Since the #MeToo movement began, I have heard comments from politicians, celebrities, and fellow subway riders fearing for boys in this country and wondering what kind of world awaits them. Will their entire lives be ruined by false claims of sexual assault or sexual harassment? Will they have to live in fear that what they do or say will give off the wrong impression? Will a joke be taken too seriously? When the Me-Too outcry began, I was asked if I was afraid for my boys. My answer then? … No. It still is.
As parents, we are constantly reminded there are things outside of our control. We learn that early on when our children are babies. They get bumps and bruises and scars. When they are learning to ride a bike, falls cause skinned knees and, sometimes, broken bones. In learning to play sports, line drives or holes in the ground can cause serious injuries. Those are all things that are hard to prevent. Add cars and guns to the mix, and sometimes parents can feel almost helpless to protect their children.
There’s plenty to be concerned about as a parent. My son being falsely accused of sexual misconduct is not something that keeps me up at night. Out of rapes reported, only 2% are proven false. 40% of rapes go unreported altogether. 1 in 3 women experience gender-based assault. Those are things that I worry about. As a father of 2 boys it is my job to teach my boys the correct way to act. It is my job to teach them about consent and the way alcohol can alter one’s judgment. To treat women the way they would want their mother and sisters – they have 2 of them – to be treated. The way they would want to be treated. As equals. A trending topic of men fearing for themselves is plain ridiculous compared with what women must go through on a daily basis.
But I take it a step further than that when teaching my boys about gender-related issues. Treating women equally doesn’t only mean that you don’t rape or assault them (which, really, should go without saying). If you really are committed to equality, it has to extend to every facet of life.
Here are some of the things that I point out to my boys.
- 3 out of 10 Universities have female presidents.
- A Black woman makes 63 cents for every dollar her White male counterpart makes; Native American women, 57 cents; Latina women, 54 cents; White women, 79 cents; and Asian women, 87 cents.
- In 80% of rape cases, the victims knew their rapist.
- 91% of rape victims are female.
- 1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused before they turn 18.
Given that my sons are growing up understanding the glass ceiling that looms over their sisters and mother, I hope they are motivated to see that ceiling shattered and do whatever they can to ensure it comes crashing down. And hearing how women experience life on a daily basis, that they’ll want to see their sisters grow up in a world where they are free to go wherever they want without feeling afraid.
It’s my job as their father to teach them the fight for equality should not rest solely on the shoulders of women – it’s a man’s job too. If we truly care for the women in our lives, if we have a sense of decency and value human dignity, we have to go to the front lines. That means marching and protesting. That means supporting women who run for offices. That means supporting companies that hire women as CEOs. That means going to universities where women work in prominent positions. And that means believing women when they accuse men of sexual misconduct. It also means being prepared to give up privileges they have enjoyed as White men, to see those privileges equally distributed to women and people of color.
Let’s face the facts. Men do not have a good history when it comes to promoting women and treating them as equals. So I welcome the #MeToo Era and I accept the challenge of raising boys that will be a part of a new group of men who treat women as equals.
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