We Don’t Just Need Strong Women, We Need Kind Men

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Love Your Neighbour / Unsplash

Women are having a moment right now.

And rightfully, rightfully so.

It’s as if Trump’s election sparked something inside so many of us. Something shifted. The low key, simmering resentment that we’ve felt for so long finally bubbled over and rose to the top. And now with Kavanaugh’s nomination, so many of us are ready to fight.

We’ve had enough. Enough with the misogyny. Enough with the sexual harassment and assault. Enough with people refusing to believe women. Enough of shaming survivors. Enough with the subtle sexism that shape shifts and changes into some new form with every conversation.

It’s absolutely disgusting, what’s going on in the media. I don’t even have to give context for you to know what I mean. If you’re reading this article sometime in the year 2018, I’m willing to bet there’s something horrific and gut wrenching going on with women and politics. Right now, it’s the nomination of Kavanaugh. And the intense public outcry from women across the country who do not want a rapist deciding the future of our sexual rights as a Supreme Court Justice.

Crazy, I know.

And as awful as it is that we actually have to debate these issues in 2018, it’s been cathartic and empowering to witness so many women stand up and demand more for themselves and our entire gender.

I’ve been a tad fanatical about women’s rights for a long time. It’s my favorite topic to talk about. I went to a women’s college, and I’m Hillary Clinton’s number one fan. And as a new mother, I’ve been praying for the day I could teach my daughter to rise up and burn the patriarchy from the ground up.

But I didn’t have a daughter. I have a son.

My son is a white male from an upper middle-class family. So, what I’m saying is, I essentially gave birth to the enemy. And suddenly I’m having nightmares of raising a white supremacist, or a rapist, or a Paul Ryan 2.0. And while I tend to be a bit dramatic, all you have to do is turn on the news to realize that we are surrounded by these men on a daily basis. These aren’t people in our jail cells. They’re the men in our neighborhoods. They’re members of our churches. They’re the people currently running our government.

Except my son is good. I feel that in my core. With every smile and giggle and hug, I know that this little boy has a loving heart and a warm soul. I know it. But I’m also willing to bet that all mothers feel this way about their children. And some of those children still grow up to do terrible things.

What can I do? I ask myself that question a lot. It’s harder than I would’ve imagined, raising a boy to become a kind and respectful human in 2018. It’d be easier to have a girl, to use that simmering anger as fuel to propel her to become anything she desires, critics be damned.

But what do I do with my son? How do I teach him to be kind, to be gentle, to feel his emotions when there are hundreds of examples of powerful, “professional” men who are not doing the exact opposite? How do I teach him to respect others, and use his privilege as a platform, and view women as equals when the President of the United States refuses to do so?

Toxic masculinity is a problem in this culture. I think if you follow rape and sexual harassment and sexism down to their very core, you will find toxic masculinity. This need to be the best. To be strong. To be unflappable. It’s the constant lesson we’ve been teaching our men — to stuff their feelings and hide behind this facade of toughness.

And it’s still around. I see it all the time, in men who do not want their sons to wear pink or play with Barbie dolls. Coaches who tell their five-year-old players to toughen up because boys don’t cry. Clothing that’s covered in bulldozers and dinosaurs and superheroes. It’s the same message over and over again: be tough. Be strong. Be powerful. Then, and only then, are you worthy. Then, and only then, will you be respected.

We need to do better by our sons so that they will grow up to be better men.

It reminds me of a quote by Gloria Steinem: “We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.”

Which brings me back to the question that keeps me up at night: how do I raise my son to be a soft, gentle human in this world?

The thing I keep coming back to is kindness. I want my son to be kind. And even though he’s only ten months, it’s something I tell him often. It’s what I say to him every day when he wakes up and it’s the mantra I whisper every night when he falls asleep: “Be kind. Be kind, be kind, be kind.”

Because to me, raising my son to be a kind, responsible, empathetic human is the great work of my life. While the world desperately needs strong, bold women, it also truly and deeply needs kind, compassionate men. We need the kind of men who will stand by women, who will honor and respect them, who will go after their dreams and give back to others and care about the future of this country.

We need good men. That is the challenge of our society right now. And I’m truly honored to be tasked with the responsibility of raising one. TC mark

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