One Billion Rising: A Boy Mama’s Personal Reflection

Posted on Feb 19, 2013

As I considered this Valentine’s Day’s events in support of One Billion Rising, I found myself uncharacteristically uninspired to participate. I support the effort. In fact, I am deeply passionate in every cell of my body about women’s equality and freedom from violence of every kind. I was troubled by my lack of interest in protesting or dancing or yelling and being seen as part of this movement. Despite not physically participating, I was reading accounts of so many inspired events and listening to the words of women who had survived unspeakable experiences…unspeakable for us, perhaps, but not for them, those brave souls. I was moved and reflective.

But, upon deeper reflection, I found a different stirring: a moving, emotional, almost wrenching drive to turn my energy toward my two sons instead of seeking solidarity with my activist sisters.

As I contemplated the activism and all manner of women’s experiences that catalyzed this day of awareness, my attention was immediately drawn sharply to the role that the men played in those experiences. Men who viewed women as property. Men who viewed women as existing for their use. Men who were raised by cultures that imprinted them with not just a disrespect, but a distain for women.

I knew in that moment that my charge was overwhelmingly clear. As a mother of two boys, I will tirelessly instill in my boys and all boys, not only a soul-deep abiding love and respect for women, but also an instinct in them to inspire other men to do the same.

Right now this is what my commitment looks like. Right now it means a constant loving attention toward their language, pointing out the sexism of “you throw like a girl” and supporting them when they challenge it in others. It means encouraging a respectful dialogue about dating and appreciating beautiful bodies. It means supporting my boys in recognizing the intellect, talents, views and experience of women who live in a culture that enduringly views them as lesser; while, at the same time, giving my boys the sensitivity and tools to exist outside of that paradigm.

Our sons are the pioneers. Our sons are worthy of standing beside their female peers in holding up the other half of the sky.

The boys have their own unique existential questions to be considered and respected, but let’s trust them to be the allies they can be. Let’s dive headfirst with them into the innate challenges of taking on sexism in both power structures and interpersonal dynamics as they become men. We are here to guide them in their consideration of choices.

Seeing women as “Other” is only an instinct in our sons insofar as we are complicit in its existence.

While I stood outside looking in to One Billion Rising, I committed to the cause in a way that felt unexpected, yet so right. In women’s suffering, I saw the promise in boys. My boys. All boys.

I have a profound abiding faith in the intention of men to seek equality. I trust it in my partner’s eyes. I trust it in my father’s eyes. I trust it in my sons’ eyes. Their effort to influence the men around them will move us closer to a world in which I, as a woman, breathe easier. I see that now in a way I hadn’t until just a few days ago.

As I live my life surrounded by all these men, I revel in my epiphany that within them is the capacity to live and inspire equality, just as it exists in me. We will do this. Together.