To the little girl we saw while out and about the other day, I am sorry. I am sorry I didn't stick up for you. It was wrong. I was wrong, the other adults were wrong. What happened was not okay.
For everyone else, here is the back story. Joey and I were out with Perrin. They had gone off to look at something and I was just taking in my surroundings. I saw a family group near by. A little girl, probably 3 or 4, was walking over to her mother to say something when one of the men sitting nearby reached out and grabbed the little girl and pulled her up into his lap. She immediately started protesting, kicking her legs and trying to wiggle away. Instead of letting go, the adult laughed. She realized he wasn't letting her go and she started to cry. Still holding onto her, the adult told her to "stop whining." Her mother, finally addressing the situation, said only "You were excited to see Uncle so-and-so earlier."
I wanted to say something. I wanted to yell "Stop it!" I wanted to tell him to put her down. To take his hands off her. To LISTEN to her. But I didn't. I kept my mouth shut. I didn't want to be "that person." And I am so sorry. I should have been that person- that person to let the little girl know that her voice does matter. That no one is allowed to touch you without your permission. That no means no. That you have a right to stick up for yourself and it doesn't make you whiny or bad. That just because you were excited about seeing someone early in the day doesn't mean they have a right to your body.
THIS is rape culture. This is how deep in we are. When we don't realize the messages we are sending our children. If someone is bigger, stronger, has more authority, they can do what they want with you. And you are expected to be polite. To protest, to fight back- that's being whiny, bitchy, cold. What's your problem? He was just joking around. Why can't you just have a sense of humor? You liked him earlier. You flirted/kissed him/went home with him...what right do you have to say no now? Don't be a tease.
I doubt the lesson was that blatant for the little girl. She probably couldn't even articulate what she had learned from the experience. But how many times has she been taught that lesson? Don't pull away when Uncle Bob hugs you, it's rude. Don't shy away when Aunt Gertrude kisses you, you'll hurt her feelings. If something makes you uncomfortable, just ignore it because you need to be nice. Because your body is not your own; it exists for the gratification of others.
No one has a right to anyone else's body. Not even parents. Tickling, hugging, kissing, cuddling, holding- these are gifts for an individual to give freely, not things to be taken. Children are so small and so helpless and instead of protecting them we take advantage of them. We ignore their voices. We violate their bodies. Strangers in public like to walk up and try to touch Perrin on the head or grab his hand. How many adults do you think they walk up to and touch without permission? Children are not public property. They are not anyone's property. They are people. Let's start treating them with some basic respect and human dignity.