By now, everyone in America’s heard it, so it hardly bears repeating. But Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, in a leaked audio published by The Washington Post, said, when speaking of women, that you should just “grab ‘em by the p*ssy," and that because he's a "star," he doesn't even have to "wait," he can "just kiss" them, even if they're married. Since then, more and more women have come forward alleging sexual assault against Trump, claims in which he vehemently denies. But it's not just the recent allegations against him that make me vow to never raise children like him and ensure my sons do not grow up to say things like The Donald does. It's also everything he's said. I don't want anyone to treat women the way he does, much less children I have some say in raising. In fact, I hope they grow up to shout down men who say things about women and other people the way he has throughout this whole election cycle. And if I realized anything from the 2016, it's just how important raising my boys to treat women with respect has become.
Following the leak, Trump released a statement to the media saying: "This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course — not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended." And according to the New York Times, Trump has previously said “If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.” He once tweeted that Rosie O’Donnell had a “fat, ugly face." He said that all women were gold diggers. Trump once called breastfeeding "disgusting" when a lawyer needed to leave the courtroom to pump. He called Arianna Huffington a "dog." He blamed military sexual assaults on women in the military, and tweeted “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?” then deleted it, but not before people snapped screenshots.
Trump called Megyn Kelly a "bimbo." He called Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton an "enabler" of her husband's alleged affairs. Trump fat-shamed Alicia Machado, former Miss Universe, even going so far as to refer to her as "Miss Housekeeping." Time and time again, when asked to show his true colors, Trump does. And as the mother of boys, it's a glaring reminder of the kind of men I won't allow myself to raise.
First, I make sure my boys see a good male role model: their father. I married a man who loves me, who treats me well, and who would never, ever objectify me or treat me like a piece of meat. We make sure our sons see my husband cook. They see him do half the housework and half the childcare. I nap while he parents. He speaks well of women and denigrates those who don’t. He knows what “the patriarchy” is and how feminism works. In fact, he'd happily call himself a feminist, with all it entails. But most of all, my sons see him always, always treat me with respect.
We also make sure our sons respect me as their mother. For example, when I tell them to do something, it gets done — and if it doesn’t, there are consequences. My husband enforces my parenting mandates. He defers to them, in fact, if we disagree, which we’re careful never to do in front of the kids, even if we differ. He never parents over me, and backs up what I say. In other words, he models the respect we want our sons to have.
We also model body positivity and acceptance. At age 2, my son had an “Every Body Is Beautiful” shirt from the 4th Trimester Bodies Project. Even right now, when a medication has made me pack on plenty of unwanted pounds, I don’t denigrate my body in front of them. We’re careful to emphasize that beauty comes in many forms, and to point out everything from gorgeous afros, to lovely skinny women, to curvaceous fat girls are examples of beauty. My sons tell me I’m beautiful. Of course they do; I’m their mother. But I hope they keep hold of that aesthetic and realize that all bodies can indeed be attractive.
We teach them to notice other people. We emphasize that people are different, that their brothers’ wants and needs are not the same as their wants and needs.
Moreover, we teach them the truth about wealth in America. We make sure our kids learn, on a day-to-day, regular, casual conversation level, that poor people aren’t poor because they’re "lazy." We teach them that people living in poverty don’t have the advantages that people like Donald Trump have: that people like my sons have. We make sure they realize the leg up that comes with their color, their gender, their education, the fact that they come from a stable family, and on and on and on. If they know about their privilege, they'll understand that everyone else doesn't have it. And they'll treat them accordingly. We teach them that their whiteness does not mean they have the power to take and do and say as they please. We teach them to use their whiteness to advocate for others and to help make the world a better place.
We make sure our sons practice compassion. When my 6-year-old son lets his 2-year-old cousin play with his toy, we praise him. When our middle son lets our oldest take apart the precious Lego set he just assembled and rebuild it, we praise him. We try to let others go first; we hold doors and carry bags and ask if people need help. Our sons learn to do the same, and when they mimic us, we tell them how awesome they did. We try to put others before ourselves and not to complain about it. Even when that other is a screaming 4 year old, because a 6 year old and 2 year old are watching avidly to see what we’ll do.
We emphasize that everyone’s body is their own. That no one has the right to touch you in ways you don’t want to be touched. And that, equally, you don’t have the right to touch anyone who doesn’t want touched.
We give to those less fortunate, and give our time as much as possible. Giving to those less fortunate doesn’t just mean dropping a buck in the collection basket at our weekly service. It means helping to make PB&Js for the homeless. It means buying presents for a needy child at Christmas time. The less fortunate are all around us: the poor not in funds, but in heart. We teach our kids to notice when people are sad, and to try to comfort them.
In fact, we teach them to notice other people. We emphasize that people are different, that their brothers’ wants and needs are not the same as their wants and needs. We teach them to see, for example, when they hit each other: Look at your brother. He’s sad. He's sad because you hit him, we say. We don’t make other people sad. Or, we say, See how he’s yelling? That means he’s angry you took his toy. Give it back to him. When we model this talk, we give them a framework to use it on their own. We give them a framework for compassion.
We teach them that no means no. My oldest loves to tickle my youngest. But when the baby starts to shriek, we make him stop. “He's shrieking,” we say. “And that’s his way of saying ‘stop,’ and when someone tells us to stop touching their body, we stop.” We emphasize that everyone’s body is their own. That no one has the right to touch you in ways you don’t want to be touched. And that, equally, you don’t have the right to touch anyone who doesn’t want touched.
The Donald is a narcissist. In The New York Times, David Brooks suggests that Trump has narcissistic alexithymia, or “the inability to understand or describe emotions in the self.” But I refuse to allow my sons to grow up and behave this way. I won't raise them to be "diagnosable narcissists" or sociopaths. Our hard work as parents will keep them from treating people like disposable objects, useful only for their own consumption. We'll teach them to be good people, great brothers, trusting friends. We'll teach them to be advocates, to see and treat women with respect and with consideration. We'll raise our boys to know that men like Trump are not the norm. And we'll teach them to know and do better.