The headline of this post was prompted by a question my son asked me during one of our many conversations about feminism. And as we’re currently watching The Morning Show (known as Morning Wars here in Australia) – the main storyline of which is the Me Too movement – it prompted me to examine it further.
The obvious answer to his question is that men have to stop raping women
However, the majority of us are aware that the problem is not as clearcut as that and many men remain confused by what they see as new, complicated rules around dating and their interactions with women.
For those of you who haven’t watched the television series, it's about a successful American breakfast show hosted by two anchors, a man and woman. When the popular male anchor is called out for sexual harassment and abuse, and promptly sacked by the network, the station is left in shock with potentially damaging ramifications in terms of its future.
The other anchor, a woman in her fifties, (who has sensed the precariousness of her position for some time), reacts impulsively to her partner's firing. In her attempt to take control of her future (for the first time), she fills his position with an inexperienced female presenter who values the truth above ratings, and who inevitably goes on to shake up the show’s comfortability. The fallout, triggered by the lack of repentance of the abuser, as well as the changes instigated by the new presenter, and the belated remorse of other members of the team – some of whom turned a blind eye to the abuse – is what creates the real tension in the show.
The story is relevant to what we are seeing now, as the pandemic highlights that the sexual abuse and murder of women hasn’t gone away
As a feminist, you might find it entertaining to know that my son is potentially a young Donald Trump in the making. However, I like to think that his rumination about the ways of the world – and in particular, the differences between the sexes – is a healthy part of growing up, that I try not to hold against him.
Understandably, though, these types of conversation are never comfortable. There was an inevitability, I suppose, that with such an opinionated mother and his cohabitation with two staunch feminists during his formative teenage years as well as the Me Too movement, he would have questions as he starts dating in a society where the rules for men are changing. Which is why I am proud that he is asking them. Frankly, when I was twenty-three, the only thing I was interested in was the bottom of a beer glass.
As anyone who celebrates Christmas with family, a close emotional connection can blur the lines around the lines of battle, and discussions have a tendency to get more personal
Kanye West and Ben Shapiro have a lot to answer for when it comes to my son’s confusion about feminism, and in particular, the Me Too movement – which he sees as a witch hunt, For no matter how many times I point out that that only a handful of radical feminists hate men, his response is to cite weak examples of the behaviour of a small percentage of women murderers and abusers as his defence.
He will not accept my argument that every movement needs its share of radicals – albeit, that I’m not one – because, it is often their self-sacrifice and idealism that gets the job done. I will accept that some take their idealism too far – and belong to a different category we call nutters – but I defy anyone who equates a group of women (and some men) pushing forward equality to groups like ISIS or white supremacists.
Let me reiterate: I am a feminist, but I do not hate men, and nor do I believe that all men are rapists or would ever hurt a woman
I do believe that more men violate the rights of women than many realise or choose to believe, and many men choose not to be educated about what that violation means exactly - wherein the real problem lies. That, and the self-indulgent, victimised response that certain men demonstrate in the line of fire.
Suffice it to say, I am also fully aware of how difficult some situations are to resolve when there are no witnesses and court cases end up as a “his word against hers” scenario – see Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. That said, I refuse to capitulate on my beliefs simply to keep the peace at home.
Parenting never stops, and I have a responsibility for the way my son thinks about and treats women
As I said, I wish we didn’t have to have these conversations. I wish my son could try and see things from my perspective and, in particular, from the perspective of the women who have opened this discussion. One day, I hope that they (like the Suffragettes before them) are honoured for their bravery in coming forward. The Suffragettes were a group of radical women who got us the vote, so let’s hope that the women waging war against more than just the office creep, i.e. against racial discrimination, child molestation, domestic violence, marital rape, gang rape, and murder, are able to effect the same changes.
My son's questions are one step for him, but potentially a giant step for womankind. If every man of his generation did the same, maybe those statistics would change. One day, I hope he believes me when I tell him I don’t believe that all men are rapists. However, I'm also aware that as long as society allows our system of patriarchy to prevail, his male sense of entitlement will be hard to extinguish.
Image from Ben White on Unsplash.com
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