Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Advocates Who Activate

And then I thought, What happened with the boy who hit Bea?

"Amy, whatever happened with the boy who hit Bea at recess that day?" I asked my wife.

It had already been a couple of weeks and I felt guilty about not following up, about not being a father and asserting myself as the patriarch protector of my girls. About not being a man.

The irony wasn't lost on me, considering that one of the sentiments I despise the most -- boys will be boys -- has written off many a legitimate abuse and acquiesced to the most aggressive provider/protector male behavior for thousands of years.

"No, but I can check. I did talk with the yard duty teacher after it happened, and she said she didn't see it happen, but would look into it," my wife said.

"Please do. Thank you."

I should've done something, I thought. I compartmentalized my guilt and frustration and went on with prepping for the day ahead, a day of community protest and political activism at the local Women's March. My wife had a Kidpower workshop to teach and would meet me and our two girls downtown.

At the time, what we could best glean from Beatrice about the recess incident, and what she initially told her Mom the day it happened, was that she was at recess playing with another friend when she accidentally kicked the boy (or something in the context of play), and he thought she did it on purpose. So he punched her in the stomach. Twice.

It's unclear if she used her voice to tell him to stop, something we've instilled in both girls, but she's still socially timid at times. We assumed it all happened so fast that the boy had moved on and then recess was over. She did say she told him to stop, but only after us asking her over and over, and I wonder if she knew that's what we wanted to hear. I told her that it's never okay for a boy (or another girl) to hit her like that. Never. She told us to stop talking about it. She was done.

Shortly after that, I read a Facebook comment from a woman who warned of the siren song, those women who lie about being harassed and/or assaulted to bring down the "great, able-bodied men who have built this nation." Oh, how I wanted to comment, but didn't, because I felt that either I wouldn't contribute any positive dialogue, and if I did, it would've been missed by those who agreed with her.

Of course there are those who fabricate abuse, but there are so many more who never speak their truth for fear of reprisal. These are the everyday women (and men) who aren't the high-profile cases we've come to know in the past year, who have to keep swimming upstream through toxic water.

And just because the boy hit my daughter in a moment of playground angst doesn't mean he'll grow up to be violent. (Although he does need to know that aggression like that needs to muted and reframed in dialogue and other constructive channels as he gets older.)

Two weeks later on a day that celebrated inclusivity and equality and social justice for women (and men) alike around the world, regardless of race, cultural background, religious affiliation or sexual orientation; a day that abhorred sexual harassment and assault with lifts from the #metoo and #timesup movements, I felt like I wasn't very good father, or even a good man for that matter. All because I wasn't there to protect my daughter on the playground and ensure justice for her.

My patriarchal guilt, thousands of years of socialized gender roles and the ever-present thin biological and religious arguments to "justify gender inequality and the continued oppression of women" dissipated for me when we made our way downtown to march with friends and about 30,000 people from our community. With my wife and daughters walking just in front of me, and the thousands of women (and men) all around me chanting phrases like "What does democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like!" -- I thought, The middle may thankfully hold, but the status quo cannot. 

After the march I sat at the CPVAW table among the 50 non-profits represented at Louden Nelson Community Center and talked with a variety of women and men from our community. I again realized what I already knew deep down -- something I had known for decades and that my own mother had instilled in me -- that we as men are just as important to the progressive equation of social justice and putting an end to sexual harassment and violence. And that we can and should be the advocates who activate other men around the world to nurture the lives of our sons and our daughters.

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