It was a Friday as I was trying to get a very overtired baby to sleep, butt-patting with one hand and scrolling through moms group posts on Facebook with the other. It seemed like the mix of typical “thank God for WINE” posts, when I came across yet another anti-husband rant. It bothers me to see people air out their dirty laundry so publicly, as I’ve said before. But something about these posts struck me in a deeper place.
When I was in my early twenties, I had the agnostic version of a come-to-Jesus moment. I realized through no small amount of dishevelment that I had to get myself straightened out, lay off romantic as well as not so romantic sloppy mess late-teenage relationships, and figure out how to be a strong, independent person.
Taking the step back from all of that bullshit wasn’t fun or pretty. I wasn’t very happy about it for a while. Then I got over being unhappy with it and realized that I was really pissed about the state of my life and a lot of that anger was aimed at men in general.
I didn’t have a very high opinion of men. I viewed them as aggressors or oppressors and put them in a more powerful position than me, or I made them puerile and inferior and beneath me. Neither take was accurate and neither one put them and myself on the same playing field.
There were lots of things that helped change my perspective on the other half of the species. I made really kind male friends. I learned how to be friends with these good guys without the entirety of our conversations being flirtatious or inappropriate, aka learning to interact like the adult I was becoming. I worked on building a more mature relationship with my father, where I was contributing financially to my own well being instead of expecting him to pay for my life. While I am still paying off the student loan debt that went with that decision, steps like these helped me gain a stronger sense of my self and build my self worth.
In many ways what I was going through wasn’t unique. Much of this maturation process – learning to take care of ourselves, live on our own, figure out what our values are – is what happens as we go from being complete idiot teenagers to slightly less idiotic twenty somethings. There are things about me that I had to work through and other pieces of this process that I’m not willing to share publicly. I will say that pain forces change more thoroughly than any other motivator.
All of this is to say I get it. It’s easy to blame men for everything that goes wrong, or to call out all the things that make them stupid or childlike. Your dumb husband can’t load the dishwasher. He’s oblivious to everything. You went to take a nap and left your husband in charge, and now your kids are eating cookies because he didn’t make them dinner and the dog shit in the living room. What a bunch of incompetent assholes. They think they should be rewarded for doing the things that we do all the time. And so it goes.
Now I’m the mother of two boys. Hopefully, my boys will grow into full fledged men. I know that this will happen, yet I still look at 4T clothes and think that they’ll never be able to fit in something so big.
Reading all of this nastiness has me realizing that how people talk about men is how someone could, or will, talk about my boys.
I’m a feminist, and I want my boys to be too.
Being a feminist means that I believe that men and women deserve equality. If I had daughters and I heard someone being disparaging of women (which granted, all I have to do is take a walk by the 7-11 in my neighborhood to get that firsthand), it would sting me on their behalf.
The way that we talk about our partners and the other genders around us is the way that our kids will learn to see them too.
I’m not a child development expert, but I see that the things I say will come back out of my child’s mouth. Today my toddler threw the front door open and said “Oh. My. God. It is SO cold outside!” in basically the most horrifyingly accurate mocking of me I’d heard of late. There’s no way I would want him to pick up the message that anyone is inferior to him based on their gender. I will never tolerate a mysoginistic statement under my roof. So why would I want anyone to treat him like an idiot because he will one day be a man?
Unfortunately I know that there are only a few more years where I can protect my boys from the big, bad world.
My husband peeked over my shoulder and asked what I was writing about. I told him and his response was, “wait until the boys go to school. Teachers say a lot of mean things about kids.” And then my heart broke a little bit more.
Aziz photo source here.