This holiday I gave my daughter the newest version of “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.” We also gave the same book to two of her cousins who also identify as cisgender girls. Both of these cousins can read the stories themselves and I watched one spend two days reading page after page. This inspired my daughter, who would take hers out and flip through the pages as if she was reading too.
It’s beautiful to see young girls feel empowerment – to see them learn stories of resistance, activism, power. In recent years, this has become more and more mainstream and the resources are becoming endless. I never run out of material to share with my kid when it comes to uplifting the power of women and girls, finding untold stories of women in history, and teaching her resistance.
But what I noticed more profoundly this holiday was the lack of resources for my nephew. He’s almost a teenager, is brilliant, caring, kind, and funny. This is because his parents are much the same and they require a lot of him as a young person – to be a great person, to take care when it comes to others, and to be intentional in how he walks through life. He is doing so well because his parents are making sure of it, putting in the time to build a life where he can choose to be all of his humanity. But there is no book for him (at least none I have found), no good night stories that share tales of men leading transformative justice, breaking down sexism, fighting for equitable rights, or even changing how toxic masculinity has become in our society.
I find this to be incredibly unfair – no book to teach him kindness, strength in emotions, consent, love for others, and how to use his power and privilege in this world to change it. Some might argue that his power and privilege result in automatic fairness. I am not totally in disagreement. But as I grow a tiny human in my womb with boy parts, I feel overwhelmed knowing that the teaching is strongly on me and my partner to craft a socialization that allows them to thrive in their own humanity.
I wrote a piece about 13 weeks ago about how overwhelmed I feel in combatting toxic masculinity. This has not gone away. I think about it often and have felt stuck in our approach. It’s moments like sharing space with my nephew, or watching my partner interact in the world that I realize how grateful I am that this baby is going to have good teachers.
But where are the rest of the teachers? Where is his book? Why as society are we not also giving this type of attention to young men? Instead we are uplifting stories of tearing down men, or abuses of power by men, or men as “leaders”. Don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe men need to be called in on the abuse, the violence, the lack of commitment to shared humanity. But transformative justice means we also have to fix or replace the root cause. We can’t just uplift young girls and tear down men. Otherwise my nephew just sees who not to be, instead of who to strive to be. We have to teach young men how to be better. We have to change socialization so that they can be their whole selves – that they can be kind, loving, affectionate, emotional, all while still being powerful humans.
Perhaps this is a call out to any of the cisgender men in our lives. Where are you? Why aren’t you writing? Teaching? What are you doing to shift how both you and our future exist in this world? One of my mentors is leading a project called the Better Men Project to not only call in other cisgender men, but to inspire conversation on how to do better. Sign up and join the conversation.
Many cisgender and transgender women, as well as femmes, are working hard to break through injustice, inequity, power. We need you too. My nephew needs you, my baby needs you, our shared humanity needs you.