This post comes entirely courtesy of the beautiful and powerful speech given by equally beautiful and powerful Jameela Jamil.
I suppose when writing something about feminism, I can’t help but feel that it’s not only us who should be learning and growing, being armed with motivation and understanding.
I think so many women have the power to infiltrate misogyny in their own homes. It starts by never taking for granted how poisonous society can be to the male psyche, and protecting boys from the onslaught of misinformation everywhere. They are bombarded with dangerous imagery, song lyrics, peer pressure and often quite damaging / violent / entirely intimacy-free pornography, all of which is sold to them as a glamorous and realistic norm. Men are throttled with toxic masculinity and given made up ideals that they are forced to subscribe to. They are belittled and rejected when they show signs of sensitivity. They are mocked and insulted when they show their pain or “care too much”. Even the fact that music that is kind to women or talks about feelings, is considered “wet” or labelled “sad boy music.” It’s such a potent, rotten marinade that boys grow up soaked in.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t some “poor boys” appeal. It’s just that in my opinion, it’s as if men are recruited young and brainwashed, in order to be indoctrinated and manipulated into an oppressive patriarchal institution. This is a call to arms for the women who have boys growing up in their houses. We have a lot of work to undo.
Mothers, sisters and aunties, I implore you to take this little sponge, and render him sodden with humanity and an understanding of women. It will send him into this delusional world with an armour of empathy and self-assurance, that a strong woman is something to be celebrated and not feared / crushed / undermined / spoken over / stopped / humiliated / shamed / blamed / discouraged / controlled / told that to be worth anything in this world, she must have big tits, but a small waist and thin arms, oh and a big pert arse but absolutely no thighs and a young face (forever.)
All you have to do is tell him the truth.
Tell him what happened to us. Tell him our whole story. Tell him how only very recently we were able to fight, protest, beg and starve our way to basic human rights. Tell him that a long time ago, as far back as you can imagine, men became afraid of women. Women could make people inside their bodies, they could feed those people using just their bodies. They had an extreme and quite scary tolerance for pain, and were distracting and beguiling for men. On top of all of this, we were equally able to learn, to hunt, to keep ourselves and our kin alive. AND we have tits. Men feared that other than their semen, women had little need for them. And actually, we were very self-sufficient and tough, while at the same time being able to arouse men and sometimes drive them quite mad with love / lust / possessiveness. We held quite a lot of power. And so, using the only thing they had over us, physical power, they fear-mongered an entire gender into submission and controlled us for thousands of years.
Tell him that we work the same hours, with the same skill sets and the same qualifications and get paid much less, just because we were born with different chromosomes.
Tell him we were only recently allowed to choose who we love, rather than be sold by our fathers to the highest bidder, however unattractive / unkind / unsafe / boring / old that man may be, with no question as to what we wanted. And tell him this is STILL going on in many countries around the world TODAY. We are still second-rate citizens in many places.
Tell him about what it’s like to be a woman. Tell him we have to be on guard, literally ready to protect our lives, every time we walk down the street at night, walk through a park, get into a cab, take a train, go out drinking, walk to our car, go on a date, be in a lift with a stranger, be in ANY BASEMENT EVER, sometimes we even have to feel afraid in our own houses because there is a constant threat to our safety from men, both strangers and the ones we know. Make him sympathise with us and feel protective over us.
Tell him to cry when he is sad, tell him how important it is to talk about his feelings. Tell him it is better to be soft and strong rather than be hard and weak. Never let anyone tell him to “stop being a girl” when he is showing sensitivity. By narrowing our ridiculous prescribed gender roles, we will come closer together, and no longer be such a mystery to one another, which will dilute the fear and mistrust men have towards us. And by making him a more mentally stable and secure person, you will far lessen the likelihood of him being infiltrated by our insecure and pathetic patriarchy.
Treat him with kindness and empathy. Make him feel safe. Do not betray his trust. Your relationship with him will shape his entire outlook on women. So that in every girl he looks at, he will see you, and feel love and respect. Make sure he confides in you from a young age, so you will have a sense of what poison is pouring into him, and do not judge him (to his face, you can totally judge him behind his back, and to your friends) and explain the correct fair path in a way that makes it sound fun and appealing.
Tell him about sex. Not just reproduction. Sex. The pleasurable fun part of it. The joy of equal pleasure and enthusiastic consent. Do not shy away from this. Do not make it an awkward topic in your house. If you push him into the shadows, he will find pornhub in there and that will become his teacher. And nobody wants that shit! Learning to have sex from porn, is like learning how to drive from The Fast and The Furious. A fucking terrible idea. Tell him about the history of the word “No” for women and how new it is to our vocabulary, and how if he were to abuse our historical conditioning to bend to the whims of men, it would be the greatest sin and sign of weakness he could show. And when it comes to sex, tell him technical consent isn’t the gold standard but the complete basic foundation, and anything less than a woman being enthusiastic about something sexual that is about to happen is a bad thing and a sign that he must stop whatever he is doing and talk to her. Tell him that being generous in the bedroom will be reported far and wide amongst women across the lands, because we tell each other everything, the tales shall travel far and wide, and his name shall become legend amongst us.
Tell him about your hopes and dreams so he grows up wanting them for you and feels as though they are important. Tell him how you feel. Don’t always be perfectly stoic as we have been conditioned to pretend we are, which in turn means that men overestimate our coping ability and then push us to the fucking edge. Build a man who understands that we are only human and have needs and sometimes need help.
Tell him that we are smart. Show him smart women you admire. Tell him to look for that in a girl. Show him films with tough female leads from when he’s young. Tell him that we are funny. Show him funny women. Tell him we are strong. Tell him that’s a good thing. Tell him it’s cool. Tell him it’s sexy. Show him how strong you are. Don’t just pick up after him. Don’t just pick up after his father. Command the respect you deserve. Be his friend. Be his teacher. Spend your life with and raise him in front of a good man who shares your beliefs and respects you. DO NOT EVER SELL YOURSELF SHORT.
We may have to fight our generation of men (and the one before that) for our rights, our safety and for our voices to be heard, which is sad and frustrating. But we have a golden window of opportunity to completely shape the future of our entire society from our living rooms. Build these men from scratch to fit women, rather than have them take up all the space and force us to compact ourselves to the little corner allocated to us.
God we must be pretty amazing to have overcome all of this shit. Tell him.