As a teacher, I don’t often mention my job on this blog as I prefer to keep that part of my life private and professional; however, one thing I will say is that my students are an inspiration. Every time I fear for the future of humanity (which is basically every day), I think of them and I remind myself that there are fantastic young people out there with the drive and the idealism and the work ethic to change the world.
However, there are also a lot of scary people out there.
One of these people was brought to my attention today by some of my students, who were appalled that such a person existed. This particular person is a man who has been in the news recently for the laughable yet frightening reason of wanting to legalise rape.
Yes peeps, apparently there are people out there who want rape to be legal, but fear not ladies, for it will only be legal on private property! Ladies and gentlemen, the sage has spoken, and there will be no raping in the streets (unless, presumably, they are private roads. Never trust a “private road.”) The result of this radical new rule will, naturally, be the return of modesty and decent upstanding morals for us women, who will dare not bare a dewy ankle or a graceful neck in public, and will uphold the very highest standards of pearl-clutching frailty at all times, whilst being chaperoned around by our male guardians (I’m not clear exactly who these will be, as apparently all men want to ravish us at every opportunity). The result for men will presumably be an average Friday night spent rampaging around the streets like the brutes that they are, trying to find an exposed shoulder to pounce on and drag back to “private property” in order to satisfy that base male desire for violent, non-consensual sex. Because that’s how little we think of men, right? That they are uncontrollable beasts who enjoy violating women simply because they had the audacity to wear a skirt?
Now obviously this is ridiculous, but it is clearly a fact that there are people out there who are mad, bad and dangerous to know, and not in a romantic, Byron-esque way. And it is also a fact that people who appear to exist on the angry fringes of society spouting spurious twaddle can, within a frighteningly short space of time, move to centre stage and wield real power, if the timing and conditions happen to align fatefully to create a disenfranchised group willing to listen to their message (hello Hitler).
And it is when I hear of this kind of violent misogyny which some-albeit very few-people seem to find acceptable, that I know that my mission is to raise a Feminist Boy.
Well, in fact that isn’t quite true. I don’t need a wannabe sex offender to remind me of the need to raise a Feminist Boy. I feel it every second of every day.
I need to challenge every stereotype he is presented with, no matter how inoffensive it may seem to others, for sexism is not always shouted from the rooftops by a nutter with an almighty chip on his (or her) shoulder, or a bouffant haired demagogue (mentioning no names); it is ingrained, it is subconscious and it is something that we are all unintentionally guilty of.
It’s the Hello Kitty book full of pink cupcakes which poor Kitty can’t eat, as she has no mouth (surely a metaphor for the desirable woman to be one who is mute). It’s the endless stereotyping of children’s clothes into blue vs. pink, cars vs. butterflies. It’s the toys we see in shops that divide our children into their pre-assigned gender roles as mother or superhero, and it is bad for all of us. It turns fathers into an inept joke, and mothers into put-upon harridans; women into ornaments and men into predators.
I want to scoop my son into my arms and protect him from all of this, let him be what he wants to be, but let him see that an equal world would be a fairer world, not just for women, but for him too.
The question is, how do I do it? No man is an island (or as I prefer to rephrase this, no person is an island), and I cannot protect and shield him from all that the world will throw at him. I just have to hope that he learns from example, and that I am strong enough to be that example.