He is an interesting, somewhat unusual study of a boy-man and his father and I look forward to his future, fairly confident that he will do well in the world, just quite unsure how. But that uncertainty makes it more exciting, in many ways. At least it did...
Last night, Cal's father and I went to listen to a talk by Australian feminist online activist and author of Fight Like a Girl, Clementine Ford (who has a baby son of her own) and the issues she highlighted about the obscenely misogynistic abuse she gets on a daily, hourly basis online - examples of which she displayed screen shots of - from teenage boys and adult men made me more nervous than I had been about the future for both of my sons and, indeed, for my daughter (who is a feminist).
I have been a feminist a long time, as you know, and have faced considerable backlash from anti-feminists within my wider family and friend circle, as well as from the public at large, researching and writing as I did for many years on domestic violence and homicide, a subject that made me angry and outspoken at a time when the F-word and anger about sexism was rarely spoken of in the media without derision.
But the 'hate male', as Clementine cleverly and unflinchingly calls the online onslaught of abuse she receives from men, young and old, some of them pictured with their children, is so relentlessly misogynist and demeaning to women, wishing her raped and dead in so many vile ways, telling her how ugly and fat she is, and using their real names more often than not, suggesting they feel quite safe and sure in their community and families to be openly threatening and misogynist, that my anxiety about the future of all our sons and our daughters was taken to another level.
I was also, however, reassured that women like Clementine are out there increasingly, fighting the good fight for justice for girls and boys, fighting like a girl indeed. Because girls will stick up for boys in a way that boys will not and have not stuck up for girls, and the same goes for women and men. So few persons of the male gender have actively fought for women and gender justice throughout history and this continues to be true. Many have actively fought against it, of course, about a third of men in the western world are actively abusive towards women, while the bulk of men have remained 'neutral', which amounts to a passively sexist denial of the abuse and injustice suffered by women at the hands of men. They don't want to think about it. They get the luxury of not having to, or they have done. This must change and is beginning to.
There was Q & A after Clementine's talk but I left others to ask the questions, which I kind of regret now. But what I wanted to ask, about how to be a good feminist mother to teenage boys, I felt was too hard and too close to the bone. And I have struggled with this task, to be honest. I also felt that I should have something clearer than I did have to say on the subject, rather than to expect Clementine, at 36, with only a baby son at this stage, to speak to such a difficult and pressing issue. Because the raising of boys to not be sexist and abusive to girls and women is hard enough in an openly misogynistic world, but the harder struggle, arguably, the one I continue to fight, is to raise them not to be passive and 'neutral' or in denial about sexism and misogyny and their complicity in it if they do and say nothing against it.
And so it is to that ultimate gender-justice struggle that I now turn my pen to at length. In fact I had already embarked on such a project, but Clementine and my boys (young men) growing up so fast and practically living online where so much of the hate happens, have given the project the extra push it needed.
So thank you courageous Clementine, and a happy and healthy birthday to you, curious Cal. Together, you have inspired me and together, I hope, we can do this difficult but totally worthwhile and wonderful thing.