Best of Men and Best of Husbands

Occasionally people ask me if I hate men.

Playing a feminist version of the old “Bloody Mary” game of slumber parties past, I’ve stood with eyes squeezed shut and asked a mirror the same question.

“Do I hate men?”
“Do I hate men?”
“Do I hate men?”

When I’ve opened my eyes, the answer is the same as it’s always been.

No.

Of course I don’t hate men.

Look, there’s a world of difference between being pro-woman and being anti-man. They are not two sides of the same coin, one does not necessitate the other. But those are thoughts for another post.

But this post? This one goes out to the ones I love.

I suppose in a way, following the logical conclusion of REM lyrics, it goes out to the ones I’ve left behind as well. After all, the long trail of tears from adolescence to late twenties led me directly to the kind of man I could spend my life with, raise children with, and move across continents with. It’s led me to forming friendships with the kind of men I’m comfortable with.

The point is, I know good men. My husband, friends, random people I’ve met on the internet….

What I’ve realized of late is that sometimes in this never-ending battle of the sexes, we don’t follow the Marine Corp. code. Often those few good men do get left behind.

So, if you are one of them, if you’re married to one or raised one, if your daughter married one, if you know one, make sure you give them a quick nod of thanks before we go up over the trench for the next skirmish.

Who are these men? They are men who understand their life as a male grants them the mother of all hall passes: the opportunity to walk through life unburdened by the albatross of constantly playing catch up. The ones who, all else being equal, can expend their energy chasing white whales and windmills. And before anyone gets indignant, defiant, or defensive, I don’t mean to imply men do not face their own set of challenges–because they absolutely do, but that’s for another post.

It would seem I have a lot of writing to do.

But these men, the best of men and best of husbands? They know that a fluke of sperm and chromosome has given them a platform. The height I–or any other woman–gets from a pair of stilettos, doesn’t begin to come close.

These are the men who are willing to listen and learn, to expand their views, and most importantly, to change the way they use the hall pass which is perpetually tucked into the back pocket of their man pants.

My husband? He understands that opening the world up for women means opening the world up for him as well. A wider world of opportunity for ME means a wider world of opportunity for him and for our sons as well.

Never going to be tall enough

It means my kids can belt out the soundtrack to Hamilton at full blast and not be concerned with whether or not it’s ok for men to sing Broadway musicals. It means my oldest son can draw rainbows and unicorns without worrying about being called feminine or an LGBTQ slur. It means my youngest can wear pink football boots without being called a pussy. It means allowing them the freedom to explore a richer emotional life without being told to man up. It means encouraging to do the things they love, not just the limited options on the male approved list. It means seeking out things that will bring them fulfillment, not just ticking the boxes of what success means.

As much as it means I find and demand value beyond being a mother, it means my husband gets to find value in being a father.

The men I am talking about? They aren’t afraid to put their money where their mouth is. I have witnessed these men change the language they use, I have listened to them not only talk about the importance of diversity quotas but actually put them into practice. I have watched the lightbulb moment of recognition in some where they have come to realize women are not simply making this shit up. I have watched them enter into online dialogues to call out sexism. I have watched them dig below the layer that is so often presented to them to find a female example, a female candidate, a female adviser–not just to score brownie points, but because they recognize that expanding their own circle of knowledge to include experiences beyond their own is going to enrich their own experience.

It’s like adding new cuisine to a meat and potatoes diet. Does meat and potatoes taste good? Sure. Will it sustain you? Sure. But how do you know your new favorite meal isn’t going to be something you’ve never tried before?

I don’t hate men. I want men to be better. Having said that, there are many I know who are already there.

The best of men and best of husbands, this is for you.

 

 

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See You Next Tuesday

statue-of-liberty-torch-nycWith any luck my last political post will come sometime on Wednesday and will be about sweeping glass shards from the floor.

My moods during the last six months have see-sawed, as has my conviction that in January The United States of America will inaugurate its first female President. I’ve gone through heartbreak, confusion, anger, rage, grief. I’ve been horrified, delighted, uplifted. I’ve cried, both in joy and frustration.

If life is like a box of chocolates, during this election I’ve eaten everything from the caramel to the nasty candied cherry. I feel sticky, nauseated, and like I need to brush my teeth and eat nothing but salad for a week.

But…instead of watching the polls fluctuate and my anxiety escalate in this, the final stretch, I”ll be carousing around a foreign city with some fabulous females. I’m not bringing my laptop. I’m not checking the news. (Ok, I won’t be checking the new obsessively.)

I’m still worried, but this morning as I was packing, I had a sudden moment of calm. Perhaps I’ve entered the eye of Hurricane Election because suddenly I realized it was all going to be ok.

Because even if Donald Trump wins the election, the people who voted for him aren’t going to win.

I don’t mean their candidate isn’t going to win. I mean the reasons why they chose to fill in the ballot circle next to his name aren’t going to win.

You can’t make people disappear. You can’t choose simply declare you don’t ‘believe’ in homosexuality or marriage equality like you choose to ‘believe’ in the Tooth Fairy. LGBTQ human beings exist. They take up space and other dimensions. Marriage equality is a thing. Transgender citizens and same-sex spouses are not going to suddenly disappear just because a bunch of people chose to elect a vice-president who wants to shift federal money to ‘gay conversion’ programs.

You think millions of women are going to lay down and allow themselves to be groped and degraded and discriminated against because a bunch of people chose to elect a party which, for all intents and purposes, want women to just go away and bleed quietly from their wherevers? You can spout all you want about the ‘myths’ of systematic oppression or the wage gap. But they exist and they’re not going to disappear in a cloud of magical smoke. Women aren’t just going to suddenly go away and stop demanding equality.

Those who are voting for Trump on the basis of religion can pray on pious knees until they are bloody for God to smote their enemy. It’s not going to happen. They can prayer circle around women who seek out birth control and abortion. It’s not going to stop them.

They can deny climate change. It’s not going to stop it. They can deny evolution. It doesn’t make it go away.

The reasons so many Trump voters are voting for Trump? Those reasons are NEVER GOING TO WIN.

The people who’ve been checking off the ‘other’ the box next to their identity don’t need to have their existence legitimized or FDA approved. Do you think they’re going to let you take their rights and stuff them back into some fundamentalist homophobic misogynistic cupboard and lock the door?

Women aren’t going to suddenly develop the urge to dig out their grandmother’s aprons and start mixing martinis for their husbands. Life is not going to magically revert back to some black and white television version of bucolic happiness which was only pleasant and happy if you closed your eyes and ignored the lynchings and the back alley abortions and the men and women being imprisoned for being gay.

You can build a thousand walls and they will still be breached.

You can build a thousand prisons and they will still be dismantled.

You can think of a thousand ways to hate and people will still love.

The United States has been moving forward for decades. Sometimes quickly, sometimes tortuously slow. It will continue to do so, even if it takes a backward step next Tuesday.

love-trumps-hateEven if they win this battle, they will never win the war. Because that kind of exclusion, that belief that there is only one, true way? It never wins. It is always defeated. It is always squashed.

Once I figured all that out, I felt better. I finished packing and dug out my passport and tomorrow, I’ll be off.

Oh, and Donald? CU next Tuesday.

An Open Letter to Mothers of Girls

Would you give me a lift to the glass ceiling, please?
Would you give me a lift to the glass ceiling, please?

Dear Moms of Girls,

I always figured I would have daughters. I won’t go so far as to say I envisioned myself holding bundles of pink and sparkle, but in the back of my head I looked forward to raising kick-ass girls who would rock and roll; girls who would build on the momentum of a righteously feminist mother and hopefully one day, leave me sputtering in the dust.

Then I went and had boys. And I’m here to tell you I am THAT mom of boys.

You know the one I mean, right? (Don’t lie. I can see you rolling your eyes from my couch.)

I’m the boring mother who insists that if they’re talking about a female over the age of eighteen, they use the word woman, the one that jumps on any chance to point out how we use words differently when we talk about boys and girls–and yeah, I stretch it a bit far sometimes to make a point. Usually it snaps back and hits me in the ass, but there you go.

I’m the one who lectures them until I’m sick of the sound of my own voice about listening when people say “I don’t like that” or “Stop touching me.” Even though my youngest is only 8 and has no interest in girls. Or boys. Or animals for that matter. But over and over. Look at me when I’m talking to you, this is important. When someone says not to touch them, you must.stop.touching.them.right.away.

I’m that boring-ass mother who’s constantly bringing up the achievements of girls and women. The one who’s teaching my sons to hold the door open for everyone, not just girls because it’s not about being a gentlemen, it’s about not being an asshole.

I’m the one who’s constantly harping on about how even though boys and girls are different, men and women are different, one is not better than another. The one always reminding them you can’t tell if someone is a boy or a girl by the length of their hair or the color of their shirt, what they like or don’t like, what they do or don’t do.

I’m the over-the-top mom, the one continuously pointing out stereotypes.

Great, thanks. Now let's talk about wage equality
Great, thanks. Now let’s talk about wage equality

I’m the one who doesn’t let my kids play video games that objectify women. The one who made sure they knows what a period is, what tampons are for, where babies come from, what boobs are for. The one who taught them the word vagina. The one who, when they’re ready, will be explaining that yes, women like sex because it feels good.

I’m the over-zealous mom who sat down with her 2nd grade son when he started going to school dances about how to respect girls, and what to do if a girl asked him to dance and he didn’t want to. That is wasn’t ok to laugh or make fun or disrespect, even if he wasn’t interested. Or in his case, terrified at the thought.

I’m the one who has told them if I ever find out they’re making fun of a way a girl looks I’ll take them down. If I ever find out they’re demeaning a girl, I’ll take them down. If I find out they’re using sexually charged insults I’ll be over them like white on rice. I’m the one that sounds like a whining drill that when I keep saying things like “cry like a girl” it is insulting, unfair and untrue.

I’m that annoying mom who doesn’t excuse aggression just because my kids are boys.

I’m the slight nut-case who has endless dinner table conversations about how women are under represented, how history only tells the story from one point, the one who quizzes them on  history facts about women and voting rights. (Yes. I really am that mom)

I’m the one that will sit their asses down and give them talk after talk about sex and consent and how if they are ever unsure, the answer is no.

I’m the one who is boring them to tears with conversations about the roles women have played in history.

I’m the one who is passionately ranting about how to make things equal. How it is important to value people for who they are and not assume they’re better just because they are a boy or a girl.

I’m the one who’s not worried so much about raising my sons to be gentlemen. Your daughters don’t need gentlemen. They deserve boys and men who view them as equals.

Math, science, computers. You?
Math, science, computers. You?

I’m the pain in the ass, you-are-sick-of-hearing mom who is continually pointing out that not only can girls do anything boys can do, but boys can do anything girls can do–well, except for the birth thing.

Yes, I’m THAT mom.

I’m a pain in the ass. I go on and on. I am a record stuck in a groove. I’m THAT mom.

The one who is raising boys to view your daughters as equals, as partners, as people.  The one who’s doing her damnedest to raise men who don’t worry as much about holding open doors as they do about making the world a more equal–and thereby better–place for us all.

I’m willing to take the fall, be the patsy, ignore the rolling eyes and huffing sighs…if it works.

I’m THAT mom.

Love,
Me

Dear Angry White Guys

Man shouting with chalk speech bubbleLet me start by saying I know a hell of a lot of white men across the board who do right every day, men who don’t just give equality lip-service, but show it in the way they live their lives.

This message is not for them. This is for the angry, white men.

I am so freaking tired of hearing and reading your rants and raves. It is difficult for me to dredge up even a minuscule amount of sympathy for what you are portraying as white, male oppression or indignant, righteous rage.

Spare me.

Even worse? As the cult of the angry, white male thumps its chest into the spotlight, YOUR anger is given a legitimacy almost never afforded the rest of us.

So, yes, spare me.

I’ve never seen such posturing on behalf of a group of people who, historically, have had the best of everything: laws, jobs, wages, life choices, education, privilege. Frankly, it’s been like watching my toddler pitch a fit in Target because I wouldn’t buy him the Lightning McQueen to go with the 25 other cars he already had at home.

So, yes, spare me.

Women’s anger consistently gets buried in innuendos of baby killing and femi-nazis, of whining and hysterical overreaction. Black anger gets buried in stereotype and misguided statistics, in using the actions of lone wolves to justify systematic racism. How about the anger of immigrants, or gays? Atheists? Muslims? It gets mired down in everything above it, the unspoken rule being if you live outside the tightly bordered box of ‘norms’ your anger is your own problem and probably your own fault.

So spare me the righteous indignation when even your anger gets more coverage, justification, and legitimacy. 

Look, I understand that things aren’t as great for many white men as they were twenty, thirty, fifty years ago. There are legitimate and immediate concerns. Suicide, addiction, alcoholism, job loss, class inequality, massive student debt. But these things are NOT going on because white men are being discriminated against or ignored.

And honestly, I resent the fact that a group of angry, white men think they are going to be the ones to ride in and save the fucking world. Because guess what? You’re the ones that got us into pretty much every, single mess we’re in right now. I resent the fact that Bernie Bros. own the discourse on economic inequality and wow, isn’t what everyone outside the box of white hetero male has known for years so shocking?? Where was that anger when white men stood unchallenged at the top of the food chain?

White men are not being discriminated against. It’s just that the rest of us, all those who make up the box ticked “OTHER” are starting to catch up.

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So spare me the righteousness. Angry white hetero men will be the ONLY ones left unchanged in terms of rights no matter who gets elected on November 8th. The rest of us–all those boxes ticked “OTHER”–we’ve had to make do with imperfect choices for decades. In many instances, we’ve had to choose the person least likely to literally kill us.

Spare me your tantrums, bros. Women, Black, Brown, Latina, Immigrant, Gay, Trans. Minorities have always had to adjust their expectations, adapt, change and make the best of a shitty situation, choosing between the lesser of two evils because there’s been no one looking out for us for most of that time.

Minorities don’t have the luxury of voting against their own survival.

So spare me the lectures.

You don’t own anger, and it should not be seen as more legitimate just because you’re a bunch of white guys ranting about social and economic injustice.

YOU want a revolution. I want change. I don’t want a revolution for one simple reason: The cannon fodder in a revolution? Not the angry, white guy, but all those boxes ticked “OTHER”.

If you want the rest of us to start taking your more legitimate concerns seriously–loss of identity, income inequality, anger at being squeezed out the middle class–start by listening to the experiences and concerns of OTHERS. Don’t insist that what is best for you is best for everyone. Don’t act like social injustice is suddenly validated because all of a sudden you saw it and lent your voice to it, or worst of all, don’t pitch a fit and dig your heels in to prove a fucking point when your life won’t change with the outcome.

screaming-manIf you feel misunderstood and marginalized, if you feel like you’re not being listened to, that your experiences are being invalidated?

Welcome to the club.

Quit your bitching, put your head down, and start working toward a viable solution that helps the most people, not just you. That is to say, what the rest of us have been doing all this time.