Courtesy of the author.

I'm A Mom To A Son & It's Not My Job To Fix This F*cked Up Culture

Ad failed to load

The year began with women staging the largest counter-protest in history, and ended with women bringing men in positions of power tumbling across industries. 2017 was a year in which women were the change they wish to see in the world. Amid the #MeToo movement and unearthing of sexual predators across industries, it has been amazing to see the power women can have as a collective. At the same time, we keep hearing that the solution is for women to simply "raise better men" — that mothers can rear their sons to act as a cure of sorts for society's ills. I'm a mom to a son and I say it's not my job to fix this f*cked up culture.

It's a slow recipe for change. You see it in New York Times manifestos on how women can raise feminists sons, and in blog posts from mothers boasting about their parenting plans to raise sons that actually respect women. There are countless tweets urging "ladies" to "raise better sons" who will respect women they don't have a familial tie to, and even Fox News articles pontificating about the "end of men" and asking if "we've forgotten how to raise boys into men" (a response to the troublesome success of the "raise feminist sons" movement). The media seems to agree that our power as mothers to shape our children is the best tool in the feminist toolkit. Fix it, they all say. Fix it yourselves, with your own flesh and blood.

Well, I'm pushing back.

Ad failed to load
I knew that when I became a parent I would have a chance to raise an ally. I knew it way before Harvey Weinstein, before Louis C.K., before Roy Moore.

I'm not saying I don't have an obligation, as a member of society, to raise a kind, decent, empathetic human being who won't wield the powers of toxic masculinity at will and ignore a woman's bodily autonomy. I am well aware of my responsibilities as a mother. But here's the thing: I knew what my role in combating rape culture was long before people waking up to the systemic nature of violence against women had the bright idea for us to simply rear an army of tiny feminists. I have long known that when I became a parent I would have a chance to raise an ally. I knew it way before Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Roy Moore, Al Franken, the president of the United States, and even Bill Cosby and Brock Turner became footnotes for rape culture. I knew it before Sylvester Stallone and George Takei and Brett Ratner and R. Kelly. I knew it back when Roman Polanski and Woody Allen were considered anomalies not worth worrying about.

I knew it before I was raped by a coworker six years ago during a work retreat, suffered through an extensive rape kit, waited over a year to receive the results, and listened to the detective sitting across from me in my living room offer up apologies for and explanations as to why the district attorney would not, in fact, be moving forward with my case.

Ad failed to load
Danielle Campoanor and her son. Courtesy of the author.

Parents want to raise their kids right, and to spare their children the dangers they themselves have endured. They know their power. A nationwide study conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy in 2010 found that 46 percent of teens believe their parents are the biggest influence regarding their decisions about sex. Kate Rohdenburg, a sexual violence prevention educator in New England, told The Atlantic that "speaking plaining to children about their anatomy is an important part of her work." So I use anatomically correct language when identifying body parts — whether they be my son's or mine — so he never feels shame about his body, or judgment about someone else's.

I am doing my part, and will continue to do my part, but it is not just my job, or the job of every mother raising a son, to dismantle a culture that believes staying quiet, looking the other way, or blaming the victim is the only responses to sexual assault.
Ad failed to load

As reported in Telegram, multiple studies have shown that boys who don't secure attachments with their mothers develop behavior problems later in life. And the American Psychological Association conducted a study that showed boys who are close to their mothers have a higher chance of ignoring hyper-masculine stereotypes. So I co-slept and then I tried my hand at bed-sharing, and did the babywearing thing and breastfed for seven months. I continue to practice attachment-parenting.

Nicole Cushman, the executive director for the comprehensive sex ed nonprofit organization Answer, told Mashable that "teaching young people about sex and sexuality can fundamentally shift their views on critical issues like consent, abuse, and assault." So my partner and I teach my son about consent in age-appropriate ways — we won't cut his hair without his permission, he doesn't have to kiss and/or hug family members if he doesn't want to, and he has to ask permission before he hugs a friend at the playground — and plan on speaking openly, honestly, and positively about sex and sexuality when he's older and ready to listen.

Courtesy of the author.
Ad failed to load

I have spoken on panels about sexual assault and rape culture, as a survivor, and had my partner and son attend. I have volunteered for an organization that teaches consent to middle and high school students, and shared videos and pictures of my efforts with my son, describing what "mommy" was doing in a way that his naive 3-year-old mind can comprehend.

I am doing my part, and will continue to do my part, but it is not just my job, or the job of every mother raising a son, to dismantle a culture that requires a critical mass of abused women to come forward before it considers the possibility that a man is guilty.

That job belongs to everyone.

Ad failed to load

It certainly belongs to fathers, who have historically been granted the freedom to side-step the many responsibilities of parenting. Where are the men in this narrative?

According to the Father Involvement Research Alliance (FIRA), paternal involvement is "positively correlated with children's overall social competence, social initiative, social maturity, and capacity for relatedness with others." And when fathers were absent or less involved, FIRA found higher levels of hostility in children. In fact, according to FIRA, the "strongest predictor of empathetic concern in children and adults is high levels of paternal involvement with a child."

Ad failed to load
Danielle Campoanor speaks on a panel about sexual assault. Courtesy of the author.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to Parents, found that "the quality of a child's parents' marriage had as much influence on his or her future mental and physical health and wellbeing as his or her own relationship with either parent." Fathers can demonstrate healthy, consensual romantic relationships with their sons by mirroring the very same within their own partnerships, be it marriage, long-term romantic interests, or casual dating.

We ask nothing of fathers, yet they are lauded for the realization that women's rights and women's safety matter because they have a daughter, and the issue suddenly hits close to home. No, it's mothers who are targeted with raising the next generation to be better than the one that's currently failing us all.

Ad failed to load

Mothers, like the bystanders in the high-profile cases of sexual harassment and assault, are fallible. The instinct to close ranks around one of your own when they are accused of assault extends to women. A recent New York Times profile of mothers whose sons have been accused of sexual assault shows that sometimes the bond we have with our children clouds all judgement and reason. Brock Turner's mother begged her son's judge not to put him in jail, because "he wouldn't survive it." As the saying goes, "Only a mother could love him."

To hear that, as a mother, I must singlehandedly change our culture by raising a son who will be better, is like being told, as a victim of sexual assault, that I should have known better.

Women and girls experience the highest rates of sexual assault, with one out of every six American women becoming a victim of an attempted or completed rape in her life time. Sexual assault has notoriously been labeled a "woman's problem," yet it is men who are sexually abusing women at such staggering rates. So to hear that, as a mother, I must singlehandedly change our culture by raising a son who will be better, is like being told, as a victim of sexual assault, that I should have known better. That it will always be my problem to fix. It will always be my burden to carry. When I hear a call for mothers to "raise better sons," I hear: "Women, fix this."

Ad failed to load

What if, instead of telling "mothers of sons" to inspire change, we start telling all parents to simply be there? To discuss openly the invisible rules of our society — you know, so we are all on the same page. Daughters and sons need to hear: this is how we treat people. Anything that falls below this line is not OK. We are all goddamn humans, aren't we?

Courtesy of Danielle Campoanor

If we are to dismantle rape culture, we must collectively be involved in the effort. And men largely have the power to change the systemic disenfranchisement of women. Yes, those of us on the bottom of the pile can do our rabble-rousing, but it's difficult to topple the system from a point of exclusion. This is why men need to buy in.

Ad failed to load

This burden cannot rest solely on the shoulders of women alone, be it mothers, sexual assault victims, or women simply trying to make it through the day without being harassed. It's not our job to share our #MeToo stories so the rest of the world believes us. We're not the only people who should be holding the men in our lives accountable for their actions. We are not the only conduits of change.

In January, we march again. As they did before, men — sons, partners, brothers, friends — will walk alongside us. Because the only chance in hell we have of making 2018 the year in which men truly view and value women as equal is if we start dismantling this toxic culture together. We can't walk this path alone.

Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

Ad failed to load

Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

The Entire Family Can Enjoy These Movies & Shows Coming To Netflix In June

It's just one of those sad facts of life: every month, shows and movies vanish from Netflix, their varied excitements no longer at your fingertips. But luckily the streaming service is always prepared to fill that content void with lots of new things…
By Megan Walsh

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills
)}