, abusing, and using another human be addressed by how we raise our children? Isn’t it a start to teach them respect for their own body and that of another? Isn’t it a start to teach our boys not to give in to instant gratification and to recognize when someone is trying to use or coerce them? Isn’t it a start to teach our girls that they are worth so much more? It’s a start to make sure our children recognize what abuse looks like (grooming, and so on), to know they have a voice and should always speak up and shout out when they are in danger. It is a start to teach our children. I had a male friend once ask me how I was going to address my sons’ coming of age, I didn’t have an answer except some brief comment on biology and abstinence. He continued to share what he thought was a valuable approach: his mother left a basket of pornography in the bathroom. This does not teach boys how to respect the heart of a women; this will never teach purity and intimacy.
Those two words, purity and intimacy, kind of make me cringe. It’s just me; I love what they mean and what they stand for, I just never knew them. The word “intimacy” always sounded like cheap lingerie and purity reminded me of something I could never get back (once stained, always tarnished). I want the truth to resonate in my children’s hearts like John Paul’s words, purity “opens the way toward an ever more perfect discovery of the dignity of the human body.”
Purity enables one to view the entire person, where as lust limits one’s vision to the sexual values of the body. Because of this, lust robs sex of its depth. It is a reduction that blocks intimacy. Some have defined intimacy as “into-me-see” … Purity is not about seeing less of the body, but about seeing more of the person. -Jason Evert in Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves
How can we expect those with warped realities not to abuse and objectify others when our culture throws garbage at us — literally throws condoms at us like candy from a parade float, throws babies in the dumpsters, throws images in our face that stick with us and imprint in our minds, and talk around us is cheap and degrading? How can Fifty Shades of Grey be a best seller if everyone is aware that abuse and demoralizing another human is wrong? We are living in a culture that has a distorted view of a God-given gift. We cannot be silent about sexuality in a culture that separates it from the soul.
I never knew I had this other part of me that was both physical and spiritual, that needed to be protected, but when it was robbed and violated, my soul knew. Although it would take decades to understand its impact, my heart hurt and searched for a truth. Maria Goretti’s story has followed me throughout my life, coming in and out at different stages of maturity, and it bugged me until I came to know her better. Her story bothered me because in the back of my mind I was always thinking, “What about the girls that tried fighting back but were too little? What about the girls who didn’t know they had anything to protect?” I looked at her as one of the “lucky ones” — she resisted, was saved, and became a saint. I just finished reading My Peace I Give to You, Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints by Dawn Eden, and I came to a new peace and understanding when she shared St. Augustine’s words in defense of victims. St. Augustine reprimanded the pagans who claimed that virgins who were raped were no longer virgins, saying, “What sane man can suppose that, if his body be seized and forcible made use of to satisfy the lust of another, he thereby loses his purity?”
Maria Goretti was eleven years old and knew her value and fought to her death, not because she was afraid that being raped would leave her sinful, but for two valiant reasons. One, she was aware that she had a treasure to fight for and protect — her virginity; and two, she knew Alessandro would go to hell for raping her. She cherished her purity and simultaneously loved her attacker’s soul.
Although the holy-card image of her as a gentle maiden bearing white lilies is symbolically accurate, it fails to capture her fieriness. She embodied the saying of G.K. Chesterton that the whiteness of purity should not be imagined as something antiseptic, like hospital walls: rather, ‘it means something flaming, like Joan of Arc.’ -Dawn Eden, in My Peace I Give to You, Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints
Mothers, we want our children to protect their purity, to honor their God and to lead women and men by example — that sexuality and our brothers and sisters souls are treasures. We want our children to stand up in their classrooms, on the playground, on the campus, at their workplace, at the beach, in the bar, on the street, on the bus — you name it, to stand up where ever they see someone taking advantage of another. Maybe #MeToo doesn’t have to irk me but can put a new flavor to my own story and start a new chapter in our home: talking about being men of purity and honor and women of purity and worthy of respect.
This is just the start of the conversation. Please take a minute to comment below about how #MeToo makes you feel. How will you share with your children the dangers that lurk and the beauty worth fighting for? I need to have this conversation; I have six boys and three girls and I want them to be part of the solution, not just part of a movement. As a community of mothers, let’s share our wisdom.
Here are some resources I found valuable both for those who have experienced sexual abuse and for those who need a starting point to talk to their children, teens or adult children.
My Peace I Give You : Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints by Dawn Eden (the back of the book has a list of resources from websites to therapists )
We and Our Children : How to Make a Catholic Home by Mary Reed Newman (Chapter on Purity )
Saint John Paul The Great : His Five Loves by Jason Evert (Chapter on Human Love )
Copyright 2018 Maggie Eisenbarth