I thought things would be different.
When my daughter was born I was reading the book Sisters in Law about Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The book was a look at the contrasting lives of two incredibly influential and important women. They had different political views, different backgrounds, and different outlooks on life. Yet, they changed the world for women.
They both began their terms in my lifetime.
I thought things would be different for my daughter and for all the women born in her generation.
I remember watching Anita Hill testify before congress. I was 9 and I watched the hearing at my grandparent’s house. I don’t remember what exactly was said or what I thought at the time. I remember watching her sit in that chair, the indignation of all those old, white men, enveloping her. She sat there, her chin up high and exuding this powerful aura. I remember exactly how I felt watching her.
The man she was accusing of sexual misconduct was confirmed to the Court anyway. And here we are again. A Supreme Court nominee has once again been accused of sexual misconduct. There have been hearings and there will be an FBI investigation, but the old white men are still there and they still drive the bus.
Since the Me Too movement gained momentum, we’ve been extolling people to believe women. Listening to the things that are being said on social media, in private, on the congressional record, the problem isn’t that women aren’t believed. The things the current nominee is accused of, everyone knows they happened. The problem isn’t that his accuser isn’t believed. The problem is that the people who have the power to change things do not care. The problem is that men do not want things to change.
I have hundreds of Me Too moments. Some I’ve shared publicly, others I don’t want to talk about. All of them things I had shoved to the dark corners of my mind. Women are told, beginning when we are very young girls, to ignore things, to take them as compliments, to let it go, to get over it because it’s not that big of a deal.
So we do. Or, at least we try. All those hundreds of moments. A roster of Me Toos that build and grow when we deign to walk down a public street or apply for a job or drink a beer. Ignore it, ignore it, it’s not that big of a deal. We are told to stop being victims. I had forgotten most of my Me Too moments. They were buried and hidden because I couldn’t think about the damage they were doing to me as the scrolls lengthened. I’m starting to remember them; I didn’t hide them well enough.
We beg men to be concerned about the way women are treated. Think of your daughters, your wives. Would you want them to be victims? We worry about our daughters. I worry about mine.
Then, my son was born nine months ago. A skinny baby boy with a head full of hair born a white male in a society that prizes those two traits. Assuming things stay as they are now, he will grow up in a middle class home and attend good schools. He will have access to the sorts of things that will allow him to take advantage of his privilege.
We talk about our daughters so much. We don’t want them to be victims. But I am a woman and I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by strong women. We may have been abused by men, but we are not victims. I am not worried about my daughter. Things may happen to her despite my desire to protect from every evil in the world. No matter what happens to her, she will not be a victim. I see that in her already.
I worry about my son. He will grow up in a good family. We will raise him to be aware of his privilege and with a sense of obligation to use it for good. He will be taught to see women as sovereign human beings. I worry that the messages from society will override that. He will be handed power and influence and those things can be intoxicating. He may wish to skate by on this privilege. He will have opportunities my daughter will not and he may think those opportunities are because of something he has done to deserve them, not because of traits he has no control over. He may wish to take, rather than ask.
We will work hard to raise him to grow into a man who knows better and is better. But his privilege will remain whether he wants it or not. He will have to reject the messaging that will be drilled into him outside the walls of our home.
I’m not worried about my son being falsely accused of sexual harassment or assault or rape. I’m worried about him doing these things.
He has these big blue eyes and chubby baby thighs. He loves to crawl and eat and attack our dvd player. I can’t imagine him growing up to be one of the white men I’ve watched degrade women’s’ humanity or the men who have sought to rob me of mine. I wonder if their mothers thought the same of them when they were chubby innocent babies.
We need to focus less on worrying about our daughters, and focus more on teaching our sons to see women and all non-males as sovereign human beings.
That’s what will change the world.
(I want to make sure and point out that boys are men are also the victims of sexual abuse, harassment, and rape. My son may grow up to identify as non-male. He may grow up anywhere on the LGBTQ spectrum. I’m simply looking at the percentages. As things are now, this is my viewpoint when I think about raising him. That can absolutely all change and give us new considerations as we try to guide him to become a humane and loving adult.)