Last weekend's SlutWalk Melbourne was attended by thousands protesting against victim-blaming and slut-shaming in sex assault cases. At the rally were Catherine Manning and her children: daughter Lucinda, 14, and sons Jem, 11, and Lachlan, 13. Pretty cool, huh? Well, not according to some people, who felt the need to call Manning out for taking her kids to the rally after a picture of her sons holding protest signs was shared on the Facebook page of activist Van Badham.
In response to the critics who deemed it "not appropriate" for a mother to take her kids to Slutwalk, Manning reiterated her belief that it is an appropriate thing to do. In fact, she believes it's a really important event for them to attend, and we couldn't agree more.
Manning should be so proud of her sons and their "Boys will be boys respectful" sign. It's not as if they're preschoolers. They're at an age where they need to be getting the right messages about sex and consent, and what better way than to be part of an event that turns stereotypical, misogynistic views on their head?
If we don't involve young men in the conversations about sex assault and consent, we're wasting our breath. Gender stereotypes are just as harmful to boys as they are to girls. By encouraging boys to become part of the solution, they can feel empowered rather than demeaned.
The only way to stamp out sexism is to teach the younger generation to be more socially conscious. Hopefully it won't be too many years before it won't be incredible that young boys are doing this, because it will be the norm.
Catherine Manning's sons are sure to grow up into fine men who are proud to stand up for what they believe in and won't tolerate sexism or victim-blaming. Respect for women and respect for humanity should be taught to every young man at the earliest possible age. It's not difficult, and the effect it will have on the world will be staggering.
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