Raising My Boys To Resist The Patriarchy

 

 

Strong women, may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.

I am a strong woman. I was raised by a strong woman, and I would most definitely raise a strong woman. But I am not raising a woman. I am raising two men, and right now they are boys.

The world is ready to shape and influence them into the kind of men they will one day be. The patriarchy is waiting, and I’m doing my best to raise them to help tear it down.

When I met their dad, he had just come to San Francisco from a small town and a pretty conservative family. I was smack dab in the middle of a psychology degree, taking women’s studies and sexual diversity courses.

By our third date, we had discussed white privilege, male privilege, LGBTQ rights, and affirmative action—all of which were pretty progressive topics for him. But he was open-minded enough to listen and intrigued enough with me to keep the discussion going. (Or it was all the Ani DiFranco I played in my car with the Girls Kick Ass sticker on the bumper, seeping into his psyche.)

Either way, our worldviews aligned, and almost 20 years later here we are; raising two boys.

After two decades of marinating in conversations about the state of equality and progress, that same young man from a small town, who had not discussed race relations or feminism before we met, used his frequent flier miles to put me on a plane to D.C. to march for equal rights and civil liberties.

That same man who had never dated a feminist before me, sent me an email while I was away saying how much he appreciates me and my role in our family; and in his words, “I am amazing.”

That same man, who had not discussed wage inequality or male privilege before we met, took time off of work to be home with our boys — without batting an eye. He did not need instructions or pre-prepared meals, because he is a parent, not a babysitter. He is my partner, and he wanted me to march for our shared values; which are so much bigger than both of us.

That is us, chipping away at the patriarchy.

The Women’s March was sparked from widespread concern for misogyny running rampant in the Oval Office, but it quickly grew into a movement that spanned the gamut from civil liberties to climate change. A dominant focus of the march remained reproductive rights and the fight against our bodies being objectified, violated, or federally regulated.

I marched for all of those things, passionately. I soaked up the energy from the army of pink Pussyhats, and read the signs declaring:

Women’s Rights Are Equal Rights

Feminism is the Radical Notion That Women Are People

My Body, My Choice, My Country, My Voice

It was impossible not to feel a deep connection to all things female.

But it wasn’t just the x chromosomes coursing through my DNA that kept me marching onward. The two future-men and the one all-grown-up-one holding down the fort in the corner of the world we are building together fueled me forward. I was inspired by the awesome power of women, and our unifying desire for equality; but I also thought of my boys.

I’ve never felt a void by not having a daughter. I do, however, feel the enormous responsibility entrusted in me by my fellow women to raise boys who will resist the patriarchy. Now, more than ever, we need boys who will be the kind of men to fight against injustice, even when their privilege insulates them.

I’m raising my boys to grow up to be better men than the senators and politicians who so publicly reduced the women who marched to angry, tattooed, freeloaders, and short-order cooks.

I’m raising my boys to grow into the kind of men who shut down “locker room talk” instead of laughing along in complicity.

I’m raising my boys to know that women are their doctors, teachers, mothers, friends, politicians, policy makers, leaders; their equals.

I’m raising my boys to understand that our country is already strong because of its diversity and opportunity for all; not in spite of it.

I’m raising my boys with an awareness of privilege and an understanding that just because it is not a problem for you, does not mean it isn’t a problem.

I’m raising my boys to use their male privilege to speak up for what is right, instead of what is easy; so that one day, when they are welcomed into the patriarchy, they can chip away at it from the inside.

I saw my oldest son’s principal the other day and she said he told her he was proud of me for marching. That night when I tucked him in, he told me I was brave.

While our children will witness misogyny, racism, and inequity as they grow up, they are also watching us resist. They watched millions of us around the world march for women’s rights and equal opportunities for all. They see the mayors of sanctuary cities, state governors, world leaders, journalists, federal judges, and even National Park Rangers have the moral courage to speak out against unjustness.

The future is watching, and what we do matters.

I truly hope that in 2020 my ballot has a woman on it, but my heart aches with doubt. My country chose a man of severely questionable temperament, character, ideals, and experience over a woman who was arguably much more qualified to serve as our president.

Sadly, I’m not convinced that our country is ready to end the patriarchy just yet. Until we are, I will carry my own sign every day while I raise these boys of mine:

Strong Women, may we know them, may we be them, and may we raise men strong enough to march alongside them and fight the patriarchy with us.

This post was featured on The Hufington Post 

More Than A Snowflake

 

I am one of millions of American citizens unwilling to normalize the behavior of our President-elect and accept the views of his cabinet nominees as my new normal; at least not quietly.

According to his supporters, there is a word for people like me; snowflake.

The term has taken on many versions of the same meaning and traveled a circuitous route before finally landing among today’s political buzzwords. “Snowflake” is a pejorative for an entitled person. (Usually a liberal who takes issue with the actions, ideals, or tweets! of our President-elect.)

In November, when millions of voters were deeply disturbed that a man who ran a campaign on hostility, nationalism, xenophobia and misogyny was actually elected president, Kellyanne Conway used “snowflake” to describe Millennials who were upset about the election results.

“We are just treating these adolescents and Millennials like precious snowflakes.”

She also flippantly posed a question.

“What do these people actually fear?…What is the worst thing that happens, that Donald Trump will make good on his promise to create 25 million new jobs, unleash energy investment, get rid of Obamacare?”

This might be a leap, but a person with the luxury of casually posing such a patronizing ‘worst-case-scenario’ is an extremely entitled one. So, in an ironic twist, that must make Ms. Conway a precious snowflake too.

If she actually presented this hypothetical to any person of color, Muslim, member of the LGBTQ community, or woman, the answer would be a resounding, “NO!” Because obviously, that is not the worst thing that could happen.

The unprecedented public outcry, planned marches, and calls to action are because of real fear. Our fear has everything to do with this particular man, his policies, and his appointments. (Yep, sorry, that includes you, Ms. Conway.)

I’m not a Millennial, but I was a broken, emotional mess after the election. It’s been two months. If this were a self-indulgent tantrum, I’d be over it and out having brunch or getting my nails done by now. You know, like the precious snowflake I am.

Instead, I’m calling representatives, following calls to action, and hoping against hope that your worst case scenario is THE worst case scenario.

So Ms. Conway, since you asked…from one entitled snowflake to another; here is what I actually fear and who I actually am underneath that soft, snowflake exterior.

I am a mother concerned about the world we’ll leave to our children, and their children’s children. I hope my great, great, grandkids can play outdoors without a hazmat suit; and see polar bears in locations other than the extinct species list.

Our President-elect plans to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement and repeal the Clean Power Plan – eradicating years of progress to cut greenhouse emissions. He, along with his pick for secretary of energy, deny climate change.

Our new secretary of state runs one of the largest oil companies in the free world, with deep ties to Russia. There is already talk of opening up government-owned national parks, wildlife refuges, and tribal territories, for drilling and mining. 

It is not looking good for the environment.

I am a mother, raising two young boys, who fears for the safety of our country. It concerns me when our President-elect haphazardly tweets about needing to ‘greatly strengthen and expand nuclear capability’; or when I see violent, racist acts committed in city parks, school hallways, and neighborhoods – in his name.

I am an educator wondering how science, history, and current events can be taught in a time when our highest leader regularly bends the truth and dismisses scientific facts when they are inconvenient to his message.

Our new secretary of education is a billionaire who has never attended or worked in public education. She supports anti-gay practices like ‘conversion therapy’ and would like to see religious schooling receive public funding. Our secretary of education should represent the interests of every student in public education; she does not.

I am a woman deeply concerned about the message our President-elect sends to men everywhere, including the two I am raising, about objectifying and disrespecting women.

I fear the consequences of defunding Planned Parenthood; especially for those who face systemic barriers to receive healthcare, and rely on services they provide for life-saving preventative care, and birth control.

I am a citizen of a nation founded on immigrants who is deeply disturbed that some of the most highly regarded positions in our government will now be held by the founder of a news organization responsible for the alt-right movement — endorsed by the KKK and the Neo-Nazis; and a US senator denied a federal judgeship for being too racist.

My resistance is not about my candidate losing and me not getting my way. It is much bigger than that. I fear the loss of decades of progress made for people of color, the LBGTQ community, women, and the environment. I fear the giant leap into the past that we are all about to take.

Call me a Snowflake, but I’m one of millions in this country truly terrified by the power granted to a man who has called climate change a hoax, made light of sexual assault, mocked the disabled, casually threatened to shoot his opponent, and is grossly unqualified for the immense responsibility he is about to assume.

I’m one of millions who believe we are in real trouble Ms. Conway. That it’s not a time to be silent, ignore words, and “give the benefit of the doubt.” This is not a high school student council election. Words matter, actions matter.

I am one of millions who will not be silenced by name-calling and condescension. We will not succumb to attempts at gas-lighting us into thinking we are ‘babies’ for having legitimate and important fears about the future of our nation.

I am one of the deeply troubled Americans who will gather and march after the inauguration, not to celebrate, but to send a message that while a few snowflakes may seem delicate and insignificant; millions together create a storm.

To My Childhood Icons: This Is Not Goodbye

 

Last week I took my son and nine of his friends to see “Rogue One” for his 10th birthday. As soon as he was old enough, my husband and I introduced him to the world of “Star Wars” and let him watch the movies one by one, in the same order we saw them as kids.

Partly, we wanted him to experience them the way we did, having to work backward to the beginnings of Anakin, and the dark and twisty path he took to become Darth Vader. But we also wanted him to meet our favorite characters first; the ones we idolized growing up. We actually couldn’t wait to introduce him to them, as though they were old friends: Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia.

As parents, it is sometimes more exciting to relive our childhood memories through the eyes of our children, than to make them in the first place. Just for a moment we hop backward on an ever-moving timeline, that often leaves little time for nostalgia.

As I watched my son and his friends at “Rogue One,” statue-still and mesmerized, I remembered my first “Star Wars” movie. The slant gold font disappearing into a starry screen; a hint of the adventure that was about to unfold, in a galaxy far, far away.

I knew what was happening; they were making a memory.

This was one of those times as parents where we overlap. Like deja vu, we uncover our own memories as a result of making new ones for our kids.

When I was 7, my great grandmother made me a Princess Leia costume for Halloween. She took liberties and made it out of shiny, pink satin— because on Halloween you can be anything, even a pink Princess Leia.

When I put it on, I was transformed into a gutsy princess, who took orders from no one, and held her own among her (generally all male) counterparts. Covered head to toe in a cape of pink, with carefully wound braids above my ears, the world was mine to conquer; or so it seemed.

Now that I’m all grown up and a mother of two, I look forward to the day my kids reach an age where I can introduce them to the music, books, and movies that I loved as a kid.

This year, my generation suffered a whirlwind of loss in the childhood icon department. And though it can seem odd to be moved to tears when someone dies, that let’s face it―you didn’t even know; it still happens. We feel gutted and sad, as though we have lost something familiar, and that is because we have.

Our icons are part of us, woven into the fabric of time that shaped us, because they were there while we were making some of our most vital memories.

Early on, my family taught me that music held 1,000 stories, and even more emotions. By the age of 10, I knew exactly where to set the needle down on a vinyl record to cue Prince’s unmistakable guitar riff, signaling the start of “When Doves Cry.”

One of my first cassette tapes was “Purple Rain” and I played it until it fell apart. I bought it again on CD and the case is taped together and broken, but still a mainstay on our family playlist. My kids can belt out most of the tracks by heart; proof that some of me is sticking to them.

When I watch Gene Wilder brilliantly personify Willy Wonka, inviting my children into the unimaginable world that is edible wallpaper, chocolate waterfalls, and fizzy drinks that allow you to defy gravity; what they don’t see, perched on the edge of our couch, is a child-sized me, full of wonder and amazement at the magical world unfolding on the screen.

As Alan Rickman so delicately embodies the complexities of Severus Snape, or the loving but flawed husband in “Love Actually,” it reminds us that even those we love the most have shortcomings; and that to love wholly, is to love in spite of imperfections.

When David Bowie leads us to the middle of a labyrinth as the hypnotizing Goblin King, we learn that songs and book pages can sometimes be trapdoors to escape the realities of family life…and the often shifty dynamics of high school.

When we dance around as George Michael belts out “Freedom” in our living room, what my kids don’t know, is that a lanky, frizzy-haired, braces-wearing, junior high version of me is dancing around with us.

Our icons hold so many of our memories. Their characters, music, and invitation to be our unique selves, influenced and changed us. Losing them is personal because somewhere between birthday parties, graduations, first loves, careers, marriages, children, and the place we are now, we leaned on them and they lifted us up.

Parts of us are forever frozen in time with them.

Broken-hearted young adults, in tiny first apartments, listening to songs through muffled speakers of cheap boomboxes at 2AM.

Exuberant teenagers embarking on road trips, wielding handmade mix tapes, and blasting music through open windows of first cars.

Bold little girls on Halloween, who knew that a princess was more than crinoline dresses and high heels.

And now, as parents, we are able to pass along parts of ourselves to our kids simply by playing a song in the car, or taking them to a movie on their 10th birthday.

Our secret hope is that we teach our own children a little of what we have learned over the years:

That validation, comfort, and purpose can be found in the space between the lyrics of a song.

Sometimes “Little Red Corvettes,” “Purple Rain,” and a little “Faith” will pull you through.

A shimmering doe Patronus in the night sky teaches us all we need to know of bravery and unconditional love.

Jeff Buckley, Leonard Cohen, and “Hallelujah” can heal almost anything.

The journey to finding your true self may just lie with a Goblin King in the middle of a “Labyrinth.”

And in the moments we are lost, and our path feels uncertain; in a galaxy far, far away―There is always hope.

This post was featured on The Huffington Post