To my boys,
When I first found out I was pregnant with you me and your Papa talked a lot about whether you would be a boy or a girl. A little bit of me wanted to raise a kick ass girl. But your Papa was certain he wanted boys. He said the world was too dangerous for girls. At the time, I thought he was being silly. But now here we are, with Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump and the “Me too” campaign all showing just how widespread the sexual harassment of girls and women is.
Anyway, you were boys in the end. Brilliant, noisy, energetic, loving boys. And it turns out what’s hit me most in the last few months is not so much relief that you’re not girls, but an enormous sense of responsibility. Because things are only going to get better in our society if things change with men. And now that starts with me, and you.
So, I’ve been thinking about what I can ask of you to make sure that you boys don’t become another Harvey Weinstein. Or Donald Trump. That no one says “Me too” about a grope, or comment or slide of the hand from you. And this is what I want to tell you:
You are enormously privileged
By total chance, you guys were born as boys. Total chance. And that chance means you will probably never carry a rape alarm in your bag. You’ll probably never learn to carry your keys between your fingers, just in case. You’ll never wonder if your outfit is ok or ‘asking for it’. You’ll grow up without ever fully understanding how lucky you are. But please, please, please, try to think about it sometimes. And try to keep it in mind in the way you treat others. Life isn’t better for you because you are better, but because you are luckier. Please, use your advantages to make things better for everyone else. Be kind. Be thoughtful. Respect everyone else whose lives are harder. Don’t ever make them worse.
You don’t have to be that guy
Now you’re growing up you’re becoming more and more exposed to society’s interpretations of masculinity. Many of these are aggressive, violent, domineering. It’s harder for me to find clothes for you that aren’t full of teeth and clothes and statements like “Stay Wild!”. You don’t have to be that guy. You don’t have to be a shark, or a T-Rex, or a cheetah. You can be a squirrel! Or a giraffe! Or a caterpillar! You’ll still be a man.
Be the boss of your body (and let everyone else be the boss of theirs)
Right now, bossing people around and setting your own boundaries for your bodies seems to at the centre of your worlds. “Mama! He’s in my space!” or “No, no kisses” are shouted often. We respect you and your boundaries whenever we can and ask you to do the same with us. You’re the boss of your body; we’re the bosses of ours. That’s a rule for life. Always treat everyone you meet the same way.
Society will feed you all sorts of rubbish about women. They’ll sexualize them and trivialize them and show them as trophies. They’ll hide them away in houses and make it hard for them to be a part of your world. They’ll criticize them and mock them and make them appear weak. Don’t believe it. You know women are strong and awesome and, like all humans, fully deserving of every bit of respect you can offer them. Give it fully and freely. It’s a simple rule really: treat them exactly as you would treat a man. They deserve it.
Choose your heroes wisely
I wish I could tell you to look up to the Leader of the Free World, like I used to. Unfortunately, I can’t. But you are surrounded by many men and women who are wonderful and kind and respectful and believe in equality. Your father, your grandparents, your aunties and uncle, our friends. Worship them. They’re your heroes. Be like them.
It’s down to you
When you leave home in 18 years time, the world will be yours. You’ll be in the workplaces, in the bars, standing on a packed tube. You’ll see things you shouldn’t see; you’ll decide whether to turn a blind eye. What the world is like for the women you’re with will be down to you. You have the chance to change things. Be brave. Take it.
Written by Rebecca Lopez Del Rincon Troussel.