#MeToo Learnings: A Mom’s Open Letter To Her Sons

We don’t want another generation of boys to become entitled abusive men, or girls to become silent victims who suffer alone. A new year is around the corner and as your parents, we have made some resolutions that we hope will be a step in this direction.

Dear sons,

It’s been a turbulent couple of months for our country. We have women finally speaking up after years of silence to name and shame the men who harassed and assaulted them. The #Metoo movement started off in America to show solidarity with victims of sexual harassment and tell the women who were speaking up that they were not alone. In India, while there have been women speaking out from time to time, it was only recently, spurred on by the courage of one, hundreds of actors, writers, singers and regular office going people like us finally spoke up about their experiences of harassment in the workplace.

When we heard all these reports coming out our first reaction was one of horror and disbelief. Perhaps rather foolishly we first thanked our stars that we had sons. But then we realized if anything, we need to be the most responsible. We have sons, boys who may tomorrow despite our best attempts, grow up to be abusive men. It’s a very frightening thought. As we wait and hope that the women who spoke up get justice, we can’t help but wonder what we as parents can do to help change the situation.

We don’t want another generation of boys to become entitled abusive men, or girls to become silent victims who suffer alone. A new year is around the corner and as your parents, we have made some resolutions that we hope will be a step in this direction.


Consent IS important:

This can be with simple things like not forcing you to eat when you insist you are full, take your pictures when you say no or turn away, and threatening you into obeying us when you are clearly ill at ease. We promise that if you are uncomfortable hugging or kissing any of our adult friends or kids your own age, we will not force you. Even if it means offering explanations to well-meaning relatives, we will respect the importance of your consent. As a consequence, it is important you don’t touch or get intimate with anyone without their consent. If you hear them saying no, turning away or looking uncomfortable, step away immediately and stop anyone else who doesn’t. Even if it’s seemingly harmless wrestling or playing rough and tumble with a sibling, when the other person says ‘NO’ or ‘STOP’, you must stop immediately.

Who is the REAL boy/man?

Which brings us to our next big concern. Society’s definitions of what it means to be a ‘real boy’ or man are built on a toxic assumption of superiority, physical dominance and limited display of emotion. While parents are perhaps more open to their daughters choosing male-dominated professions, they are less encouraging if their son chooses a kitchen set over a Batman action figure or dance over engineering. It’s a genuine concern perhaps given how brutally boys are bullied for being ‘pansies’ or ‘girly’ if they don’t conform to the norms of masculinity. This segregation of personality traits, and subsequently choices of toys, games, and later careers and salary discrepancies are all dangerous foundation stones for creating a man who feels entitled to misuse his power, and women who are conditioned to stay silent and fearful.

Boy’s clubs and locker room talk are all just fancy words for groups of men condoning each other’s unacceptable behavior. Shun these with a vengeance. 

While the situation seems grim currently, we can’t give up, can we? So, this is us saying, play any game you want, be the boys you want to be. If other boys make fun, bully or harass you talk to us about it. We will help you find ways to handle them, stand up to relatives who question your choices, and if needed intervene on your behalf. You are not entitled to violence, aggression or any other demeaning behaviour simply by virtue of being a male. Women are not fragile or incompetent creatures who need help at doors and in public transport. Be a safe space instead for a woman/girl to approach if she has undergone harassment or assault. Say you believe her and offer to help in any way that you can. At home, chip in with household chores when we ask you to. No job comes with a label that says, “for women/men only”, and a real man is one who contributes equally both financially and domestically.

Don't support the objectifying of women:

Empathise and think about all the images and content that will be thrown at you every day, and we will talk about it with you too. When you see a woman’s body being used to sell men’s products, a cheap song in a movie where she is objectified, or if you see a girl being teased and harassed in school or college, think about how she must feel. Is it fair that we reduce a woman to her body parts or keep telling young girls you study with that they need to make themselves appealing to boys? Of course, this doesn’t mean that we don’t expect you to flirt, fall in love or have crushes as you grow up. But as we wrote earlier in this letter, consent triumphs any deep feelings of passion you may have. When a man or woman you desire says no, it means no. There is no other meaning.

Remember this, forever:

Lastly and most importantly remember that we are always here for you. You can talk to us about anything, anytime, and in any way comfortable for you. You may think we are being preachy, but in a world where our achievements as a race have not taught us how to treat our fellow human beings, especially women with dignity, it is our responsibility to be the change we want to see. We love you for exactly who you are and for the men we hope you grow up to be.


Your parents.


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