Harvey Weinstein and #metoo are making me rethink a favourite kids’ game
By Rob Thomas
Jan 19, 2018
It was my favourite schoolyard game. I’m pretty sure the girls loved it, too. Maybe you know it? It starts when one kid yells, "Boys catch the girls and kiss them." It ends either with a kiss or when a girl, usually the one who is just about to get caught, yells "Girls catch the boys" and turns the game on its head. Some people call it 'kiss chase,' 'boy/girl chase,' 'chase and kiss' or even just 'the chase.' No, it is not just tag. It is much, much more than that. It was banned for a while at my school. But it was extremely fun, even before it was banned.
My eight-year-old tells me that they play ‘boys chase the girls’ at his school, too. I tried to get excited about that… but I couldn’t. It’s a Harvey Weinstein thing.
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Like most people, I recently watched my social media feeds explode with #metoo posts from female friends in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against Weinstein and a growing list of men, from Hollywood to the nine-to-five office. Of course those personal connections were what made the hashtag so effective at bringing home the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment. It has been a humbling experience for men, or I hope it has, and a prompt to take responsibility and make some concrete changes.
This brings me back to the childhood game I was so fond of, and that my son is now playing. Only now, I don’t like it.
I think the game sends a flurry of bad messages about gender, sexuality and consent. My dilemma as a parent is this: Can I let "kids be kids" without letting "boys be boys?"
No, I have not forgotten what is like to be a kid. I could go on and on about a girl named Jennifer — I chased her across the sand pits, soccer field and black-top of my own elementary school in the off-island suburbs of Montreal. And, if I managed to get it right, my nostalgic storytelling would sound an awful lot like Paper Girl blogger Mary Fons’ elegant homage to "Girls Who Chase Boys" and her own grade-school target Bobby Benshoff.
I share her nostalgia, I really do, but it really just amplifies my discomfort with the game.
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I will probably never be okay with this game. But I do have some things that I try to tell myself when the game comes up, and it does come up. I tell myself that I can’t really control the games that my kids play in the schoolyard and the impulse to do it isn’t necessarily a good one.
I have other opportunities to model the attitudes and behaviours I’d like to see. That means asking things like, "What happens in the game when someone doesn’t want to be caught?" My son will say something like, "That would never happen?" But I want him to think about the question, so I've asked him further,
"What if it did?" He tells me that would be gross, but then I turn it on him: "What if it happened to you?" This makes him silent, and it really gets him thinking. I'm not trying to control what he plays or how he plays, I'm just starting a conversation, so tell him, "You need to think about those things when you play a game like that."
I am more and more mindful of these opportunities when they come up. But I tell myself that the impulse to control is problematic, too.
I tell myself that grade school kids don’t have many opportunities to express their nascent sexuality. I may not like how rigidly heterosexual and gendered those opportunities seem, but I try not to judge too much. Sexuality is a curious thing, and we all wrestle with it. I tell myself simple answers aren’t helpful, either.
Most of all, I tell myself that this lingering unease I feel might be useful. It is good to feel uncomfortable. Maybe I can’t change this. Maybe not yet or easily. Maybe it is the prompt to find those things I can change.