Fathers of Daughters May Feel Insulted, but Fathers of Sons Can Fix the Problem. 11/10/2016

Published by LATIMES

“As a father of daughters” is now a well-worn phrase, trod
out every time men feel the need to distance themselves from
misogynistic comments or behavior.

Of course it’s been particularly pervasive in the last few days, as Republicans have denounced Donald Trump for saying he “grabs” women’s genitals in a leaked video from 2005. Rep. Jason Chaffetz
of Utah, for example, said that “My wife and I, we have a 15-year-old
daughter, and if I can’t look her in the eye and tell her these things, I
can’t endorse this person." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of
Kentucky issued a statement explaining that “as the father of three
daughters, I strongly believe that Trump needs to apologize directly to
women and girls everywhere.”

The “as a father of daughters” refrain has
even become part of Hillary Clinton’s offensive. An ad released by her
campaign on Monday features a lifelong Republican who announces that he
won’t vote for Trump because “I’m the father of three girls.”  

 If men wait until they have girls to join the cause, they’ll have spent decades perpetuating the culture of male privilege.

  

Fathers
of daughters may well feel a personal sense of outrage — but it’s the
fathers of sons who could, ultimately, do something to mitigate or end
the misogyny that still taints our culture.

 

Left up to their own devices, we know what boys
will grow up to do. According to a 2014 study, 65% of women have
experienced street harassment, 20% have been followed, and 9%
subsequently forced to do something sexual. But the street isn’t the
only danger zone: 1 in 3 women has been harassed at work, according to a
Cosmopolitan Magazine study last year. Sexual assault is widespread on
college campuses.

As a father of sons, it’s my
responsibility to help fix these problems. Just as I speak with my
children about other issues of civil rights and discrimination, I speak
with them about the difficulties women have historically faced at the
hands of men. Of course I have to speak in an age-appropriate fashion
when it comes to sexual activity and predation, but the basic concept of
consent is something every child can understand.

My kids
were taught not to grab others’ toys when they were still in diapers;
surely, over time, that instruction can be applied to other discussions
of what else they may not grab.

If we don’t have that discussion with our boys, if
we don’t speak frankly and specifically about what consent and respect
for women mean, we’re leaving them at the mercy of our broader society.
Our boys’ morality is too precious to leave up to television and locker
room buddies as their main sources of instruction.

But
it’s not enough to simply avoid offense. We need to raise our boys to be
conscious and critical of the culture they enter. Confronting misogyny
around them will make our boys not just individuals who do no harm, but
agents of change. When they hear someone make a sexist joke, our boys
should be the kind to say, “That’s not funny.” When they hear an
unfortunate generalization about women, they should be the ones to
interrupt and say, “That’s not true.” Our boys should report abuse and
harassment they see to the authorities and avoid ever engaging in a “bro
code” of silence.

 

Of course there are others reasons to
chafe at the “fathers of daughters” line. As nice as it is to have
fathers on the side of equality, there is the obvious question of “where
did you stand before?” If men wait until they have girls to join the
cause, they’ll have spent decades perpetuating the culture of male
privilege. Shouldn’t every person, whether or not they have daughters —
or sisters or wives — find talk of sexual assault abhorrent?