I keep seeing a very specific kind of fear in the comment sections of posts all over social media and on articles that address believing women who speak up about being hurt by men, or anything to do with the idea of feminism—which is simply the idea that all genders are equal, and should be treated thusly. (Example: that meme targeted to moms of boys whose lives can now be ruined by a false accusation per any girl’s whimsy.)
The fear is shared like this:
- It’s getting to the point that I’m scared of my boys accidentally bumping into a girl in school and getting called out for assault.
- I fear that no matter what my son says or does, it will be seen as offensive to girls. He can’t win!
- I’m worried this push for “girl power” will take away from any of my son’s accomplishments, letting the girls get the honors and positions he would have earned if he was only born female.
Yes, the pendulum of equal rights for women is swinging for the throats of the men who have been assaulting, raping, taking power away from, and otherwise hurting women since forever under the patriarchy we live in. But it’s not swinging at our boys: it’s giving them a nudge forward, toward that civilized, neutral space where we want all genders to meet.
The place where everyone is on the same level.
I have both a son and a daughter in middle school. They are growing up together, my son not quite two years older than my daughter.
I have always been afraid for her, growing up female in a country where it is normal to notice that around age ten or eleven, grown men begin making sexually suggestive comments or gestures toward you.
I can’t recall how many times I was sexually harassed or assaulted from fifth grade on up, because it was a regular thing I had to deflect, ignore, or deal with constantl y. Counting would have been exhausting.
This was such an unfair way to live.
So much has been so unfair for far too long. The lack of safety. The refusal of acknowledging our pain. The lack of seeing females as people worthy of the equality our Constitution says we're supposed to have, or deliberate efforts to prevent us from having it.
But the swing of the pendulum—if we keep up the momentum—might help fix it.
This is why I do not fear for my son.
I believe he will thrive in a feminist world.
When you raise children with feminist beliefs, they see females. They fundamentally accept a female's value as equal to their own. They respect their boundaries, opinions, feelings, intelligence, interests, and experiences—whether or not they are a female, themselves.
In case you're skimming this, please allow me to repeat: feminists are people of any gender who fundamentally accept the value of females as equal to that of all other genders. They respect the boundaries, opinions, feelings, intelligence, interests, and experiences of females.
I know this because I am raising my son alongside a girl who is also being raised with feminist beliefs. They learn all the same things pretty much at the same time. I see them both interact with kids of their own and other genders. So far this whole “equality” thing that comes with raising feminists seems to be mostly filled with perks for all genders involved.
Turns out that raising feminist boys exponentially decreases the risk of them doing the kinds of things to girls that could get them into the kind of trouble that these fearful commenters and memers are so worried about.
(Yes yes yes, of course there will still be jerks and bullies and people who treat each other badly no matter how hard their parents work at raising them not to be, but making that the exception rather than the gender line rule would be pretty great.)
If my son does bump into a girl, he is not “that guy” all the girls know pretends to accidentally bump into them just to feel the press of their bodies (we always know who those guys are, and find them repulsive). He draws his hands away from her with an apology, for he understands that bodily touch requires mutual consent.
Kids make mistakes, and when he does say something offensive to a girl, he sees that in her eyes once the words leave his lips (girls are having a real hard time masking their reactions to BS these days). Believing all genders hold the same importance means being capable of feeling empathy for them. He follows their shift in emotion in response to his words, and has enough humility or shame or willingness to do better that he hears her. He learns his lesson.
And finally, my son’s accomplishments should be hard won, earned on a level playing field at which his gender is not given a fifty-yard head start, and hers must hack through glass to reach the goal. I’m happy to let him fight fair for his wins.
As I recently told yet another reader on my Facebook page, I love love love love love my children. This is why I will put the greater good of all genders ahead of anything. This is why I am making sure my kids grow up aware of how, historically, females have been treated, and how they need to do better than past generations.
This is why I am doing the work to help that pendulum’s swing. A world in which our children of all genders truly see and treat each others as equals, then grow up into the adults who run the place fairly, would be a beautiful—and much safer—thing to experience.
Learn more about the signs of, statistics about, laws on, and support for sexual assault on RAINN.org.