Sometimes I wonder what exactly it means to be a feminist mother. Is it just what happens when a feminist has a baby? What kind of punctuation does it get? Feminist-Mother? Feminist, Mother? Feminist (Mother)?
Today I was hit with a one-two punch that made me realize exactly what my job is.
First, Dan Savage refuses to apologize for holding anti-gay Christians accountable for the recent crisis of suicides among gay youths. A person who describes him or herself as “someone who loves the Lord and does not support gay marriage” writes in, saying that they were offended that Savage implies that anti-gay Christians “somehow encourage my children to mock, hurt, or intimidate another person.” The writer warns Savage to “please consider your viewpoint, and please be more careful with your words in the future.”
Second, fraternity pledges at Yale parade through campus chanting “No means yes, yes means anal… fucking sluts.” Thanks to modern technology, this has been preserved for posterity.
Jaw-dropping whatthefuckery of the highest degree, and I agree that it reveals the depths of our culture’s misogyny and refusal to take rape seriously. I figured it would be pretty hard to top that, but somehow it happened. The Yale Daily News printed an editorial accusing the Women’s Center of “histrionics,” essentially saying that their response was nearly as absurd as the incident itself. I’ll paraphrase here, but the editorial basically says that the Women’s Center needs to stop painting murals of their own vaginas for a moment and get polite, and nobody likes girls who says that frat boys are creating a hostile environment for women students. These manhating radical feminists [what the fuck does that word mean anyway] should stop perpetuating the idea that college students can rape other college students because, “after all, they once partied in the brothers’ basement.” Everybody understands that this was just a joke that got a little obnoxious, so lighten up, girls: “[f]eminists at Yale should remember that, on a campus as progressive as ours, most of their battles are already won: All of us agree on gender equality.”
Yes, that’s exactly the message I get from guys chanting about raping fucking sluts.
For starters, it is totally clear to me that this was written by some 20-year-old Republican. Good luck with that, bro. Only in the age of non-feminist feminists and post-race can the term “radical feminist” be brandished as a weapon. Both of these articles made me think what a sick, twisted world we live in where we ask that the victims moderate their message lest they offend or put off their aggressors. What privilege and power it takes to trample on people and demand an apology when they dare fight back.
More importantly, this was a loud and clear call to action: being a feminist mother means raising my children to realize that these things are wrong.
Currently, I have only boy children. This seems to be the jinx on feminist mothers. I say to the stars “oh how I wish I had a little girl to raise to be a badass, and I’ll get her all the awesome toys I never had, and never make her wear dresses or criticize her for climbing trees.” Then god says “ha! I’m giving you a boy whose favorite color is pink who loves to wear high heels and purses, and another boy who roughhouses, terrorizes the cats, and has dead-eye aim!” The lesson I’ve had to learn is one of letting my kids express their gender however they want to, not in opposition to how I was forced to. Nevertheless, I worry about what the world will do to them once they are out of the family cocoon and into the world of public education. I also worry about what they will do to the world.
I haven’t yet developed the “curriculum,” for lack of a better word, but I know that I want to teach my children that people all deserve respect regardless of what’s between their legs or who they fuck. Dan Savage rightly points out that kids learn from what they see, and when they see their parents treating others as inferior, second-class citizens, this will naturally translate into bullying and harassing the kids they see in school. When you grow up in a world of privilege and patriarchy, chanting “no means yes”—words that can terrorize—are just harmless fun.
I guess there’s no come to Jesus at the end of this post. Just a realization that as a mother of light-skinned boy children in a middle-class, graduate-educated, two-married-heterosexual parent family, I have my work cut out for me. Just the promise that no child of mine will ever see modeled in us the idea that anyone deserves to be taunted for who they are or that rape or coercion of any form are something to be treated lightly.
Edited to add: I was just thinking that I let something go unmentioned. The title of the YDN editorial is “The Right Kind of Feminism.” WHAAAAT THE FUCK?!?! It is implied that the right kind of feminism is the kind that doesn’t speak out against rape culture or misogyny. The right kind of feminism is the polite feminism that plays nice with the frat boys and hosts parties for them. In short, the right kind of feminism is no feminism at all.