Dear Sons, She Doesn’t Mean You.
January 23, 2017
In 7th grade, as I perused bedding sets at JCPenny with my mom, a 40+ year old male employee waited for her to be out of earshot before he turned to me and said, “You could buy new sheets…or you could just come home and share my queen size bed with me instead.”
In 9th grade, as I was waiting for my food at the counter at Taco Bell, an employee stuck his hand completely down my shirt and groped me.
In 11th grade, as I was scrolling MySpace on my computer, a man walked into the garage of my parent’s home during a yard sale and said, “You got any naughty pictures of yourself on there? I’d love to see them. Or help you take some if you don’t.”
…and on and on.
I’m not sure I’m that special, I think I’m just a woman. Sexual harassment is a part of life.
It’s vile, it’s disgusting, it’s…very real.
Those examples are the mildest I could think of, but they are certainly not the only, nor will they be the last.
So I get it.
I get that we now have a president who has chalked his degrading, despicable remarks about women up to “locker room banter”. (I get that my deepest desire is to punch him in the throat for that.)
I get that women are both disgusted by and fed up with unwarranted, unwanted sexual jokes and advances. (Like…how is this even still a talking point.)
I get all of it.
And S A M E.
But here’s where I start to squirm a little bit…
when I see the decisions and actions of sex-crazed, chauvinistic creeps being broadly projected on all men.
when the story of one morphs into the rule for all.
It’s easy to do.
When your encounters with a certain gender or class or ethnicity or culture are overwhelmingly negative, of course it can shape your respect for that group as a whole.
There’s a small part of me that has to fight the belief that all male JCPenny employees are child molesters. It’s ludicrous, but it is an actual thought I still have. One single man tarnished my view of an entire department store chain.
It’s really easy to lump everyone together.
And maybe we don’t mean to, or realize we even are.
So I want to clarify. Make it crystal clear.
Because, you see, there are 4 men in my own home that are nothing like the men in the stories above.
I’m married to 1; I’m raising 3.
And the rhetoric they’re seeing in culture today doesn’t say “women are equal” as much as “men are pigs”.
So let’s be careful, women, in how we stand with and for each other against attitudes and behaviors, not against men as a whole.
For equality, not neutrality.
For our voices to be heard in equal measure, not for theirs to be completely silenced.
Can we do both? Be proudly woman and also fully supportive of men?
It seems like we’ve lost our ability to be a both/and nation.
As a result, I fear my boys are growing up in a world where they will have to apologize for being male as much as we fight to be equal females.
Where they will have to downplay their strength because men have used strength to abuse in the past.
Where they will have to tone down their masculinity because that somehow threatens femininity.
I used to think those “I’m getting my shotgun ready” dad jokes were funny, but now I find myself wanting to rebut them. I don’t (because I’m not a total kill-joy) but if I did, I’d say,
“Good news! I personally know 3 gentlemen who have been taught to respect and cherish your daughter (and everyone else), with or without shotgun motivation!”
Because my boys, you guys? They are strong. And mighty. And brave. And kind. And loving.
They stand up for what’s right. They stand up for others.
I want nothing more than for them to be proud of who they are. Proud to be men.
As proud as I am to be a woman.
So, I get it. I’ve experienced firsthand the slimy, humiliating vileness of harrassment. And it is completely unacceptable.
I abhor the fact that our nation’s leader has acted in the very same manner in the past.
But for the sake of my husband and my boys and every other good man I know, I cannot – will not – let the actions of a few shape the way I view and think and, most importantly, talk about the whole.
So I stand with and for women, sure. I love women. I am a woman. Women are awesome and deserve the best.
But I also stand with and for good men.
And I stand as a mama trying her darnedest to teach her boys to do the same.
While I can’t fix stupid, I can raise better.
I hope you’re doing the same.