I had no idea when I wrote my last post, in which I declared it was cool to be a feminist, did I realize that within a couple of days we were going to get such a brutal reminder that it's also incredibly important to be a feminist. And incredibly frustrating. And sometimes incredibly dangerous.
Nope. When I wrote that post I had no idea that within a couple of days a misogynist was going to go on a killing spree. I had no idea that women the world over would react by sharing their own stories of everyday sexism that show #YesAllWomen can be (and usually are) victimized at some point in their lives.
And I sure has hell had no idea that these acts of bravery and solidarity would be met by hostility, threats, and anger. But here we are.
Now, I understand that the majority of people who read this site are women. But many of you have a man in your life—be it your partner, your child's father, or even your child himself. So, please, have this conversation with them. It's important.
Why should guys care about the #YesAllWomen campaign? Because it shows us that the problems of misogyny and sexism are far more pervasive than most of us probably realized. It shows us that violence against women—actual and threatened—is a daily occurrence for too many. It shows us that a lot of guys actually think women owe them sexual attention just because they're nice guys, among other eye-opening realities.
Go look at the hashtag. Look at how wide ranging and diverse the people using it are. This isn't a small problem. It's not a problem limited to one location, age, race, or social class. This shit is everywhere. Which means it's not just a small percentage of men who perpetrate these acts.
Guys, this is bigger than we want to admit.
And so it is not enough to say you aren't part of the problem. We're supposed to be a civilized, modern society. This is everyone's problem. We have to be an active part of the solution.
By now you'd be forgiven if pessimism and despair have taken root, but there actually is reason for optimism. Because unlike disease or poverty or hunger, this isn't an overly complicated problem to solve. It just requires education and compassion. It takes a willingness to admit that the women who've been shouting about these problems from the rooftops aren't speaking for the minority, but that there is a fundamental problem with gender inequality in our society.
We can't be passive anymore. We can't assume that things will get better on their own. They won't.
So, where do we start? Well, as parents and role models, it starts with us. It starts with raising a generation of allies and advocates. The White Ribbon Campaign has launched a campaign called "It Starts With You," which offers some great resources so start. But don't stop there.
#YesAllWomen isn't about women, it's about all of us who believe that everyone has a right to be free from discrimination, abuse, and violence. And #YesAllMen have a role to play in keeping that message alive.
If you liked this, you might also like: "5 Important Things I've Learned While Raising A Girl" and "I Am A Beautiful Princess: When My Daughter Asks Me To Wear The Tiara, I Wear The Tiara."
Read our mom blogger Jackie's take on this: Why You Must Share #YesAllWomen With Your Sons
After less than four-and-a-half years in the job, I've already learned some valuable lessons as the father of a daughter. I've learned a lot about my daughter, myself, and the world around us, of course—more than I could ever condense into a single (readable) blog post. But these five things stick out as being fundamentally more important than most:
Ok, the first part is sort of a no-brainer. Of course sexism is real. But what I didn't know was just how prevalent and pervasive it is. But with more and more women and men calling it out (which is, of course, encouraging), and thanks to the good work of groups like Everyday Sexism, it's harder and harder to deny there's a serious problem. And knowing that my daughter is going to be growing up in this world, it makes me more inclined to call it out when I see it, too. One person probably can't change the world on this issue. But a lot of people can.
The thing about blatant sexism is that it's easy to identify. Casual sexism is a whole different kettle of fish and it's one that's a lot harder for people to attack, because it is often done unintentionally or, at the very least, under the guise of humour. Hell, it's something I'm guilty of from time to time. I think we probably all are. We use some misogynistic or sexist term to describe someone because it's become cultural shorthand. He's being a bitch. She's a prima donna. As a sports fan, I see a ton of this. Quick, ask a hockey fan what they think of Sidney Crosby. "You mean Cindy Crosby?" Cause being a woman is an insult, you see. But just as using fag or retard as a pejorative normalizes homophobia and discrimination, using misogynistic and sexist language normalizes sexism. I find myself a lot more sensitive to this lately, but it's not always as easy to call out as more blatant forms of abuse can be.
I'm doing my best to fight the fight for my daughter, but there's one thing I can't be that my wife can—a living, breathing example of how to live your life as a modern woman. My wife is strong. She's independent. She's smart. She's proud. And she's making my daughter all of those things, too. I got to talking with one of my coworkers the other day, we both know guys who talk down to their wives, both in person and, more upsettingly, behind their backs. We've both sort of come to accept that this is just how some couples are—that the wives are likely doing the very same thing and that this is just part of their natural rapport. But I can't fathom talking about Amy that way, because I truly respect and admire her. And I'm proud of her for being the way she is. Why shouldn't I celebrate that? Honestly, I can't imagine being with someone I don't respect that way.
This relates strongly to the earlier points. I think one of the reasons I never realized how prevalent sexism—both blatant and casual—can be is that I was raised in a family full of strong women, and men who respected them. My parents love and adore each other; my grandparents are the same way. And nobody who's met my mom or grandma would ever think they were soft, weak, or inferior. I love that my daughter is surrounded by strong women. I'm glad she gets to see the way a man should react to a strong woman. I guess I've always known my family was this way, but having a daughter certainly makes me appreciate it more.
Feminism, to me, was always one of those things. I mean, sure, I believed in equality. I respected women. I treated them well. But feminism? That's a bit . . . much, no? A bit radical?
No. It isn't.
One of the biggest things I've come to understand and accept in the past few years is that feminism matters. Strong women need to raise their voices and they need their allies to do the same, because the fights aren't over yet. Sure, women have it better today than they did a generation ago, but that doesn't mean they have it as good as they should.
And so, if the women who are committed to that fight are comfortable with the label "feminist," then so am I.
Daddy discrimination exists, too! Stay-at-home dads tow the line just as well as moms, but aren't given the credit. We need to change this.
I am a sports fan. I'm not a huge NFL fan, per se, but I generally keep an eye on major sports stories no matter what sport or league. And, as I've written about previously, I'm a major fan of role models in "non traditional areas" (gawd what an ugly term)—women in science, gays in sports, and other such abominations and blights on family values.
So I was well aware that, heading into this weekend, there was a good chance history was going to be made. A few months ago, a college football player named Michael Sam came out to the world (he'd already come out to his teammates, just before going on to his best-ever season as a college player). This weekend was the NFL draft, when he'd have a chance to make the jump to the professional ranks.
Early on things seemed bleak. He wasn't drafted in the first round, but that wasn't a major surprise. But then he wasn't drafted in the second round either. Or the third. Or fourth. Or fifth. At some point, as teams called more and more names that weren't "Michael Sam," things started to get uncomfortable for those of us who'd like to believe society had progressed to the point that someone's sexual orientation wouldn't matter as much as their performance on the field.
But then, in the sixth round, Michael Sam's name was called. A short while later, ESPN showed video of Sam getting the news. Like many NFL draft picks, he is overcome with emotion. Like many NFL draft picks, he gets off the phone and turns to embrace a loved one. And like many NFL draft picks, that embrace leads to a kiss. But unlike any other NFL draft pick, that kiss is with a man.
And Twitter exploded.
This post isn't intended to be an analysis of the reaction. Anecdotally, I saw a lot more positive reception than negative, but that could easily be a by product of the sort of people I surround myself with online.
No, this post instead intends to answer one question in particular that seemed as pervasive as it was perplexing—at least to me.
Before I get into this, I should say, I'm not an expert on parenting, human sexuality, or any related areas. But I do have experience in this matter. See, long before ESPN beamed a man-on-man kiss into the living rooms of the nation, for the first time in many cases, apparently, I faced my own Michael Sam Moment (TM).
It was a hot day in August. Or possibly a cold day in November. Honestly, I don't remember.
ME: "Whatcha doin, kiddo?"
KID: "My toys are getting married, Daddy."
ME: "Oh cool, who's getting married?"
At this point, I should point out that—quotation marks notwithstanding—this is a paraphrasing of the exchange, not a direct quote. So I don't remember exactly which toys she named.
ME: "Oh, why are they getting married?"
KID: "Because boys marry girls and girls marry boys, right Daddy?"
ME: "Sure, sometimes. But sometimes boys marry boys and girls marry girls. And sometimes people don't get married"
KID: "Oh, okay."
And that was that. Now, again, I'm no expert. And, admittedly, I haven't been able to undertake a long-term analysis of the impacts of this dramatic and difficult conversation on my daughter. But, at four years old, she doesn't seem to be rattled by the idea that gender and love are somehow NOT fundamentally linked.
In the aftermath of the MichaelSamGate (TM), I've given this conversation some thought—certainly more than I'd given it at the time or at any time since. Could it really be that simple? Can kids really come to terms that easily with the idea that sometimes a man falls in love with a man? And in my non-expert opinion, I'm inclined to say...
Yes. Of course.
Kids don't come saddled with the baggage of bias or stereotype. Kids have a simpler understanding of love, the lucky bastards. Tell a kid that sometimes boys love boys, and they're just as likely to look at you blankly and ask for more goldfish crackers than they are to have a follow-up question.
So, ESPN showed Michael Sam kiss another man. What do you tell your kids? You tell them that Sam's going to have trouble finding a good fit in the Rams' 4-3 defensive scheme, but maybe his tackling ability will make him valuable on special teams. Then you fill up their goldfish cracker bowl.
It really is that easy. And if it isn't, look back at what you've taught them to date. You made this difficult, not ESPN.