We Should All Be Weeping

If I had a daughter, I would want her to be little like Emma Gonzalez.

Or perhaps a lot like her.

There are a hundred reasons. There is her buzz cut for starters. As a woman who used to shave her head I promise you, bringing a set of clippers to your scalp is a statement, bold as brass.

There is her voice, honest and loud and cracked through with emotion. She is passionate and raw and real and as ragged around the edges as the shredded jeans she sports.

But as I watched her stand in silence for the better part of six minutes, shutting her eyes against what must have been a groundswell of emotion from both within and without, what struck me — or more accurately smacked me around the head with a 2 x 4 — was the ferocity with which she embraces her tears.

Emma Gonzalez keeps allowing us a window into her heart, and by doing so, she is normalizing the act of crying. By refusing to hide her anger and rage and grief but instead allowing us a front row seat to those tears, she is telling us it is ok.

It is ok to cry.

Because really, we should all be weeping.

We teach our American boys to man up, be strong, grow a pair. We teach those sons to suppress and repress and deny. We teach them to show emotion is shameful and weak. We decry boys and men who do show emotion as pussies, as feminine, as damaged and less than.

Crying is for girls, our boys are told. Which has somehow unmistakably become synonymous with weakness.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Emma Gonzalez wipes away tears during a CNN town hall meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, at the BB&T Center, in Sunrise, Fla. (Michael Laughlin/Sun Sentinel/TNS)

We teach our sons that boys don’t cry. We teach them that real men do not feel.

Except that boys do cry. And men do feel.

Why? Because they are human, and this is what humans do. We feel. That ability along with opposable thumbs, that’s all that’s really separating us from our red-assed, chest-thumping ancestors.

You can’t keep suppressing something as natural as emotion. You know what happens? All of those pent-up feelings explode outward. In a fist connecting with a cheekbone, or a crowbar to a window, or a spray of bullets.

It’s a fucked-up crazy upside-down world when we demonize tears and normalize rage.

Humans feel. We cry. Out of sadness or fear or pain or rage or frustration, of joy or happiness or pleasure. Crying is nothing if not a reboot for the soul.

We should all be weeping.

Yet we keep encouraging our boys not to. And by default, our girls. Because as women we know firsthand that a show of emotion will be held against us, used against us, a black mark against our souls when it is time to have our hearts weighed and measured.

And then here comes Emma Gonzalez and her tears.

Perhaps if we encouraged more crying things would be different. We might be sopping up tears, but perhaps we wouldn’t be cleaning up so much blood from classroom floors.

Maybe if we encouraged more weeping, we wouldn’t have to spend so much time figuring out why all that pent-up emotion with nowhere to go then explodes like an active volcano, taking the rest of us with it in its red-hot wake.

I spent a long time after the last US election in a pit of fiery rage. It took me a long time to understand that rage was a finger in the dike, holding my grief inside. I knew if I let that grief out, it would sweep me away. It would knock me under and drag me out in its undertow and spin me until I didn’t know which way was up and which down.

I was terrified of showing my vulnerability. I was terrified because I knew it would be held against me. It would be seen as a weakness, held over my head like a Damoclean sword.

It took me even longer to understand that vulnerability, far from being a weakness, is one of a woman’s most powerful strengths. Because it allows me to feel. And to grow and learn and manage and channel and adapt and change and live.

We should all be weeping. At the world we’re fucking up. At the blood stained floors and the hate-fueled mess we are creating. We should be weeping with the mothers and fathers who have lost their sons and daughters, over the children who are washing up dead on foreign beaches, with the brothers and sisters who are being shot and killed for nothing more than being black at the wrong time, with the people across a globe being bombed into oblivion.

We should all be weeping.

Yes, if I had a daughter, I would want her to be a little and a lot like Emma Gonzalez.

But I do not have a daughter. I have sons. But I have sons who will grow up unafraid to express emotion. Who will be encouraged to cry and fear and feel. Sons who will watch me cry and rage and feel. Because how else do we teach our children to embrace their feelings — all of them — sadness and anger and fear and joy — how do we teach them what to do with those emotions if they do not see us experiencing — and surviving them?

Emma Gonzalez’s tear streaked face is a symbol. Not of weakness, but of strength and determination. And yes, of vulnerability.

We should all take a page out of Gonzalez’s book. We should all be weeping.

This post first appeared on Medium. I’d be grateful if you’d give it some love over there.

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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.

 

 

20 Minutes of Action

20Dear boys,

I do my best. As a feminist raising boys, I go out of my way to have an open and ongoing dialogue with you about differences, about gender and as you get older, about sex and consent.

But I can’t change biology. And I can’t single-handedly change the world we live in and the world you are exposed to. I can only try to counter it in the best way I know how.

And sometimes, despite my intentions and efforts and preaching and screeching, I worry that the pool of cultural influence you’ll eventually dive into will swallow you whole.

I’m sure Brock Turner’s mother did the best she could by her son as well. I’m sure she thought she was raising a polite, respectful child. And maybe he was all of those things. I don’t know Brock Turner. I don’t know what kind of person he is outside of the fact he was convicted of three felony counts of sexual assault. I only know him because of those 20 minutes of action. The truth is, I don’t know what kind of person Brock Turner is. Maybe in all the other minutes of his life he was a good guy.

But none of that changes the fact that in those 20 minutes, he did a bad thing.

I think about those 20 minutes of action, 20 minutes that changed the lives of two people irrevocably, and I wonder if Brock Turner’s mother, like his father, will try to excuse away his behavior as an aberration or a simple unfortunate decision. I understand why she might.

But I need you both to know this: I will never, ever excuse away that behavior.

It is never ok to touch a woman without her consent. It’s never okay to assume a girl or a woman is receptive to your attentions. I don’t care if she’s sober, drunk, incapacitated or even just slightly unsure. It is never okay to assume.

And I will never make excuses for either of you if you do.

I will love you, always and unconditionally. You are my babies, my boys, my soon to be young men. But I will not excuse you if your behavior goes against everything I’ve taught you, everything I stand for. I will spend the rest of my life trying to figure out where I failed along the way. I will second-guess what I could have done better or differently, what more I could have done.

But I will not make excuses for you. I will not lay the blame somewhere else or allow you to do so.

If you reach adolescence or young adulthood thinking it’s ok to read something into the shortness of a girl’s skirt, the way she dances, the amount of beer she drinks at a party? Then I have failed. If you grow up thinking it’s ok to take something that doesn’t belong to you–virginity, dignity, pride, flesh–then I have failed not only you, but every young woman you meet along the way.

If you lay the blame at the threshold of alcohol or culture or that fact that in some twenty-minute span of time you were unable to decide those minutes of action were wrong?

I will not lie for you, I will not excuse you, I will not make excuses.

Because I’m telling you here, right now, and over and over again in no uncertain terms: IT IS WRONG.

It’s wrong to expect sexual favors. It’s wrong to feel entitled to them. It’s forever and always wrong to force yourself on someone. It is wrong to take advantage of someone who cannot give you their full consent. I am telling you this now and every day and I hope it is evident in the way I speak and act and in my behavior.

I’m telling you right now that if a young woman is too intoxicated to speak or move or get home, you do not touch her. Not because I’m worried about you getting into trouble, but because it is the right thing to do. Every.Single.Time. If a young woman is flirting, if she is interested in you, if she initiates sexual contact and then changes her mind, you walk away, because it is the right thing to do. Every.Single.Time.

Because I will not make excuses for you. I will not lie or hide the truth.

You don’t get to do wrong by a woman and then claim it was an unfortunate decision or a mistake or you felt like you were owed. You don’t get to take away the pride and self-respect, confidence and dignity of a women because you were unsure. I’m telling you right now, if you’re unsure, the answer is always no. You don’t get to assault or force yourself on a woman because you thought she wanted it, she said she wanted it, she implied or made you think that. You don’t get to harm a woman just because everyone else is doing it and it’s no big deal.

20 minutes

You don’t get 20 minutes to figure out if something is right or not. You get a split-second in which to remember everything I’m telling you.

I will love you. But I will not let you blame the girl. I will not let you blame the booze or the fraternity or the group. I will not let you blame hormones or biology or flimsy clothes or high heels or makeup or cleavage or flirting or dancing or walking alone or being in a dark parking lot or sexual partners or any hundred thousand other things that have gotten people off the hook. I will hold you responsible for taking everything away from that woman. I will love you.

But I will not let you walk away from it.

Love,
Mom

 

Boy Talk

41fa258d065f403b73adb22304afbfadPew! Pew! Pew!
There was this creeper, Steve, pew! pew!
Kksssshhhh Kksssshhhh Nnnnnnnnnn
Share the light sabers!

Mom! Mom!
I want the Modulus Combat Rambo Destroyer of Empries
What is that?
A Nerf gun.

So, you mod it, right?
Where’s the light saber? The double one?
Did you check in the weapons box?
(Oh my God. We have a weapons box.)

How do you play?
First you….tenthly you have to….
But if you get to base after the Manhunter sees you and you touch the tip of you nose with your elbow and the moon is in Aquarius, then the other team has to start

I just need five more, five more minutes
next level, next screen
Ping! Elastic band
Crack! No sticks in the house!

Ninjago full potential Nerf Lego
Get off your brother!
Ugh, he farted in my face!
Machine gun rat-at-tat86989b1efddfa6a71ef64b96044bcd15

I was first! No, I was first! No, you didn’t follow the rule!
Which rule?
Rule 502 Codicil 9a of the Boy Bylaw
Every rule must have six equal and opposite rules

Thunk, thump
He kneed me in the balls!
Nuts! Balls!
Can my Playmobil knights storm the gingerbread house?

Assassin Predator pew! pew!
How do I get the top of the Nerf bullet out of my nose??!?
Scratch through the Lego bin
Vroom! Crash! Did you read Wimpy Kid?

Iron Man.
No way. Thor.
Are you kidding?
Captain America.

Rex, Fox, Gree, Cody
Do you craft a mine? Mine a craft?
Where is my rock? The one I got last year?
Swafff….thunk! Ouch! Mom!

Two Boys Play "Cowboys and Indians"Chug, chug, Thomas across the floor
What do my testicles smell like?
Toby! He’s the cheeky one!
Dun Dun Dun Bum Da Dun Bum Da Dun

Use the force, Mom! Use the Force
Crash! It wasn’t me!
Belch. Do or do not. There is no try.
Stop playing with your penis!

Don’t hit your brother with the mace!
It’s in the weapons box, I told you!
I don’t care who is playing Call of Duty.
Don’t point that thing at me!

Is it bedtime yet??

 

Many thank to Weapon Onomatopoeia. Who knew?