A few people have alerted me to this video of toddlers and you can watch as a little boy hugs a little girl multiple times and each time he does, she pushes him away. A few of the times, he seems to be prompted to continue by the person with the camera. It’s a full two minutes and nothing changes – he hugs her, she pushes him away, he gets up and hugs her again and she pushes him away again.
Clearly this isn’t street harassment because they know each other and it isn’t sexual harassment because they’re toddlers and don’t have an understanding of all that, but it is a problematic situation in which adults are standing by and letting (encouraging?) this little boy to do something the girl doesn’t want him to do and then instead of helping her use her words to tell him to stop, they’re letting her push him down over and over.
The Good Men Project linked to the video via the How to Be a Dad’s site, where the author labels the post “My Life with Women” and writes, “This one symbolizes every attempt I’ve ever made at relationships with the fairer sex… …. …. until my wife.”
The he writes, “I could be the misogynist here and make some comments about just how badly the lady little treats this fine, young man, but women are pretty great. Maybe this kid needs to get a job, buy a sweet ride (Power Wheels, perhaps?) and learn some Karate, proving himself a worthy love interest?”
And I find that very problematic. Implying that this little toddler and all women who reject men are stuck-up, bitchy, and only after good-looking or rich men is harmful. Instead of looking at the actions and saying, this girl doesn’t want to be hugged, they are focusing on the poor boy and how mean she is. She may have 10 reasons or only 1 for why she doesn’t want to be hugged by him and all of them are valid and should be respected.
No means no, even when you’re a toddler. Especially when you’re a toddler. Fifteen percent of sexual assault and abuse victims are under age 12. Teaching kids how to protect themselves at a very young age is crucial to helping them know how to prevent or get help if they are victimized and can teach them skills they can use all of their life.
This attitude that women owe men attention no matter what contributes to how, when some men are ignored or rejected by the women they harass on the street, they call them a bitch, a ho, throw trash at them, chase them, or tell them they were ugly anyway. Instead of thinking logically about all the reasons why a woman may not respond positively to a man who hollers at her on the street, men feel it is an affront on their masculinity and lash out.
Another problematic aspect of the video is the number of people who applauded how persistent the kid is. Some people in the comments of posts talked about being disappointed he never got her in the end. Guess what, you don’t always “get the girl” in the end. No means no! 1,006,970 women and 370,990 men are stalked annually in the U.S. We need to teach kids, especially boys because they are the bulk of the stalkers, not to follow or keep hugging etc women and girls who clearly don’t want that attention.
So those are my thoughts on the video, what are yours?
Unfortunately we don’t live in a “culture of consent.” Consent doesn’t mean a damn thing to most people. Instead, people feel entitled to do whatever the fuck they want simply because they’re physically able to and that is my biggest problem with the toddler video. That little boy wants to hug the little girl and is physically able to do so therefore he does DESPITE the fact that she repeatedly uses negative feedback methods to communicate her non-consent. She actively denies her consent to his invasion of her physical space and not only does he ignore it but the adults ignore it too. This is a teaching moment and both of those kids are learning valuable lessons. That little boy is learning that it’s perfectly fine for him to do whatever the fuck he wants and that not only will there be no negative consequences for violating consent but there will actually be positive consequences for it considering that the adult involved is encouraging his behavior. Meanwhile the little girl is learning the same thing - other people will violate her consent as though they have the right to do so, people who see it happening will encourage it and provide positive reinforcement for that behavior no matter how hard she fights to maintain her own agency, and in the end the only person she can count on for protection or to care about her consent is herself.
Since shit like this is what kids are being taught from day one it’s hardly surprising that when they grow up to be adults they act the same way only it becomes rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment. This is rape culture in action and the only hope for ending it is for us to actively create a culture of consent, a culture in which consent is the most important thing in any and all interactions no matter what.
This is why I do not force or shame my son into touching anyone in any way he doesn’t want to. If someone says “give me a hug” and he says no, and they try to hug him anyway, I get between them and say “He said no. He doesn’t have to.” I’ve been told by my family members that this is rude. I have no patience for this fuckery. I have told them straight out, “No, what’s rude is you ignoring his lack of consent. If somebody says you don’t touch them, you don’t touch them.” And they act like I’m the most liberal California hippy they’ve ever seen.
Because I think consent is important even when a person is a toddler.
Just putting in my two cents - people may respond to this post (and probably have) about how the OP is overreacting and it’s just kids being kids, but this shit starts early. When I was six there was a kid at school who would always try to kiss me. When I told my mom about this, she told me to tell him to stop, and I hesitated to do so because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. At six years old I already had the thought process that telling a guy that I didn’t want his attentions was somehow rude. So don’t discount these attitudes even when talking about little kids. It’s insidious.
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