I was brought up with this crazy idea that women can do whatever they want. I was raised pretty traditionally, such as: having a stay-at-home mom, two sets of grandparents, dinner every night when Dad came home, etc. We fit very much into the nuclear-family ideal. But it never would have occurred to me as a kid that my mom’s job was considered “lesser,” or that she stayed home with us because she was a woman.
My mom graduated college before my dad did, with two Bachelor’s degrees to his one. She lived alone while he finished his program, and within a couple years had started her career as a designer. I’ve asked both my parents several times why my mom was our primary caregiver, and from what I can remember they said, “[she] was worried that kicking so much ass professionally would cut into her time being a kick-ass mother,” but I might be paraphrasing. Regardless, I’ve had the pleasure of watching her go from a Cub Scout leader and field-trip chaperon to a head-standing yogi and karate Black Belt, so it’s safe to say the ass-kicking hasn’t stopped.
Mom was no exception, either. Both of my grandmothers graduated with Bachelor’s degrees, and while I’d say my paternal grandmother was a force to be reckoned with and a matriarch without equal, my mom’s mom is more akin to a force of nature. Neither one was content to sit in the background. My aunts are no different; It’s my mother’s sister who I know saved at least one kid’s life in her time as a Lifeguard, and my father’s who is being sent all over the world on business. The men in my family certainly aren’t known for messing up, but it’s the women who don’t mess around.
For these reasons it’s always amazed me when I’ve encountered misogyny, because it’s very clearly a learned behavior. My parents never sat me down and said “Now listen up son, women are equal to men.” Instead, they showed me with their mutual respect and their actions. Even if their life decisions were guided by a more patriarchal and traditional background, they never presented any of my mom’s many domestic qualities as something other than a necessity or a choice.
The bottom line is that old rule we all should know: people should be treated as equals. When I came to my parents, young and heartbroken, complaining about how unfair it was that some girl didn’t like me back, they reminded me that it wasn’t my fault because I have no control over her actions. They told me they knew how it hurt, but I had to acknowledge her decision. At the time, it may not have been much comfort, but it was a necessary lesson in agency and respect. It’s a lesson I can only assume that many young men have not learned.
The world, and especially the Internet, is full of angry rants about Feminism, rape culture, and now the ever-ridiculous Men’s Rights Activists, or Meninism. There’s a lot of really unnecessary angst clouding up a lot of serious issues, and it’s mind-boggling. How can you grow up and not see the strength and the ability of the women in your life? How can a father never show his tender side? How could you think that anyone was less deserving of your respect based simply on a thing like gender?