I feel there’s a story that shouldn’t be forgotten. I feel the media’s turned to the next big scoop. We were all shocked by what Brock Allen Turner did. The rape of an intoxicated girl. And even more shocked at the judge who thought his life would be ruined. Not hers. It still baffles me that we live in a world where many men regard women as inferior — subject to their will.
The more I read about it on the news, the more I thought about my own upbringing. How can Brock and I be so different? I mean, he seems like a smart guy. At which point did he think it was OK to rape someone? What type of influence did he have as a kid and as a teenager?
My story is not special. My mum’s story is. But by growing up under the influence of a strong woman, I believe I became a better man. So, what was it like? What was so different?
I remember I knew what a period was before my female friends. I probably learnt about abortion even before I knew what sex was. I was very aware of domestic abuse — all abuse really — and the need for women’s rights. I bet I could list the main STD’s by the age of 6! The question is: how being exposed to this information shaped me as a man?
It’s not like my mother forced me to learn about all these things — she didn’t need to — I just had to wander in my own home and find a plethora of leaflets. I remember finding one about domestic violence and asking my mum about it. She said she’d been to a meeting where one woman had been attacked by her husband with boiling water — she was scarred for life.
“How come a man would hurt his wife like that? The person he loves?” I’d ask myself. Throughout the years I’d slowly learn a lot more about scary stories and why this fight will never stop.
She Fought for All Women
My mum was a busy bee. She’s worked in all the states of Brazil and all countries in South America several times and if the subject was “Women’s Rights” she was there. It’s no surprise she was part of the CEDIM (Conselho Estadual dos Direitos da Mulher – website in Portuguese) which roughly translates to State Council for the Women’s Rights.
Once she mentioned one meeting where she was with sex workers, teaching them about STD’s, protection and their rights. She wanted to make sure they were not abused. She was interested in all women really. Black women? Indigenous women? Poor women? Gay women? She was there for them.
Before I was ten I had been to many peaceful parades in downtown Rio de Janeiro to wave flags and fight next to my mother and hundreds of women. It was intense; it was passionate; it was necessary.
She went to China for a month to attend the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. She even went to talk shows to be interviewed live in front of thousands of people, she did all that she could.
She Was the Breadwinner
You might think this is a silly detail, but we’re talking about the 80’s in Brazil. The important message for me was that in my house the roles were inverted, but to be honest it really taught me that, actually, there were never any roles.
The fact that she earned more than my father never changed the dynamics inside our home, she wasn’t the one calling cards, we were, as a family. My dad wasn’t a stay-at-home father, but this particular set-up enabled him to pursue his dreams — he was a carpenter for nearly 10 years and studied Fine Arts when he was in his late 40’s.
My Environment Also Played a Big Part
Although I’m talking about women and their rights, it’s important to note that all “rights” only work if they work together.
My father was a communist who went to Russia when he was 21 years old to study socialism for a year. Mind you, this was 1968 and Brazil was under a disgusting dictatorship where you could end up being tortured for sneezing too loudly.
My grandfather was the grandson of slaves that came from Africa. The majority of my family is dark skinned and my brother and I were always kindly called “white monkeys” as we were the “different” ones.
There are gay men and women in my family, as well as rich and poor relatives. Single mums, uncles involved in drug trafficking and uncles working with kids involved with drugs. Atheists and super religious ones. I know my family is not unique and that there are many families as diverse as mine, which is a good thing.
The point is that this mixing pot made me who I am. How could I ever become bigoted? Practise classism? How could I be racist? Misogynist? Homophobic? I’d have to turn on my own family and it’s just never going to happen.
The Man I Became
I learnt from a very young age how precious women are. I was told to care for them and treat them with the utmost respect, not because they were weak, but because we are equals. I was told to never use gender as an excuse for anything.
My father used to say that a great part of a man’s pleasure comes from giving a woman pleasure and he was spot on! I’m always acutely aware of what I’m doing in bed. If for some reason sex is uncomfortable for my wife, we stop — what’s the point in carrying on if only one person is having fun?
I always share the chores at home — I mean, it’s not her job, it’s our job and our home. I might not be the greatest cook, but I try, though in reality, I’m mostly doing the dishes! A marriage is a partnership; we’re a team working together.
I’m extremely proud that the majority of my female friends achieved so much in their lives. I learnt that their success should be cheered not feared. I’m 100% sure they work as hard as any man and should be rewarded equally.
It’s funny that as I write this I feel slightly stupid as if I’m stating the obvious. And I wish it were true, but it isn’t. So how can we change this? How can we live in a world where this is obvious to everyone?
I think we’re moving forward and the number of people like my mum is only increasing. Women are not accepting things as they were anymore, they’re fighting every day and winning several battles. They’re not quiet and will carry on screaming until everybody understands their struggles.
Still, the reason I chose to write this article was because of the recent Stanford rape case. I kept asking myself over and over: What would Brock Allen Turner have done if he had been brought up by a feminist?
The answer is: Make sure the lady was alright.
He wouldn’t have destroyed a girl’s life and consequently his own because attacking an intoxicated girl would never have crossed his mind. He wouldn’t have followed her, he’d make sure there was someone to take her home.
He would have been very worried when he saw that she was extremely drunk. He wouldn’t carry on enjoying the party because he knew she was easy prey and he had to keep an eye on her to be sure no one would harass her.
He’d have asked everyone in the party if someone knew her. He’d only be OK when he knew she was OK.
But he wasn’t brought up by a feminist and we all know how it went.
To be honest, I’m lucky enough to have male friends who think the same way as I do [even though] their mums weren’t diehard feminists. They probably weren’t exposed to all the material about women’s rights as I was, but it doesn’t mean that they couldn’t learn about it.
What went wrong with Brock — and all the rapists — and how can we fix it? I believe all the media attention [brought] more awareness to the case. What you must do is read as much as you can about the subject [of rape culture] and engage in conversations.
Don’t look away. This is not a women’s fight; it’s everybody’s fight.
Photo credit: Flickr/Ajax15