Do You Fear for Your Son? #MeToo

Perhaps this is a sign of just how angry we women are that I spent equal time ruminating on the blowback I’d receive for writing this blog as much as crafting the basic message itself. I imagined readers, valuable prospective readers, blacklisting my name on the interwebs, slamming my books with nasty reviews on Goodreads and, its accompanying marketplace, Amazon.

Stick to humor. Be light. Avoid politics. And whatever you do, steer clear of #MeToo. This is the advice from my millennial daughter and others. Okay, no problem. I’m old, working on my 56th year, and, trust me, I couldn’t have gotten to this age, constantly employed for 40 years, without being hit on in the workplace. #MeToo? More like #MeOnceUponATime.

In fact, I was first hit on at work at age 16 in the morgue of the newspaper where my duty was to apply glue to the back of newspaper clippings under the stern watch of the paper’s librarian. Took me awhile to figure out why she sat sentinel, giving the stink eye to the young – male – reporters who drifted in and out with more than research on their minds.

My response was shameful, I suppose. I was flattered. And intrigued. But only because jeans were super tight back then and I was sick of high school. Years later, in other morgues with other far less appealing men and a few miles on the personal odometer, the proposals and “accidental” brush-ups, the off-color jokes and smirks were simply pathetic.

All I cared about was equal pay and equal opportunity, both of which were denied me on a couple of important occasions due to my gender. That pissed me off, bigly. But that’s not what this blog is about.

This is about being a mother of a 22-year-old son, a good kid raised by a feminist to be a feminist. More importantly, he is the younger brother of a sister, Anna, (see above, millennial) who would have torn him a new one were he not to espouse the principles of treating women equally, respectfully and, if Anna had her way, as his superiors.

Never would I have imagined the need to give him the advice I did yesterday. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I was simultaneously horrified and angry because they reflected everything I have rejected about the male view of women starting with Eve: all women are untrustworthy. Lacking male physical power, they rely on trickery and deceit to secure the advantage. They lie. They manipulate. They seethe with jealousy and will lash out in the cruelest ways.

Medea, the subject of Anna’s thesis at Bryn Mawr, is a prime example. Anna viewed her as a feminist icon for exacting revenge on Jason with her only weapon (spoiler alert!), infanticide. Medea was not written by a woman, of course. Neither was Genesis. Or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s Veruca Salt.

So, I applauded the brave women (and New York Times, New Yorker and Washington Post reporters) for exposing Harvey Weinstein and his international women-crushing machine. When other powerful men fell, I was stunned by this generation. We had turned a corner. Life would be better if not for me, than for my daughter. I was proud and in awe and grateful.

But as the momentum built and more women, already suffocating in this oppressive Hobby Lobby patriarchal heyday, outted harassing men and then, merely, creepy men, I began to worry about the long-term effects. Would (male-run) businesses avoid hiring women? Would they cancel their business trips? Segregate their workplaces?

And then came the story of Aziz Ansari and for the first time in this amazing feminist revolution I felt actual fear, not for my daughter, but for my son.

You might argue it was an irrational concern. He’s a good guy. He’s respectful of women. Chill, Mom. Yeah, well, he’s also a good driver; doesn’t mean I don’t fret when he’s on the road, especially when it’s icy, dark and unclear. Which describes our current environment perfectly on so many disturbing levels.

Last night, we talked about my latest anxiety. (This is the part where I hesitate because of all I’ve just put down in this preface.) He agreed that, before his girlfriend and he became a steady thing, he’d been uncomfortable at college parties interacting – to put it politely – with the opposite sex. People are intoxicated. They’re young. You know how it goes.

Sure, it’s a joke now, college “consent agreements.” (I’m still vague on whether they’re real or fake news.) Nevertheless, I actually said, “Watch out, buddy. Watch out for women. You can’t trust some of them.”

Goddamn.

A little part of me felt like the mother of Brock Turner who defended her son, the Stanford University rapist, even though my son hadn’t done anything wrong, hadn’t been accused of anything wrong, was simply sitting at his desk, chatting on the phone with his neurotic mother on a Thursday night.

As with my handwringing about leaving lots of room behind cars on the highway and going the speed limit and never, ever drinking and driving, Sam said, “Yeah, yeah. Don’t worry, Mom.”

But I do. Am I alone? Is my reaction the very over reaction I was worried about? 

Am I turning Republican or something?

Anyway, I don’t have the answers about how to deal with this. Maybe you do. If so, I’d love to hear it.

Thanks for reading!

5 thoughts on “Do You Fear for Your Son? #MeToo

  1. Your concern is real and that doesn’t make you any less of a feminst – reality is rarely as clear cut as Weinstein or the USA Gymnastics pedophile doctor. We need to be talking to both our sons and our daughters if we want to make any real progress.

  2. It is unfortunately true that in this climate of finally getting justice, there will be some good men who fall victim to accusations made for other reasons. My husband is a minister and my greatest fear has always been that someone would attempt to oust him from his position by making such an accusation. In our church, an accusation would be met with immediate suspension, and he would not be allowed back to his job until cleared by both church and civil courts – a process that could take years. When returning to the job, he would have to enter a competition for a new one, as he would not be able to return to the previous position. There, his reputation would follow him. I know of someone to whom this happened. He did get his life back, and he supported the process which ultimately cleared him unambiguously, but the cost was terrible.

    To this end, my husband counsels women only in public places, like coffee shops, or in his office with his secretary there. Fortunately that arrangement allows for open doors and good sight lines but voices do not carry.

    To me it is sad and preposterous that my LGBTQ supporting, feminist husband must do his job this way. It is a sad reality.

    1. Lois, I suppose that explains why Billy Graham made it a rule to never meet women alone. (The exception being the Queen, apparently, in The Crown.) ‘Tis sad, indeed.

  3. There are all kinds of injustices in this world, and dangers for everyone.

    I don’t want to make light of your concerns; they are as valid as any I might have for my own three adult daughters. However, your own experience of being hit on is not really what the Me:too thing is about. It’s more about abuse of power, uneven power, and a culture that disbelieves women who were harassed, raped or molested. As usual, people want to jump on the bandwagon, and join in with their own stories, whether they are real or not. I suspect, though, that more women are actually still staying silent, or downplaying the events in their own lives. It takes real courage to stand up and own one’s own horror.

    A young man we know actually had to do community service for two years for raping his college girlfriend, and we are pretty sure he deserved much more than that. Her life is irrevocably changed, why shouldn’t his also be? Incest survivors afraid to sleep in their own beds for the rest of their lives deserve justice, too. So few get it. It’s inevitable that some false accusations happen, unfortunately, but how can we afford to not take these women seriously?

    That said, I fervently hope your son and other good men do not get swept up in the fervor.

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