The O’Reilly firing and his golden egg severance package has been filling my newsfeed this week. It’s not something I’ve dwelled on – I’m glad he’s being held accountable on paper – but “suffering” a punishment will be a lot easier with his $25 million dollar buyout package. It bothers me, but what irks me more is that this tale of multiple reports of sexual harassment by one man to a company and it’s reluctance to act is playing out daily in the American workforce.
If we knew exactly how to stop it instantly – we’d have already done it. It comes down to changing cultural expectations and behavior of men when they’re boys – and the education of young women on how to handle it.
So up until this morning – I was going to spend the rest of the time in this piece expounding on how O’Reilly is an egotistical, dirty old man (you can probably fill in the blanks – you’re reading it everywhere.) But I was stopped dead in my tracks this morning when my daughter on the way to school said to me –
“There is one thing bothering me at school Mommy.”
“A boy has liked me for the last two years and now he’s telling people that I kissed him.”
My instant reaction (keep in mind this is as we’re crossing a bridge where three interstates converge and I was only on one cup of coffee) was to say – “Oh honey, that’s so sweet.”
Then I proceeded to tell her about the little boy who had a crush on my in elementary school and shared that what made it worse was that he already had the same last name as me, so people teased we were married.
But then I started stewing on it as I solved the world’s problems sweating it out at the gym after I dropped the girls off. Did I handle that right? I don’t think I did. Is it okay that a boy has a crush on her. Yes. Should he be spreading rumors about whether she kissed him or not? Absolutely not. So I’m planning on revisiting this conversation with her after school, but I’m unsure of where to start.
I don’t want to set the expectation that we just have to accept unwanted advances or claims made by people who have a romantic interest. This boy should know that crushes are okay, but lies are not. But is this just part of growing up, and by saying something, am I creating a larger problem by making a “mountain out of a molehill” (sorry, I’m southern)?
I don’t have an answer – and would love responses from you all. For now, I’ve landed on asking her if her classmate’s claim is really spreading? Is it impacting her? Or does everyone know better and they’re just rolling their eyes? If it is, do I deal with it, or teach her how to put him in his place and dismiss it?
How I handle this? The answer to how we handle all or our children – boys and girls – is what could prevent any more O’Reilly’s 50 years from now. We need to teach our youngest generation what are appropriate ways to relate to each other and express admiration. Kids will have crushes – just like grownups – and the skills on how to handle those emotions on both sides could shift the paradigm.