I Am Raising My Boys To Help Smash The Patriarchy

by Jacque Gorelick
Bill Pugliano / Getty Images

Strong women, may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.

I am a strong woman. I was raised by a strong woman, and I would most definitely raise a strong woman. But I am not raising a woman. I am raising two men, and right now they are boys.

The world is ready to shape and influence them into the kind of men they will one day be. The patriarchy is waiting, and I’m doing my best to raise them to help tear it down.

When I met their dad, he had just come to San Francisco from a small town and a pretty conservative family. I was smack dab in the middle of a psychology degree, taking women’s studies and sexual diversity courses.

By our third date, we had discussed white privilege, male privilege, LGBTQ rights, and affirmative action — all of which were pretty progressive topics for him. But he was open-minded enough to listen and intrigued enough with me to keep the discussion going (or it was all the Ani DiFranco I played in my car with the “Girls Kick Ass” sticker on the bumper, seeping into his psyche.)

Either way, our world views aligned, and almost 20 years later here we are — raising two boys.

After two decades of marinating in conversations about the state of equality and progress, that same young man from a small town, who had not discussed race relations or feminism before we met, used his frequent flier miles to put me on a plane to DC to march for equal rights and civil liberties.

That same man who had never dated a feminist before me, sent me an email while I was away saying how much he appreciates me and my role in our family, and in his words, I am “amazing.”

That same man, who had not discussed wage inequality or male privilege before we met, took time off of work to be home with our boys — without batting an eye. He did not need instructions or pre-prepared meals, because he is a parent, not a babysitter. He is my partner, and he wanted me to march for our shared values, which are so much bigger than both of us.

That is us, chipping away at the patriarchy.

The Women’s March was sparked from widespread concern for misogyny running rampant in the Oval Office, but it quickly grew into a movement that spanned the gamut from civil liberties to climate change. A dominant focus of the march remained reproductive rights and the fight against our bodies being objectified, violated, or federally regulated.

I marched for all of those things, passionately. I soaked up the energy from the army of pink Pussyhats, and read the signs declaring:

Women’s Rights Are Equal Rights

Feminism Is the Radical Notion That Women Are People

My Body, My Choice, My Country, My Voice

It was impossible not to feel a deep connection to all things female.

But it wasn’t just the X chromosomes coursing through my DNA that kept me marching onward. The two future-men and the one all-grown-up-one holding down the fort in the corner of the world we are building together fueled me to push onward. I was inspired by the awesome power of women, and our unifying desire for equality, but I also thought of my boys.

I’ve never felt a void by not having a daughter. I do, however, feel the enormous responsibility entrusted to me by my fellow women to raise boys who will resist the patriarchy. Now, more than ever, we need boys who will be the kind of men who fight against injustice, even when their privilege insulates them.

I’m raising my boys to grow up to be better men than the senators and politicians who so publicly reduced the women who marched to angry, tattooed, freeloaders, and short-order cooks.

I’m raising my boys to grow into the kind of men who shut down “locker room talk” instead of laughing along in complicity.

I’m raising my boys to know that women are their doctors, teachers, mothers, friends, politicians, policymakers, leaders — their equals.

I’m raising my boys to understand that our country is already strong because of its diversity and opportunity for all — not in spite of it.

I’m raising my boys with an awareness of privilege and an understanding that just because it is not a problem for you, does not mean it isn’t a problem.

I’m raising my boys to use their male privilege to speak up for what is right, instead of what is easy, so that one day, when they are welcomed into the patriarchy, they can chip away at it from the inside.

I saw my oldest son’s principal the other day, and she said he told her he was proud of me for marching. That night when I tucked him in, he told me I was brave.

While our children will witness misogyny, racism, and inequity as they grow up, they are also watching us resist. They watched millions of us around the world march for women’s rights and equal opportunities for all. They see the mayors of sanctuary cities, state governors, world leaders, journalists, federal judges, and even national park rangers have the moral courage to speak out against unjustness.

The future is watching, and what we do matters.

I truly hope that in 2020 my ballot has a woman on it, but my heart aches with doubt. My country chose a man of severely questionable temperament, character, ideals, and experience over a woman who was arguably much more qualified to serve as our president.

Sadly, I’m not convinced that our country is ready to smash the patriarchy just yet. Until we are, I will carry my own sign every day while I raise these boys of mine:

Strong Women, may we know them, may we be them, and may we raise men strong enough to march alongside them and smash the patriarchy with us.