I know you probably do not wish to hear me ‘harping’ into your ear. Not today, in the midst of your holiday weekend. You’ve got a grill to light, beer to chill and traffic conditions to consider if you want to catch those fireworks.
If you’re a married dad, maybe there are the kids to load into the SUV and all that sunscreen to apply. If you’re a single dad — is this your weekend or hers? How will the two of you parcel out your time so your child/ren gets equal measures of your Independence Day observance?
It’s a lot to take on.
Even more so because I am here to buzz in your ear. I am here to remind you of the privileges you hold — the ones that your daughter(s) — if you have any — will never know. I am whispering ‘Do better’.
If you have no children or if you don’t want children, or for whatever reason, fatherhood is not an option for you — I’m buzzing in your ear too; maybe a little louder.
I’m sure y’all are nice guys. I’m sure you would never dream of hitting a woman, abusing a child, harassing a trans person, lynching a person of colour — raping, beating, killing any of the above. Nobody. Not ever. That’s why I am talking to you.
That is why I am imploring you to do more than lip service. Do more than share memes on Facebook and Twitter. Do more than feel bad that on this Independence Day a judge can order a ten-year-old girl to give birth to her rapist’s baby. Do more than knit your eyebrows together and shake your head because Jayland Walker had sixty police bullets inside his dead body, and you know in your heart of hearts that he’ll be forgotten in another week.
Do better, my cis-white brother. Don’t just shake your head, and don’t you dare shrug your shoulders and tell me it is what it is.
Show up. Get stuck in. Put your privilege on the line because that is what it takes. Observe Independence Day by acknowledging that the young woman who rang up your beer and potato chips just had what little independence she had stripped away from her. Now share that knowledge with your mates, your brothers, your sons, uncles and fathers.
Learn things. Learn how the female reproductive system works. Learn the risk of injury and death to women in pregnancy and childbirth. Learn how lack of proper healthcare impacts women and children and how America has the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world. Learn how a woman’s risk of dying by homicide increases more than 16 % during pregnancy and within three months after giving birth.
Then learn more. Learn about ectopic pregnancies and why without abortion access for that and many other pregnancy-related complications, women will die. At the very least the injuries to a woman’s body can be catastrophic. Learn about preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, placental previa, placental abruption, miscarriage, spontaneous abortion, sepsis and haemorrhage. Learn how all of these only scratch the surface of possible complications. Once again share your new knowledge with your mates, brothers, sons etc…
Next, fully immerse yourself into the world of unintended, crisis pregnancy. These pregnancies do not have to result from rape, incest, trafficking or other forms of abuse (though some do) to warrant your empathy. Consider what it means to be forced into motherhood against one’s will and how raising a child impacts a woman’s life financially, emotionally, and professionally. Consider how an unintended pregnancy affects the lives of the children she already has. Consider the enormous commitment of raising a child from birth to adulthood in a society that does not honour the child nor the person who gave birth to it. Then ask yourself how any sane and humane person could force that responsibility onto another person against their will.
Next, share your findings with your mates, the guys at the gym, your sons, fathers, nephews, cousins etc… Discuss it at this afternoon’s barbeque.
Keep having this conversation with the other men in your life. Encourage those men to do the same. Use the (unearned) innate privilege of white, cis-manhood — that uncritically legitimises your voice and your opinions above that of all women and BIPOC — to speak out against the tyranny of the few upon the bodies of the many.
Step up, my cis-white brothers. Do it every day. Do it until it feels second nature. Do it until they start listening. Then do it some more.