#yesallmothersofsons (it's a long one, sorry)

I've been thinking a lot about #yesallwomen.

Yes, all women deserve respect and yes, all women fear violence, though they should not have to. It's a shame that such an obvious truth should come as such a galloping shock to so many.

Yes, men should not try to comment on/weigh in on/attempt to participate in the conversation of "what it's like to be a woman." Unless that man is Dustin Hoffman.

Yes, it's super annoying to see a defensive reaction that distracts from the heart of the issue. I say, "all women deserve respect," and the reaction is, "but men DON'T? Is that what you're saying?" Yeah, you saw right through me, there. This knee-jerk response reminds me of going out to dinner with my grandparents when I was 7 or 8. They complimented my sister on a good math grade, and I piped up with, "I GOT AN A ON MY BLACK PLAGUE PROJECT IN HISTORY PLUS I GOT FIRST PLACE IN THE WIND SPRINTS I WAS EVEN FASTER THAN THE BOYS." I was a middle child, what can I say, and completely unable to grasp the idea that personal achievement is not a zero-sum game.

The same is true here. I think if we managed to summon the courage of a legion of Greek warriors, we'd be able to face, nay, EMBRACE the idea that we can respect men and women equally, at the same time, without having to make Sophie's Choice of who gets the lion's share.

We're not going to run out. Respect isn't bottled water come hurricane season.

Okay, so yes, I am completely on board with #yesallwomen. The everyday shit we have to ignore or shamefully accept is NOT a given, or shouldn't be. We women shouldn't have to resign ourselves to using men for protection, having to live with keys clutched between our fingers, feeling lucky that we've never been violated, or that our violations aren't "as bad" as those suffered by our friends or sisters.

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Also, children shouldn't go hungry. Veterans shouldn't be dying waiting for doctors. People shouldn't kill each other. Cancer shouldn't exist. And I'd like a root beer float for breakfast every day for the rest of my life. And a pony.

The conversation about what we "should" be as a society, how women "should" feel safe no matter what they wear, where they are, or who they're with, and how men "should" act - it's a very nice exercise in rhetoric. But it's running on a treadmill, guys.

Step one is awareness of the problem.

Step two is taking concrete action to solve the problem. Making steps toward addressing the source of the problem. Making a plan. Executing that plan.

And there's the big issue with #yesallwomen, and really any social injustice awareness movement - there's no step two.

For a few days, a week, maybe as long as a month we're all whipped up into a frenzy, daring someone to disagree with us, foaming at our Facebook mouths and posting and reposting and tweeting and retweeting and Upworthying, delighting in the thrilling possibility that OUR TIME HAS COME TO MAKE A CHANGE... aaaaaand then the microwave beeps and you say "oooh! lunchtime!" and you turn on last night's DWTS and a few days later you wonder what happened to that lady-thing that was happening on the internet, but now Kimye's wedding pics are out, or Colbert did a funny thing with a triceratops last night, and the tide has officially gone out on #yesallwomen, except for a few committed activists who are left high and dry with only their outrage to keep them warm.

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So what can we do to step-two this movement?

A lot of the internet has been discussing the importance of raising our sons to not rape women, raising our sons to not roofie, rather than just raising our daughters to avoid being roofied.

Okay! Great!

Um...

How do I do that, exactly? What's the son-don't-rape curriculum? Or the less intensive version, the women-are-people-too curriculum?

I'm serious, guys. What does that parenting look like? I'll do it. Someone tell me if there's a book out there. Someone help a sister out. All I've found are articles on about.com advocating corporal punishment by the dad if the kid talks back to mom. Which seems to be a little bit beside the point, not to mention counterproductive if we're trying to model and teach respect for all people.

The accepted wisdom seems to be that it's dad's job to teach sons how to treat women, and to protect moms from the savagery or impoliteness of the world. Isn't is also mom's job to teach sons how women should expect to be treated, and to model the importance of standing up for oneself? Shouldn't we de-gender the roles of "protector," and "teacher?" Shouldn't boys think of their mothers as equally strong, capable, intelligent, resourceful, and ethical as their fathers? Shouldn't boys think of their fathers as equally generous, loving, patient, and gentle as their mothers?

There I go again. Should-ing.

It's an easy trap to fall into.

I'm going to hop off this treadmill and make a root beer float.

3 comments:

  1. I don't have any article to link to but I'm thinking this might be why we used to value "gentlemen" and would teach boys to repsect women by having men respect them with little things like holding open the door and carrying their books and whatever all that gentlmen stuff is that doesn't happen any more because we're big strong women and don't need help any more. Now that women can do everything on their own and often shun help from men maybe men don't have a clear roll any more? It's not that women aren't having sex with them because they are ladies, they just aren't having sex with them because... well, they just don't like Them; it's way more personal and they have no framework to work it into. I think there is something there. So, my current plan on raising my boys is to basically teach them to be old school gentlemen that assume every woman is a lady. And I'm totally going to teach them that women aren't as strong as men and need to be protected because that is just a fact. Women aren't as physically strong as men and sometimes they need a gentleman to protect them, and hold the door open, and carry their books. I'm totally a femenist, but I think that there are differences between men and women and I don't think that is a bad thing and maybe that means that men with their genetic propensity towards violance need to be given some framework of male female relations that reminds them to be gentle.

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  2. Emrie, I think you make a great point - the dynamic between men and women is born out of each sex's innate strengths, and it's important to acknowledge those differences without placing a value judgment on them. I don't intend to raise Chicken to believe that men and women are the same, just that both deserve to be treated with equal respect.

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  3. Good stuff, love your writing. I do not have the answer. Back to The Bachelorette.

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