Hello, week after. First week. Checking in because I need to make sure we haven’t lost our way during the hundreds of hours dissecting everyone’s body language during the Trump Inauguration.
I don’t care that he left his wife at the side of the car and raced up the steps without her.
I don’t care that theirs might not be a marriage of “true love.”
I don’t care his wife doesn’t look happy – that’s her business.
Blame my South Asian roots or all the arranged marriages in my family, but I’m more interested in whether there is water on Mars than what goes on behind their closed doors.
Of course, they look like cardboard cutouts compared to the Obamas.
Of course, his cake was copied from Obama’s.
Of course, the photos show fewer people turned out for his swearing in than Obama, fewer people voted for this one.
Of course, his inaugural concert had no bonafide musical greats.
We can be gleeful about any (or all) of these things, but the fact is, he is now president. And we cannot lose the plot.
I don’t like him. I don’t have to. Would be nice, but not required.
I don’t agree with him. Again, I don’t have to.
I don’t agree with everything John McCain does but I respect him.
We cannot lose the plot because social media will encourage us to be caught up in the minutiae of all the mistakes to come (and there will be many… no one is perfect after all).
In the days leading up to the U.S. presidential election, I consoled friends who are also parents. Then over and over, on November 9th we had similar conversations. Their concerns fell across a spectrum of gender issues and what messages the election of Donald Trump sends to young women.
- “What can we say? She thought a woman would finally be president.”
- “She wants to know how someone who insults everyone is so popular.”
- “I don’t know how to answer when she says, can he say those things without anyone caring?”
I listened, as my mind churned through the flipside.
What are the messages this President, and his behavior as a candidate, send to boys about what is permissible as a man in society?
As a mother of two boys, I read over and over variations on the theme that the best way to circumvent men’s behavior is to better arm our daughters. Raise them vocal, aware, civic-minded. Let them demand their rights. As the mother of two boys, I get a free pass. This sent my feminist spidey senses tingling. Is male privilege is so ingrained that we cannot think of concerted ways we can raise boys to contribute to a just society? Is the fight for equality solely the burden of parents with girls?
The undercurrents of rape culture are embedded in the idea that the victim should fight back harder, wear something different, or abstain from alcohol. What these strategies suggest is that we can’t change men’s behavior.
“Boys will be boys…”
“This is how they talk in the locker room,” more than one person said of the leaked conversation with Billy Bush.
Other people said, “Well, that’s extreme. Sure we talk about how people look. No one says they’re going to grab anyone.”
We won’t argue the finer points of what goes on in the locker room, because I don’t know, and frankly, I don’t care. What is disturbing is the idea that this kind of talk goes on
What is disturbing is the idea that this kind of talk goes on anywhere and it’s okay, because, well, that’s how men are. The undercurrent of boys will be boys is that they, as a gender, are beyond redemption.
Do we hate men? (And I don’t mean in the way people accuse feminists of being anti-men) We must hate men. How else could we have such a low opinion of them?
I won’t go so far as to disparage Trump’s mother. That’s the logical leap, and the one you make whenever you want to hate on someone, whether you’re eight years old on the school bus, or an adult in a heated argument.
Many of the most misogynistic sayings we have (in any language) are about mothers.
“Where is your mother?” We ask errant, misbehaving children.
“Didn’t your mother teach you that [anything]?” We say to the poorly mannered.
“Son of a b@tch.” Is sure to escalate any argument.
There’s no burn like a bad mother burn.
Our boys are young, and with each successive year, I have am floored by the tremendous pressure on parents for shaping another human’s being. (The right to birth movement should take note that life, however, precious, is also an enormous chain of responsibility.)
We’ll do our best I think and hope that they don’t hurt anyone. Because Scott Peterson had a mother and father – so does Brock Turner – so did the four men in the Delhi gang rape of 2012, do ISIS members, and of course, Hitler.
We can no longer give boys an unconsidered pass in our societies – as the mothers, teachers, doctors, neighbors, or colleagues who spend our lives right next to them – if we believe in the African proverb so glibly quoted at weddings and birthdays: it takes a village to raise a child then it’s time the global village began empowering boys in dozens of little ways to be their full selves.
It’s okay to cry, to be sad, to play the piano, to have a doll, to like ballet, to read instead of play sports, to have friends who are girls, not your girlfriend, speak up to defend others rather than join in. Because it starts in these hundreds of moments in childhood.
It’s almost too late when he’s at the table signing executive orders with a group of other men, who look exactly like him, smiling in encouragement. (I say almost because I still harbor hope… that’s all we have, holding us against despair).
Together we can and we will reshape the narrow definition of masculinity that persists — even though it is 2017. We must.
Or the world will be going backward — like the finale of Battlestar Galactica — until we’re in animal skins and chasing dinner.
Of course, we need strong women to stand up and speak out in favor of reproductive rights, equal pay, and a host of other issues. Millions of them did that on January 21st – worldwide. We participated in solidarity even as far away as Qatar.
But we also need men. Lots of them. As many as were peppered throughout the events of the weekend, we need more.
Hundreds, thousands, millions of them.
Weak men confronted by strong women may turn tail and run. They will dismiss us as being angry, shrewish. “Confused” about our mission, they will claim not to understand what the fuss is about.
Weak men surrounded by strong men and women have nowhere to hide.