When my son was around the age of 12, he wanted to buy an Eminem CD. He had asked in the past and was always told no, as the lyrics contained hateful messages about women. But this time when he asked I had a rare moment of parenting brilliance. I asked him if he felt he was old enough to handle the lyrics and their meaning. He, of course, said that he was. I told him he could purchase the CD but first he needed to print out the lyrics and read them out loud to me, if he was old enough to listen to the music than he was old enough to have an adult conversation about their content. He quickly decided he didn’t want the CD.
Circulating around social media is a video where men read hateful messages received by female journalists by other men. It is a painfully real and a sad fact of life that women face, often face alone, hateful, misogynistic, violent, and oppressive messages. One of the first things I thought of after viewing it, was my conversation with Colin more than a dozen years earlier.
Later, as I sat down to write this blog for Mother’s Day, I couldn’t get the image of this video out of my mind. These women, and unfortunately thousands of women like them, receive a barrage of negative messages each and every day, some more vile than others. The messages read in the video were received by these journalists from total strangers, men hiding under the veil of privacy afforded to them from social media. But women also receive these same type of messages from men they know – spouses, fathers, brothers, dates, bosses, and colleagues. Messages of worthlessness and hate.
As a mom, it has been my job (not to take away from my husband’s part of the responsibility) to teach my son about respecting women. In addition to making sure that he ate well, received proper medical care, learned to read, received an education; it was my job to help him learn his place in this world. It is not about opening up the car door but about the importance of equality and respect. Talking to our daughters and sons as well as modeling appropriate behavior is so important. And in today’s world of mixed messages about manhood and the role of violence, it is probably more important than ever.
Mother’s Day is about celebrating moms but it is also a time for us mothers to reflect on our role as a mother and the impact we have on our children. The men who sent the violent and misogynistic messages in the video, all have moms. Many probably also have wives, partners, sisters, daughters and sons. Women, along with men, let’s send strong messages to those who spew such hate. Let us inform our sons, brothers, colleagues that we will not accept their behavior.
This Mother’s Day, as my son hopefully recognizes my role as his mother, I will also thank him for turning into a young man who views equality as the norm and not the exception. And for showing all the women in his life the respect we deserve.