Today is International Women’s Day. I could say something about women of privilege (like me, as a white university-educated middle class woman with a job and the ability to drive and vote and go outside without one of my gentlemen associates to chaperone me) have an obligation to help women who don’t enjoy those privileges. I could tell you about the great women mentors in my life. But today, the conversation will be different.
First, an introduction to the cast of characters in this post.
My dad. My dad has two daughters who are both firecrackers, who also struggle with mental health periodically. For our whole lives, he has shown up for every recital, show, and presentation. To say that he is supportive is an understatement. He even shows up to Bring in your Parents day at my work. The Chief loves to be part of our lives. He hugs us every time he sees us, and he tells us that he loves us all the time. He calls to follow up if you say you (or anyone in your household) hasn’t been well, or is waiting for news about anything. My dad is a truly splendid dad.
Second. My son. Child is a warrior for social justice. He is thoughtful and spiritual and respectful. He’s an old soul. He’s booksmart. He’s got a decent work ethic and he likes spending time with his family. His friends are good kids too. He’s got a wicked sense of humour and he’s someone who I genuinely like spending time with, too.
So how does this tie in to Women’s Day (or Lent, for that matter)?
A few years ago, as the family gathered, we were talking about our phones. A few in that crowd still had Blackberrys, because I had worked there and did the corporate purchase thing. We were talking about a specific feature, and Child was explaining something about it. Then, the conversation went sideways:
Me: No, it works [like this]
Child: No it doesn’t.
Me: I worked at Blackberry. I worked on this feature. It works [like this].
He rolled his eyes and explained how he thought it worked. I started getting more and more angry that my son… the child who defended transgender rights in a class practically to fisticuffs; the child who explained (at 6 years old) that being gay isn’t a big deal because everyone should have someone to love; the child who had a stay at home dad for the first 5 years of his life… this teenage child just MANSPLAINED my job to me.
And when I called him on it, my father… the man who supported his girls to do anything we wanted to; who helped us achieve everything we wanted… my dad told me to relax, it wasn’t a big deal.
Except it was.
It was a huge deal.
If these stellar, wonderful men could not see the problem, what hope was there for less enlightened men, or more blatantly sexist men? Who would change the patriarchy from within if not these, these proud few? Who would defend against misogyny at it’s worst, if they didn’t recognize what was the big deal.
In that moment, I’d failed as a mother. My efforts to raise a feminist son (even if he would never self-identify that way) were shattered.
So what happens now. My child is a grown ass man now. Done high school, on the cusp of the next chapter. The opportunities for teachable moments are less frequent. He wants to enter the military, which struggles (sometimes) to control it’s own sexist tendencies.
So now, I have to hope that the rest of the lessons I’ve provided give him a polestar to use to navigate the world. I need to believe that his actions that day were more about being an angsty teenager showing off his nerd knowledge. That’s how I’m moving on. There’s still work to do – work that I can do, and work that his generation has to do.
During Lent, May I forgive the foibles of people around me. May my desire to leave things better than I found them always, always outweigh the setbacks that will inevitably occur, and may all my efforts contribute to a balance for better.