It might be easier and take less time to make a list of women who haven’t been assaulted; a list of men who’ve never been inappropriate around women; a list of people who’ve never been on the internet or heard of Planet Earth. Every day, I brace myself for the dirtbag reveal and the toxic unraveling that follows:
SON OF A
YOU KNOW WHAT
I FUCKING KNEW
BECAUSE IT’S EVERYONE
IT’S ALL OF THEM
I KNEW IT
LET’S HIDE IN THE WOODS
Cut to me in a fleece ball on my bed, making sweet love to Netflix, and trying not to think of all the lecherous dickholes Amazon might be partnered with.
The women who shared their #MeToo stories are brave, but those who couldn’t share for whatever reason are courageous, too. Reliving old trauma with each declaration is difficult, so I understand those who’ve supported this movement from the sidelines in silence. I cannot name one woman I personally know who hasn’t been violated in some way, and I know some men in my life have, as well. We are all survivors.
If women make up half the population – and they cover half the world – and the majority of them have survived a colorful tapestry of unspeakable violence and terror – then what does that make the whole planet? The worst survival bunker in the galaxy?
No wonder alien life forms never come here. There’s probably an intergalactic travel ban against visiting a place so dangerous to half its population.
Hey, let’s put the violated and those who did the violating together on TV. We’ll have cameras everywhere and broadcast it live.
Just make sure there’s a hot tub and a lot of booze and a redhead named Tanzy.
WE’RE GONNA BE RICH.
“This is the true story… of seven billion strangers… picked to live on a planet…work together, and have their lives taped… to find out what happens… when people stop being polite… and start getting real traumatized….”
“The Real World: Earth!”
What could go wrong?
I kind of miss the old MTV days of videos, reality shows, and nonsense. When someone could be on TV and then go have a life of total obscurity. Celebrity as celebrity hadn’t quite overcome us yet; I’d never even heard of a Kardashian (what luxury!). Fast forward 20 years, though, and look at what’s been wrought in The White House: Puck is President. Flora is VP. And everyone else is drunk and flexing their spray-tanned muscles for the cameras while leering at Tanzy in the hot tub.
We have no attention span but can’t look away. That paradox is such an issue right now, and will be for generations to come. I’m bored but constantly engaged. Hey look, male predators are writing about other male predators in op-eds and then more predators are coming out to support Predator #1 but definitely not Predator #2 — I mean, Predator #2 fled the country after non-consensual sex with a minor but Predator #1 is fine, he just fell for his girlfriend’s underage daughter and is accused of grooming patterns and familial abuse. Let’s give him a pass because his movies about old men and really young women are considered art and not public confession.
I would say these men are garbage, but most garbage was once something useful or delicious, so no.
There’s a list of famous men I hold in the tiniest pocket of my heart who I hope turn out to be good humans – looking at the likes of Adam Scott, Jeff Goldblum, Alan Tudyk, Trevor Noah – even though I don’t really know what “good” means anymore. Haven’t grabbed anyone at an office party? Good! Not a rapist, just an asshole? Good! I guess I’m grateful to be surrounded by trustworthy men who understand boundaries and would never hurt women in the ways we’ve spoken up about. But I have a 19-year old son, and I think of the men who’ve assaulted me, abused me, disrespected me, and stepped on me in the past without a backward glance. Those men had mothers, too.
No mother wants a son who grows up to violate women and yet here we are, in 2018, hearing story after story of beloved sons who did exactly that: violated and diminished women of all backgrounds, of every age and in every industry, with total impunity. Sons who grew up and became Hollywood monsters. Sons who became politicians with no empathy, no understanding of agency or how women’s bodies work. Sons who were raised to think money equals permission to grab women by the only thing they’re good for. Sons who’ve left violence and chaos and emotional minefields in their wake.
I feel for the mothers of those men.
This keeps me awake at night, knowing that someday soon, I will be sending a son into the world of men with crossed fingers, very little training, and an underdeveloped frontal lobe. As he takes his next steps in life – something I’m not at all envious of but still wistful about anyway – I’ve been compiling a silent list in my head of things that I hope we taught him.
The #MeToo movement has turned that list from 100 life things like “Leave spaces and people better than you found them” and “Be the guy everyone wants to invite to the party, not the one people have to kick out” to just one big thing: communication.
It doesn’t really matter what you plan to do in life, you will have some kind of life regardless. There will be jobs and people and fun and pain, you’ll make memories and learn hard things about yourself and hopefully grow — no matter what you do, who you do it with, how much money you make, or what you look like. But something that can make or break that life is if you can process and communicate.
Learn how to communicate with everyone, from the butcher to your employer to your lovers to your roommates to your parents to people you wholeheartedly disagree with; learn how to ask them what they need and want from you, too. Learn how to flirt, show love, appreciate your partner, and be attuned to their needs — even if it’s just, in the beginning, “Hey, this is something I’m working on and could use some help or feedback.” Learn how to process that break-up without harassing your ex or shaming her online; how to take responsibility for something you did and genuinely apologize; how to work through imposter syndrome, whether with a counselor or trusted friend; and how to show up for other people. I hope my son will learn how to do all of these crucial things and more.
Learn how to communicate for the good of everyone around you. Guns are not communication. Rape and abuse are not communication. Online bullying is not communication. Diminishing the power of others to feel good is not communication.
It’s fucking sad I even have to write that, but we share this world with a bunch of men who did not get the message. As more women step into politics, ready to lead a nation taken to the cleaners for hundreds of years by our male counterparts, it’s important we prepare our children for change, too. Yes, your daughters deserve to be paid equally and can be anything they want and have generations of women to look up to who overcame huge obstacles, but our sons deserve a new path, too. We reward them for strength and being ruthless and getting to the top, but not a lot of in-between. Toxic masculinity plus a patriarchal society isn’t going to support our sons in being different, so I guess it’s up to us.
That’s my least favorite answer, too.