Whenever my four-year-old son informs friends at a dinner party (or, you know, random passing strangers at the library, as the case may be) that he lives in East Nashville, and before that he lived in Brooklyn, and before that he lived “in Mommy’s uterus and came out of her vagina,” shocked looks abound. But honestly, I’m damn proud that my preschooler knows where babies come from, and I’m working hard to teach him about the other important, albeit uncomfortable, topics too — like consent. And it’s nice to know I’m in good company: Actor Keira Knightley told Porter Magazine recently that her 4-year-old daughter Edie is already an expert on consent.
How so? Well, after ever-feminist mom Knightley banned fairytale films from her house for years (including classically problematic “a handsome prince will rescue you / fix all your problems” tales such Cinderella and The Little Mermaid), resourceful Edie has somehow managed to sneak in contraband — or at least watch the movies at friends’ houses.
“She’s watched them all now,” Knightley told Porter, groaning. But hope is not lost, because it’s clear even at age 4 Edie is able to see through the films’ glossy-yet-creepy facades: “When we watched Sleeping Beauty,” Knightley explained, Edie said, “‘It’s not OK that man kissed her without her permission!’”
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As #KeiraKnightley returns to the big screen in #MissWorld comedy-drama #Misbehaviour, she talks to #PORTER about supporting female filmmakers, the media's treatment of women and why she’s finally succumbed to letting her daughter watch Disney films. Read the interview and see the shoot, featuring the season’s beautifully chic monochrome pieces, at the link in bio 🖤
No, Edie, it is not! Honestly, how sneaking up on a sleeping teenage girl and making out with her was ever considered the height of fairytale romance completely baffles me. (Sleeping Beauty was one I also didn’t enjoy at age 4; I was a Robin Hood kid myself).
“I can’t tell you how pleased I was,” Knightley added of her daughter’s awareness. “If I don’t do anything else, I’ve managed to drum that in!”
We’re pretty sure she’s drumming in plenty of valuable feminist lessons into little Edie’s head. For example, this past fall when Knightley spoke about the inequality of men and women in the workplace:
“You look into a job as a woman and your employer is very much going, ‘Have you got childcare? Are you going to have to run out because the kid is ill?’” Knightley told BBC Breakfast‘s Louise Minchin. “And they’re not doing that with men who are fathers. Because they’re basically going, your wife, girlfriend, the mother of your children will look after them.”
And that may be particularly true in the film industry, which (as this year’s Oscars can attest) still boasts such very paltry representation of women and women’s stories.
“You have to give female filmmakers the chance to fail, because men are given that chance and then they come back and make amazing films, but female directors are not,” Knightley told Porter. “They are expected to be perfect, right from the get-go… You need to have women telling their experiences, [which] don’t all stop at happily ever after. What the f*** happens after happily ever after?”
Luckily, little Edie — and her baby sister, Delilah, who was born September 2019 — have a badass, outspoken working mom to show them that “happily ever after” is not how the story ends — and that unsolicited sexual advances while you’re sleeping count as assault, not romance.
And for those naysayers who think 4 years old is too young to start learning about consent and sexual assault? Nope.
“The earlier we talk to kids about consent, the better,” Chasity Chandler, a licensed mental health counselor and certified sex therapist, tells SheKnows. “Touching, kissing, etc., should be discussed with a child as early as they have knowledge of the terms. Making small kids accept kisses from adults when they are visually uncomfortable or pulling away is a good example of a situation in which consent can be taught.”
That and, you know, a good ol’ family movie night viewing of Sleeping Beauty. Which, inspired by Knightley’s Edie, I’m about to go have with my son right now. Will report back!
Here are some other great movies for your next family movie night — whether or not they’re hiding lessons about consent.