As far as I can tell, you are all boy. You love to throw a ball across the room with the full force of your arms. You take your sweet, soft stuffed animals and use them as hammers on our furniture. You flirt with your teachers and church grandmas by blowing them kisses and playing coy games of peek-a-boo to make them smile.
As you grow up, I imagine you will hear a lot about what it means to be a boy, and a man. You will learn from your dad, your peers, and your role models. You'll spend time with a lot of other guys and you might talk about sports or cars or maybe women.
Sweet child, hear me when I say: this is not what honorable men talk about. The things we say influence what we do. Words create worlds. You cannot joke or whisper or tease about violating women-not even in the locker room.
Do not believe boys in your life who will try to tell you that this is the way to be "a man." Remember, that to be "all boy" does not mean that you touch without asking or that you talk about women as if they are not your equals.
This is not what honorable men talk about. The things we say influence what we do. Words create worlds.
No matter how far we've come-women still face harassment, objectification, and unwanted touch. Almost every woman you will meet will have a story.
Darling boy, it happened to me, your mama.
25 years old, I was riding my bike home. I was wearing a Habitat for Humanity t-shirt and yoga pants, but it doesn't matter. I stopped at a red light and as I stood over my bike at the crosswalk, a middle-aged man who I did not know walked up to me and grabbed my breast. Then, he walked away.
At first, I was in shock. I was embarrassed. By the time I got home, I was in tears.
He touched me without asking. I do not know where he learned that this was OK, but I want to make sure you know it isn't.
Being a boy and a man means that you have power.
It is not OK. It is not locker room talk. It is not that "boys will be boys."
Felix: in your life, you will have a voice. As a privileged, white male in the United States, people will listen to you. If you continue to grow up as "all boy"-remember, being a boy and a man means that you have power. You will be an influencer. You will have opportunities.
My deepest hope for you is that you use your power, your influence, your opportunities, and your voice to stand up for justice, to seek equality for those with less voice than you and to protect those who are more vulnerable than you.
You are just learning your first words: cat, Dada, ball, good, uh-oh… But before we know it, you will be jabbering away in full sentences and, soon, bonding with your friends in the locker room.
Use your words to build up, not to tear down, my love.
Use your voice to respect, honor, and empower others, not degrade them.
Over these past days, as I've seen so many people trying to defend "locker room talk," my prayer for you is that you will use your voice to speak with gentleness, honor, and respect for men and women alike-because the words we use shape the culture we live in.
Sarah Taylor Peck is senior minister of Community Christian Church in North Canton, Ohio.
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