It’s 4pm on a hot summer day and I stand a block away from my house, hiding in the shade of the shadow of a stop sign, waiting for my son’s school bus to drop him off. A man drives up, in his 30s, flashy Mercedes, shirt, tie, pop music, and tells me to get in.
I’m 43. I’m wearing baggy jean shorts that have survived motherhood for over four years, my hair is in an unruly, smelly pony tail, I’m sweating, miserable, grumpy. Why he mistakes me for a hooker is beyond me. Maybe it was because I was leaning on the pole. But with that logic, any woman who leans on anything on a street is a hooker. I’m no MILF, no cougar, none of those flattering names that women my age are given by damaged members of the opposite sex. And definitely not remotely appealing at that time of day to the undamaged ones.
I live in a country, in a world, where a man slaps his wife in the middle of a sold-out concert that’s raising money for the hungry, and she sits back down next to him. In the country that founded democracy, at the stadium that saw the birth of the modern Olympic games. All I can think of is what must happen at home, for a palm across the face to be accepted in front of 20,000 people.
A six year old girl wants to wear a bra. Probably because some other kid in school convinced her mom it was ok to wear one.
An 11 year old, a crop top and hot shorts. Because 11-year-olds are 20-year-olds of my generation.
Neither see the reasoning in their mothers’ objections. Both innocent enough to not realize that society has already sexualized them, stripped them of their core identity, or not even given them a chance to form one.
I watch the bad excuse for a man that the American people elected to lead them this week, and squirm. I’m like those bugs that turn into balls when they’re scared, roly polies, that my son is so fascinated by. I watch him blatantly demean the first lady of France. I wonder what she replied to his ageist, sexist comments behind the scenes, and hope that she used wisdom and swear words.
People keep writing parenting advice articles to moms to teach their sons to respect women. It’s not the moms who need to do that, it’s the dads. And by respect I do not mean open doors and pretend to listen to their opinions. I mean raise them in an environment where at no point in time, in their entire childhood, are they even given the of hint of the possibility of the idea that any woman is a lesser or weaker than they are. It’s that simple, it’s common sense. I know plenty of dads out there more than capable of such a feat. And many more, capable and insisting on the complete opposite.
But we’ve come so far, the voices of women everywhere shout at me, angrily. Yes, angrily. Because we are still angry. How can we not be? Is this a fight we can even win? If so, why is it still such a fight? There are so many of us, we are all screaming, our words fading as if background noise to deaf ears. And so many more of us, choosing to remain silent.