Friday, June 10, 2016

Respect isn't just a lesson for our sons

I'm sorry I've been gone for so long, but I've been busy with work, kids, a stomach bug, Chuck's kidney stones, Cheerios in my hair—you know, the usual.

I typically don't comment on mainstream news because, quite honestly, I'd rather keep things on the lighter side on this blog (and when the hell is mainstream news light?), but as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning, I noticed a trend: Several of my friends had posted Scary Mommy's blog post, "Rape Culture Starts As Early As Middle School" followed by the battle cry, "TEACH YOUR SONS TO RESPECT WOMEN."

Obviously, their posts were in response to the Stanford rapist and his fucktard father and the two men's complete disregard for the victim and the trauma she's endured.

But let me tell you, when you write TEACH YOUR SONS TO RESPECT WOMEN, you're also speaking to me. I have three sons. I'm someone who is allegedly responsible for raising a boy who may or may not rape. And before you put all the impetus on me, or Chuck, or any of our sons' kin, there are some things I'd like you to know.

Before I get started, let me say this in the clearest way I can: I am not defending Brock Allen Turner or his unconscionable behavior, nor am I saying that women ask for it. If, during this post, you start to forget that please scroll back up and reread this.

Ok, ready?

Every day, I struggle with how to teach my son to respect a sex that doesn't always respect itself—and if you don't believe me, just look around. Half-naked women are everywhere: billboards, magazine ads, television ads. Look at the strong, positive role models for young women. Right, there are none. Kim Kardashian? Miley Cyrus? Mainstream society is little more than an ongoing smut-fest.

As such, Chuck and I have consciously tried to shield our sons from it. We've only allowed the kids to watch PBS Kids. We don't subscribe to racy magazines. The kids only watch G and PG movies. Hell, we only listen to NPR. Junior's learned more pop-culture songs at school than he has at home.

Sometimes though, we stick our toe in the water, just to see how bad it is—just so our kids have some clue about mainstream society. We don't want them to feel totally isolated (or ridiculed).

So...we tried to let the kids watch the Superbowl last year, but we had to turn it off during halftime because Beyonce ripped half of her clothes off. Bruno Mars was able to keep his clothes on. New Year's Eve shows weren't much better. Kathy Griffin disrobed. Anderson Cooper did not.

"Why do women always dance in their bathing suits?" is a common question my eight year old, Junior, asks. "Why do they always dance like that?" (He means hump the air/gyrate/writhe on the floor.)

What's the lesson here when we leave the safety of PBS? Women take their clothes off. Men do not—unless they're playing sports.

My mother recently bought me an Elle magazine (because of an interesting article), and Junior flipped through it as it was sitting on the kitchen table.

"Why don't women ever have any clothes on?" he wanted to know when he saw all the ads. He was genuinely perplexed. "You wear clothes, Mom. Do women who have children just keep their clothes on?"

"Yah, Mom, why?" my five year old asked.

"I know! They want to be sexy!" Junior cried.

"Any why do they want to be sexy?" I asked innocently.

"So boys like them!" Junior answered without hesitation.

This is what my sons glean from their 30 minutes with mainstream society. This is what my sons think women crave. Not careers, not Olympic medals, not literary awards, not scientific accolades, but sex appeal.

I have my work cut out for me. I won't have my children forever. At some point they'll eschew what Chuck and I say and form their own opinions. Hell, they've already started. But I will continue to be that voice in their ear that tells them that women are not just eye candy, despite what society leads them to believe. When they're old enough I'll make sure they understand that women aren't just there for men's pleasure. That as men they can't just take what they want.

I will say it every day if I have to—not because I think they'll forget, but because shitbag parents like Turner's father, the mainstream media and this valueless society we live in will tell them otherwise.

You tell me, TEACH YOUR SONS TO RESPECT WOMEN. I tell you, I AM TRYING. But you, you have to meet me halfway. You have to TEACH YOUR DAUGHTERS TO RESPECT THEMSELVES. Teach them that Virginia Woolf didn't advocate for a room of her own so she could take naked selfies and post them to Instagram. She believed women had more to offer than that. I know that, my sons will know that.

Will you?

1 comment:

DianaL said...

Thank you SO MUCH for a wonderful viewpoint on a very touchy subject. I too have a son. We teach by example, for sure, but mainstream media can destroy those examples all too easily as our kids get older. Thank you again.

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