Our Sons Deserve Better Than Donald Trump’s Example of “Manhood”

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My son is 11 years old; bright and beautiful and fitted with a heart far larger than it has a right to be. He’s that kind of brilliantly alive that only an 11-year old boy can be.

And this year, we let him down.

Donald Trump did.
The GOP did.

The Evangelical Right did.
Much of America did.

I did.

This year, while so many people openly (and rightly) lamented the devastating effect Donald Trump’s disgusting treatment of women (and the inexplicable defending of said treatment) will have upon young girls looking on, we all forgot something: our sons were watching and listening too.

I’m not sure we’ve stopped to think about what kind of young men we’re creating right now.

I don’t know if we’ve considered the collateral damage this is doing within the boys in our collective care. 

I don’t think we can fathom what our sons in a Donald Trump America are likely to grow into:

Men with a dangerous sense of entitlement when it comes to the bodies of women.
Men for whom violent, hateful, objectifying words about women are viewed as normal.
Men who believe that money and power and their penises give them license to do whatever they want with a woman regardless of what she wants.
Men for whom the very idea of consent is unimportant.
Men who believe they will get rewarded for their misogyny and sexism and filth, because they’ve watched it happen.

This week my son asked me what Donald Trump said about women, and I did the best I could to relay it all without using the actual words, because to use the actual words Trump used, would have meant subjecting my son to the kind of explicit, angry vulgarity that isn’t normal and shouldn’t be normal for 11-year old boys—or boys of integrity of any age.

The words about women from a man who is now President, unfit to be repeated by a father to his son. Let that sink in for a minute. 

Trying to find any scenario in which any man talking about grabbing a woman by the genitalia and forcing himself on her physically is at all normal or acceptable, underscores the tragic absurdity of it all. It also illustrates the depths to which we’ve fallen and the sickness which is so pervasive; that our politics now so easily trumps our humanity.

The fact that a man with such a well-documented pattern of misogyny was the GOP representative for the highest office in the country (let alone garnering the support of millions of people who claim faith in Jesus) should be an embarrassment to any self-respecting parent and Christian. We should be sick to our stomachs right now, realizing how poisonous this all is to the hearts and minds of our boys. We should be openly condemning it all, if we had any regard for them and any interest in who they are becoming.

That so many fathers (and mothers) are not doing so, means that maybe Donald Trump is exactly the person to best represent us in the world. Maybe that is how low the bar we’ve set for our young men really is. Maybe the support for Trump is a true measure of the hatred so many men have toward women and the self-loathing too many of those women are afflicted with.

I have better dreams for my son than this.

I want him to know that girls and women are worthy of respect and decency and gentleness.
I want him to know that dehumanizing a woman is never normal; not in a locker room or a frat party or a board room or a bedroom.
I want him to know that another woman’s body is not his jurisdiction.
I want him to know that a woman’s outward no is louder than his internal yes.

I want him to know that there is a huge difference between being a man—and being a gentleman.

I believe my son deserves better than this week. All our sons do.

They deserve far better than a Donald Trump presidency. They deserve a higher definition of what it means to be a man, than an insulting, groping, bragging predator who treats women with complete disregard. 

They deserve a Christianity that isn’t as pliable as the Conservative Right and so many professed believers have made it in order to accommodate their candidate.

They also deserve better than to see adults making excuses for the words Trump has said and the things he’s done. They deserve parents, mentors, and role models who won’t sell their souls to align with a party or retain power.

One day my son will be a man, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to ever worry that he’s not a man who recognizes women as valuable and equal and worthy of respect, and I’m going to shout down all the voices that would speak something different into his ears, even if those voices are of family members, friends, pastors, and Presidential candidates.

Rationalizing sexual assault and violence toward women as just “boys will be boys”, is the best way to ensure that our boys grow-up to become abusive men who have contempt for women and believe that to be what all men do. I refuse to participate in that.

At this point, opposing this kind of language and behavior shouldn’t be seen as a political move—but a human decency move. There shouldn’t be an alternative side to choose here; not if we love our sons and daughters.

Right now my son and millions of other bright and beautiful boys with big hearts and bigger questions are watching and listening to Donald Trump, and to us.

He is failing them.

We can’t afford to.

 

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America, Sexual Assault Survivors are Listening. What are We Saying?

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One of the blessings of the work I do is that people turn to me when they don’t believe they can turn to anyone else. They allow me close proximity to their pain. It is a holy place, and even though it is a tremendous honor to be allowed into the deepest recesses of people’s hearts and stories, this also means getting a front row seat to the incredible damage so many live with.

Recently I heard from a woman who I’ll call Emily. A few years ago Emily was raped by a stranger.

She has shared this information with almost no one close to her because of the trauma and undeserved shame she carries. Emily suffers alone every single day and through many sleepless nights, because someone else saw her as an object and ignored her consent and disregarded her humanity.

And yet as horrific as that day was for her, it was only the beginning of the nightmare she’s had to endure.

There have been more fresh nightmares this week.

This week she’s had to hear friends and co-workers and family members openly defend the words and behavior of Donald Trump, oblivious to the way these things silently wound her and force her deeper and deeper into isolation and sadness, and how their words assault her all over again.

She’s had to hear people like Rush Limbaugh make the issue of consent the punchline to some twisted joke.

She’s seen an alleged Christian leader like Jerry Falwell Jr. say that he would endorse Trump even if he had a history of sexual assault.

She’s listened to other women defend the GOP candidate and give guys a pass and blame victims and openly campaign for a confessed sexual predator.

Over and over and over she’s had to hear that she doesn’t matter. Over and over she’s been told that she’s expendable. Over and over she’s been reminded that her pain is inconsequential.

Maybe she’s had to hear this from you this week.

Maybe it’s been your Tweets and Facebook tirades and coffee break conversations and flippant comments that she’s had to endure; bleeding internally, suffering in silence, grieving anew.

I suspect his may not matter to many of you, but I hope you’ll think about it.

Emilys are everywhere.

People you know and love and worship and work with have been the victims of sexual assault, whether you know it or not. They are in your kitchen, your staff room, your classroom, your church pew.

They are listening to you and they are being brutalized again, because people they know and love and worship with and work with are okay elevating a sexual predator to the Presidency and dismissing their trauma and excusing away rape culture as just “guys being guys”. I wonder if that’s something you are okay with.

I wonder if Emily matters to you.

I wonder if you knew Emily was listening to you this week if you would have still said what you’ve said or posted what you’ve posted. I wonder if it would make any difference at all.  

This week, America is speaking loudly to victims of sexual assault about their worth, their pain, their importance.

And honestly, I shudder to imagine what we’re saying to them right now.

To all the Emily’s out there: You matter. You are beautiful. You are loved. You are not defined by what has been done to you. You are not alone. We see you. We hear you.

Be encouraged today.

 

 

If you are the survivor of sexual assault, here are some resources where you can find support, encouragement, and care. You don’t need to carry this alone. 
RAINN
National Sexual Assault Hotline
EROC (End Rape on Campus)
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Safe Horizon
INCITE (For Women, Gender Non-Conforming, and Trans people of Color)
On Eagle’s Wings Ministries
Human Rights Campaign (LGBTQ)
NCLR Nation Center for Lesbian Rights 
Not Alone
Safe Helpline (Victim support for members of Military)

 

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Hillary Clinton is Running Against Far More Than Donald Trump

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If you’re out there and you’re wondering whether or not you’re a man, there’s a fairly reliable test:

If you watched last night’s Presidential debate and didn’t see the gender double standard on full, glorious display—you’re probably a man.

If you didn’t wince at Donald Trump continually interrupting Hillary Clinton to talk her down and derail her direct, coherent, and informed responses to questions—you’re probably a man.

If you didn’t notice moderator Lester Holt’s massive, marshmallow kid gloves in response to it all—you’re probably a man.

If you didn’t notice that the bulk of the critique of Hillary’s performance following the debate has consisted of commentary on her hair, weight, and makeup, or thinly veiled shots at her voice or her “likeability”—you’re probably a man.

Hillary Clinton isn’t only running against Donald Trump right now.

If that were the case, this election would already have been decided.

She’s running against a whole lot more than that.

She’s running against the idea that a woman needs to be soft and sweet and thin to be a woman.

She’s running against a rising, but still oppressive glass ceiling, guarded by lots of really scared dudes sitting on top of it.

She’s running against the idea that a woman’s contributions simply aren’t worth as much as a man’s, financially or substantively.

She’s running against beauty pageants and pornography and rape culture that reduce women to their physicality and disregard their intellect. 

She’s running against pink, taffeta covered toy aisles that tell young girls what they can and should aspire to.

She’s running against an ol’ boys club that is literally filled with ol’ boys who want it to stay that way.

She’s running against millions of fragile men who won’t tolerate a woman telling them what to do, whether at home, at work, in church—let alone in the White House.

She’s running against far too many women who have learned not to question any of the above.

When we elected our first African-American President, that didn’t eliminate racism in our country. If anything, it nurtured it among those most resistant to equality, and caused them to double down to disgusting, abhorrent effect. It has largely birthed the very election we have in front of us and the ugly unrest in our country. It’s the reason so many white people can’t say that black lives matter, without a qualifier.

The same thing is happening to Hillary Clinton right now by those, who whether they can admit it or not, don’t believe women are as valuable as men are. They’re using all manner of deflection to conceal the fact, but it’s there just the same; the surface critiques, the gender stereotypes, the “know your place” condescension.

Regardless of our politics, we should be honest about what we’re seeing right now. We’re seeing an experienced, highly qualified, intelligent, confident woman, being treated as if those things are somehow liabilities.

We’re seeing men still trying to define womanhood for women.

I want my daughter to grow up believing she can be President. I want her to grow up believing she can be anything she damn well wants to; that she can be as tough or loud or overweight or abrasive as a man and not be unfairly penalized for it. I want her to grow up believing that she is a woman because she says so, not because anyone else consents to it.

I don’t know whether Hillary Clinton will win this election or not, but I hope the America we are becoming, will be one where women who want to run for President, need only run against their political opponents, and not their very identities.

 

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When Your 6-Year Old Daughter Smashes the Patriarchy

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My daughter is a six-year old force of nature.

She doesn’t so much walk into a room, as she touches down like a tornado; altering the temperature, shaking the walls, and knocking stuff over when she arrives. Fearless and blissfully wide open, she spins her way through this life—and as her Daddy I get to live in the eye of her storm.

She has always been a complex little girl, equal parts Barbie Dolls and flaming swords; tough as nails to stand up to the brash little boys in the neighborhood who cross her, yet sugary sweet, hopping into bed every night for “snuggle time” with Daddy.

But lately there has been a profound disturbance in that equilibrium, a specific rebellion—one that Walt Disney might not sanction.

Today I walked into my daughter’s bedroom, and piled in a corner behind the door, were all her books featuring princesses or crowns or tiaras. One of the covers had even been ripped off. They had all been specifically removed from her book case, which was now left with only animal books and adventure stories. 

This discovery was made just before she walked into my room to tell me that she would no longer be wearing any princess dress pj’s (which until recently constituted nearly all of them). Pink is out, as are ornate detailing and taffeta of any kind. The bedspread and wall decorations can’t be far behind. Heck, we may be approaching total “Flip This Room” territory.

But these grenade revelations were all nothing, compared with the atom bomb she was about to drop on us:

“I don’t want to be a princess for Halloween anymore” she said with great confidence,”I want to be Harley Quinn.”

I may have blacked out for a brief second or two. After composing myself I asked her why, admittedly hoping the hot pants and sledge-hammer were really low on the list. She said, “Because she’s strong.”

I could be wrong, but in some 6-year old way I think my daughter is beginning to smash the Patriarchy—or at least giving it a good swift shot to the mid section. 

“I don’t want to be pretty” she insisted. “I want to be cool. I want to be strong.”

As I tried to explain to that she could be all of those things, I quickly realized that she didn’t want to talk about that right now. That’s a little complicated for her 6-year old mind to wrap itself around just yet. Right now, she just knows that she doesn’t see herself in gowns and sparkling shoes, and certainly doesn’t identify as a damsel in distress waiting for rescue from a cleft-chinned prince on horseback. She’d rather have a lightsaber and the plans to the rebel base so she can kick stormtrooper behinds and take out the Death Star—which is all perfectly fine with me.

I’d be lying if I said that seeing my daughter shed this earlier version of herself, doesn’t come without a bit of grieving; not so much losing the princess part, but losing the little part. She’s growing-up at light speed, and yet as bittersweet as it is, I know she needs to do this. She needs to become who she will become, even if that means I lose a little of who she was

Over the coming years she’ll likely meander into all sorts of personas; maybe eventually even ending up back in tiaras and taffeta. But right now, if shedding those things and resisting the color pink and saying goodbye to princesses for a while, helps her small arms push back against a big world that already wants to tell her what little girls should be and what toys are appropriate and who gets to play the hero, I’m good with that. I’ll celebrate the rebel in her every time.

My daughter already seems to feel a pressure from outside that would seek to define her, and she is already refusing to be defined by anyone but herself. This gives me great joy. Whether she becomes soft, abrasive, girly, tomboy, sassy, independent, spirited, clingy, or all of the above, I’m looking forward to it.

I don’t know who my daughter is going to grow into, but I’m hoping I’ll get a few decades to have a front row seat, because it’s going to be something to see.

Anyway, even though I won’t say it out loud, I know deep down she’ll always be my little princess—even if it is less Sophia and more Leia.