As a man who has never assaulted a woman, I have little to do in this moment except to listen.
As a father to two young sons, I have a lot to do.
I must raise boys who will be part of the solution, instead of part of the problem.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when a woman is victimized by a man, she’s not to blame for not preventing it, or for not being strong enough to avoid it, or for provoking it, or for asking for it, or for not reporting it. When a woman is victimized by a man, it’s the man’s fault.
What a ridiculous thing to have to reiterate but here we are. When a man who, god help us all, might still become president of the most powerful nation on earth, spends most of his day blaming, victim-shaming, and denigrating women – on those rare days he’s not actually physically assaulting them – that previous paragraph can not be emphasized enough.
The sad part about all of this is that despite the cavalcade of appalling – and by now depressingly routine – disclosures from thousands of women who have been sexually assaulted, it’s still a better time for women than ever before. The world is toxic and terrifying for females and the world is also better for women than it’s ever been. Think about that and try not to shiver in revulsion.
Think about that and realize that, as a parent, it’s up to you to change it.
I’ve never assaulted a woman, and I bet most of you haven’t either. But who cares?
This isn’t about absolving each individual man who has the “courage” to not be a disgusting sexual predator (congratulations, you’re not a piece of garbage!) It’s about acknowledging and respecting every woman who has been victimized, and about listening to and honoring the stories of every woman who has had the actual courage to come out and tell one. It’s about supporting and protecting every woman who has the strength to expose herself in the face of near constant rebuke and degradation from a culture whose ugliest layers are more exposed than ever, thanks to the repugnant man running for president and his equivocating, blame-shifting, denial-basking staff, supporters, and surrogates.
As a man, my opinion is essentially meaningless. Regardless of whether we are guilty or not, we all deserve responsibility for engendering the toxic atmosphere in which women have been toiling for generations. Right now we only need to hear and understand – and empathize – with the victims. Not launch petty fights excluding ourselves from blame and responsibility, not ignoring the issue because we don’t know someone who has personally experienced something, not suddenly claiming solidarity because there are women in our family. Just listening, and nodding.
What’s needed from us heroes who have by the grace of god somehow not committed despicable acts of violation towards women is for us to shut up and listen and continue not being gross. And to educate each other. Because we can’t merely listen out of respect, we need to listen to learn, and to communicate those lessons. You don’t have to commit assault to unwittingly perpetuate rape culture, and sometimes our silence can help enable it. We need to stand up for women, and shout down those who continue under the delusion that being a feminist is somehow different from simply being a human being.
Especially if you have children.
If you’re a parent, and especially if you have boys, you have a bigger role to play. I have a bigger role to play.
I don’t have a daughter. I wanted one, and I’ve always hated the idea that it’s harder to raise girls than boys because of the risk. Hell, before I had kids I used to say it myself: girls become victims, boys become criminals. (Unless they get away with it!) The very idea of raising a girl makes many men nervous. Why? Because men don’t trust other men. (And judging by how many are willing to ignore or dismiss what Trump says/does, why should we?) What a disgusting referendum on the state of my gender. We need to correct it.
I’ll say it again: it’s not their fault. It’s ours.
Whether you are personally to blame or not, the burden is not on women to correct their behavior, or on men to somehow teach women not to be victims, it’s on men to correct our behavior, and to teach our young men and boys not to be criminals. It’s on fathers of sons to raise our to defy rape culture, to imbue them with empathy, and compassion, and decency, towards all genders and races and creeds. Towards all people.
It’s on all parents to raise our boys without the frightening sense of entitlement and superiority that Trump and so many of his ilk seem to feel towards women. To raise boys without the blind privilege of someone like Brock Turner and his father.
We have a responsibility to our children, and to everyone else’s children, to raise them in such a way that this pervasive, perverse rape culture dies out. This isn’t about not electing an avowed sexual predator, that’s the easy part (the fact that it will seem like a major victory when he loses is more depressing than it is affirming). It’s about raising a generation of children with the decency and humanity to stop perpetuating this nightmare.
I’ve come to peace with the fact that I don’t have a daughter, and in a way, I’m glad. Not because she’s at risk of becoming a victim of men, but because as a father to two boys, I have an opportunity to create a world in which women don’t have to be afraid of them.