Some jokes or comments really sit with you. For example, I’ve been ruminating about this one comment someone made months ago, which they likely did not mean in a malicious way, but stayed with me.
I’m paraphrasing, but it was something like:
“Now that you have a son, I’m sure you understand now. This will totally change the way you felt about men and what you post about men. You’ll see.”
The implication was offputting. This person thought that what I would say or post about men (mostly news articles) was inflammatory, or it touched an uncomfortable truth, one that compels us to jump up and say:
“Not all men.”
Certainly, not all men. Not all men rape, not all men hurt people, not all men are misogynistic, not all men are violent, not all men are abusive.
But for some reason, whenever I have discussed men that are those things, it offends people. Let me just say this right now and be clear.
My having a son did not change how I feel about bad men. Because I have no intention to raise a bad man.
I will not raise my son to think that he is superior to another person. Not because of their creed, religion, race, or gender. I will not raise my son to feel that he is entitled to opportunities because he is a boy. I will not raise my son to think that it is okay to take out his anger on women or children. He will not be taught to pick fights to be seen as worthy. He will not learn from me that being kind to someone entitles him to sex or a relationship. That he is not the owner of the person he is with, and if a relationship ends, he needs to handle it with dignity and grace. He will not learn from me to raise his hand to anyone, outside of defending himself from harm.
He will learn about the mistakes of other men, of other people assigned male at birth, but I will not teach him that that is who he should be. He will not learn from me that to be a man is to be aggressive, volatile, and abusive in his language to others. He will not be afraid, not because of me, to be vulnerable and to show that he has feelings. And he will never, on my watch, think that it is better to suffer and be in pain, rather than to seek professional help for whatever problems he may have in the future. Not because of me, not while I am responsible for him.
My having a son does not mean that I will become an enabler instead of a mother. To think that because I am his mother, I will not call out anything wrong he does, and that I will say to him, “not all men” is toxic. My son will not learn from me that he is going to be toxic without repercussions from others or the world.
My son will also not learn this from his father. My husband is a good man, who will teach his son what it means to be a good man. Being good does not mean being perfect, but it means taking accountability. My son will not learn from his father that being a man means scoffing at the pain of others. To be a man does not mean that you need to play a role. Life is not a stage. And still, everybody is still watching you and what you do. And it is your behaviors that dictate who you are, not your genitals and not your socialization into a gender.
My son will be whoever he wants to be, but he will not learn the toxicity from us.
And while I can’t control my son, while I can’t be sure that he will not be or do any of those things, I know that he does not have to learn them from the four walls he calls a home. He does not need to learn them from the place in which he is supposed to be safe.
And I am going to continue to speak about these things. Because I do believe that not all men do toxic things.
But how can I teach my son any of that, if I ignore the ones that do?