Raising a Son in the Age of Trump & Rape Culture

October 12, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LESSONS LEARNED

Donald Trump & rape culture

When I first read the words, I was sick to my stomach. It worsened as the coverage expanded, as I watched and re-watched the video and awaited the eventual (faux) apology. Nausea then gave way to disgust as I witnessed a serial assaulter attempt to shame his female opponent by exploiting the assaults of even more women.

Yet as this insanity unfolded, my greatest anxiety came from the question on repeat in my head:

How do I raise my son in the age of Donald Trump and rape culture?
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Neither Trump nor rape culture are new phenomena; but never in our country’s history has there been such a blatant display (and subsequent endorsement) of misogyny from one poised to be its leader.

Whether or not Trump wins the presidency is beside the point — the damage has been done. A man who boasts of sexually assaulting women is the nominee of a major political party — a crazed comb-over away from becoming the most powerful man on the planet. Decades of teaching little girls “You can be anything you want to be” have been slapped to the floor; threatened with jail time; grabbed in the pussy, as it were. And little boys are shown that ignorant, predatory bullies are worshiped like rock stars. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.

So I pose the question again:

How do I raise my son in the age of Donald Trump and rape culture?

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What can I say to him? How do I explain…any of it?

I remember excitedly telling my son on the morning of his third birthday that his Papa and I could finally get married in our home state. Less than three years later, we took an impromptu field trip to the Supreme Court, where I explained that daddies and papas (and mommies and mamas) all over the country could now marry. I’ve told him how special it is that he was born under our first black president, and that the next might be the first woman. Recounting these experiences, I wrote, “Hope for the future, restored.”

But now I have no words; my excitement is quelled; my hope, diminished.

I sat at my desk Monday morning — as I do every school day — to make a note for my son’s lunch. Weary and uninspired, I wondered how to brighten any negativity he might be picking up on — or at least lift my own spirits. And of course I pondered the uncertainty of the last few days, and how this lone doodle might help.

My head and hand were quickly drawn to Wonder Woman, the quintessential superheroine. But I couldn’t bring myself to show her smiling in her (man-designed) corset and tiara, so I started drawing her Lasso of Truth.

I thought about how Wonder Woman uses the truth to expose evil — sussing out motivation and intent, plumbing the depths of villainous hearts and rendering them powerless.

I recalled the women I’d seen posting on social media, listing the times they’d been grabbed, assaulted, and humiliated by men. They were using their truths to shed light on the reality, and not the reality star. Their bravery moved me, and their power inspired me.

I considered the countless women whose painful stories I didn’t see, and what a force of nature they all are — regardless of when and where they choose to speak their truth. And I imagined how terrifying and enraging the possibility of a Trump presidency must be to them.

Finishing the note with the phrase TRUTH IS POWER, I realized Wonder Woman and her magical lariat had given me my answer.

donald trump rape culture wonder woman

How do I raise my son in the age of Donald Trump and rape culture?

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The answer is to speak the truth.
The truth that girls and women are deserving of respect — not because they’re pretty, or sensitive, or accomplished, or smart. Or because it’s our job as males to bequeath respect upon them. They deserve respect because they’re human beings.

The answer is to use my power. To put my own privilege to work and fight bigotry and oppression in all its forms. To draw upon my power as a voter, a writer, an artist, and a father.

The answer is to never stop trying. I can’t afford to give up, in any way, at any moment. The temptation is certainly there — to throw up my hands and declare the problem too big, out of my control, not mine. But the stakes are too high and the threat too imminent.

I commit to speak the truth, use my power, and never stop trying to show my son what it means to be a good person. And to keep stashing girl superhero notes into his lunch from time-to-time, to remind him that Wonder Woman …and the Pink Ranger, and Storm, and Rey… are pretty damn awesome. And that girls can — and will — be anything they want to be. Even especially president.
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Wonder Woman, Donald Trump & rape culture

Jon (age 3) shows off his Wonder Woman bracelets to Lynda Carter at the DC Pride parade.

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Check out the lunch notes I make for my son every school day, by following me at SuperLunchNotes on Instagram.

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2 responses to “Raising a Son in the Age of Trump & Rape Culture”

  1. Paula says:

    Thank you for this, Brent. Reading your passionate words helps me know that many men understand and care, and that those that do are actually the majority. I too struggle hoping that I am teaching my son the importance of treating everyone with respect. Know that your support is needed and appreciated.

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