Wednesday, June 4, 2014

"What is this, high school? #EdTech

Like many others in the edtech community I have been following the story told by a young lady attending ISTE last year. My initial reaction was shock and sadness. Sadness for the girl. Sadness for the men who had been implicated. Sadness for the entire community that I call my own.

I read it again and my oldest daughter walked by. The thought did occur to me that my very own daughter could one day be the victim of a sexual assault. The stats say about 1 in 6 women are. Rereading it as a mother, I thought about the help and healing I would make sure my daughter would receive. And then I thought about the very long conversation we would have about being a strong, intelligent woman and about not making repetitive, destructive decisions.

When she walked by her younger brother and called him a brat, my attention turned to the males in this story. Am I raising my son in a way to have complete respect for women? He's not old enough for us to have "that conversation" yet, but when we do will he understand that until he has been given a vocal yes, the answer is no? How will I help him to enter a world that says different? And then I thought about the men in the story and their families, their significant others, yes even their careers. And I shuddered. I shuddered because I know my community and some of the members in it that would immediately start a witch hunt. I wondered if these men would give their side of the story. I wondered would we as a community hear from the men that were about to be tried in the court of Social Media Opinion.

Why is that important? Because there are two sides to every story. Because you are innocent until proven guilty. Because demanding to be "off with their heads" is premature at best. Few things are black and white. And when you are going to call attention to an issue that exists in all of society (really, edtech just isn't that special) then we need to know as much about it as possible. The perceptions could be vastly different from another perspective. It's not "supporting rape culture"; it's being fully aware of the whole circumstance. It's not saying that this woman may or may not have been a victim; it's asking for all the facts.

Life has taught me that. Holding a 17 year old woman (yes you read that right) as she detailed the savage and repeated rape and abuse she had experienced for more than 7 years from her own biological father, taught me that laws are written to protect all until proven guilty. Watching her sob as he was given three years of prison time was painful. Standing by and protecting a teenage friend of mine while she detailed the sexual act she had with a man wasn't easy. He was divorced, ostracized, and enduring supervised visitation with his children when she came forward that it wasn't exactly like she originally said. That hurt. BAD. Forcibly demanding a woman more than twice my age leave my office after she not only made a pass at me, but felt the need to detail her weekend exploits with her lover, was one of the most difficult things I ever did. Listening to my boss and HR department tell me that they would do what they could to keep her away but she was an important asset..... that left me feeling downright dirty. I get it. I get #YesAllWomen down to the very core. I've lived it. And the result? I share my story. I tell people what is and isn't ok with me and my boundaries. I'm not passively standing by when someone could potentially need help or intervention; I'm aggressively present. Daily, I strive to protect those around me including myself.

As an educator, as a grown woman who has taught high school students, I understand the liabilities of taking students on an overnight field trip. Making sure girls are on one hall or floor of the hotel and boys on another. Being responsible for what they eat or drink, where they are, who they are with, and what they are doing every second of the day. At night, some teachers tape their doors to know if it was opened after curfew. Every precaution is taken to protect the young, the minors, when they are taken to overnight conferences. That is not the expectation for adults. It isn't welcome and it isn't wanted.

I am a grown woman capable of making my own choices, good and bad.  I decide to sleep in late or leave the conference early. It is my decision which sessions to attend, who to sit next to, and what I will order for lunch. In the evening, should I choose to go out, that is my decision too. I don't want and will not tolerate an organization forming a police state to "protect" me from myself and any one with who I choose to associate. That power of choice is mine and I will not give it up.

See how that works? By demanding an organization to "protect" me I am loudly proclaiming that I don't have the ability to do it myself. I'm quite capable thank you very little. I am an

  • Adult
  • Intelligent
  • Decision making
  • Female
and for that I will not apologize. I will not allow others to belittle it by saying that those qualities make me weak and expect society to rush in and keep me safe.

Do I ever walk down the street and fear that a man may overpower me and assault me? Yes. Regularly. In response, I walk with a group. Often that group includes at least one male. Have I ever been hit on by a man more than ten years my senior. Yes I have. Guess what? I've also been hit on by a man ten years younger than me. Did I ever feel like it was "creepy" in either direction. No. Age is just a number.

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling a lot older than 22.

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