I walked the two miles to San Francisco's City Hall to vote early for Hillary Clinton just a couple of weeks after I peed on a test from Walgreens and found out I was pregnant with my first child.
Perhaps caught up in the momentum of the potentially ceiling-shattering election, I imagined the pea-size embryo was a girl and enjoyed a certain camaraderie as I cast my ballot, pleased about the stories I'd later tire her with about how she and I voted together for the first woman president.
Then November 8 happened and everything I thought I knew about how the world worked was turned upside down, chewed up, and vomited back out as an entirely different reality.
I'd been sure I'd be raising a small woman during a new age of feminism, one where we didn't even need to call it feminism anymore, one where it was normal for a woman to be the leader of the free world. But that was no longer the case.
The thought of having a boy terrified me, paralyzed me even.
And I was no longer even certain we were having a girl. What if we had a boy? Was there a little penis inside me? It was a 50-50 chance. So many of the other things I thought were true had turned out wrong this year. Why should I trust my hunches? The thought of having a boy terrified me, paralyzed me even.
Even though the world has shifted, I knew how to raise a girl in this new reality. She'd be born into a country not entirely different from the Reagan era I grew up in. I could manage that. I could teach my daughter to navigate the world in the same way that I did, working harder and smarter and better than the men around her in the hopes that it would give her the same mobility, accolades, and acceptance. I could teach her to fight for equality and respect, even when it seems scary and impossible. I could talk to her about the women who came before her, who cracked that glass ceiling but didn't shatter it. I could buy her a hammer, or better yet a wrecking ball, and tell her she could shatter it herself. These are things I knew how to do.
I had no idea how to raise a little man. Let me rephrase that: I have no idea how to raise a little man. Just last week, after handing over what felt like a gallon of blood and waiting an excruciating nine days to hear the results of genetics and gender tests, my husband and I learned we will be the parents of a boy.
It's not the stereotypical boy things that worry me. I can throw a football and a punch. I'm happy to teach him that there is an acceptable time to pee outside and a time when doing this will get him arrested. What terrifies me is the idea of raising a boy with good values when a man who represents the male stereotypes we've been fighting for generations is in the White House. A man who bullies both men and women in person and on Twitter. This man could dominate our news cycle for the next eight years. I can't hide his bad behavior from our son.
How can I explain to a little boy that the year he was born, the President of the United States was an admitted sexual predator who treats women (including his own daughters) as "pieces of ass"? That the president thinks Time magazine changed its annual accolade to "Person of the Year" instead of "Man of the Year" just because it's more politically correct? How do I explain that grabbing a woman by her genitals is not an acceptable salutation when the man in charge of the country normalized it?
How do I explain that grabbing a woman by her genitals is not an acceptable salutation when the man in charge of the country normalized it?
But this isn't just about Donald Trump. It's about my son being born into a world where the nominee for labor secretary defended using half-naked women to sell cheap burgers by saying, "I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it's very American." How do I explain to a little boy that it is absolutely not American, not the way we talk about women, and not even a particularly effective way to sell meat? It's about explaining sensitivity and nonviolence to my son in a world where the president's picks for attorney general and CIA director voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. It's teaching manners and respectful language to a boy when the president's chief strategist once referred to a former female employee as a bimbo and mentioned that he would like to "kick her ass" during a heated company altercation.
What's the best way to make a little boy respect women when he reads headlines about how the men's sports team at one of the most elite schools in the country made disgusting and misogynistic comments about their fellow female collegiate athletes? Oh wait, I didn't mean one elite university. I meant three. How do I explain the male Stanford athlete who hardly served any time for sexually assaulting a woman? We are living in a world where consequences for poor male behavior are continuously being eroded. With such examples in the wider world, how will I enforce the idea of consequence in my home? As a white boy who will become a white man, he'll be starting with a lot of privilege; how do I make him realize that?
This is what keeps me up at night, and the truth is that I don't have the answer yet.
I want to make a good little man.
The world needs more good men who respect and support strong women. And the job of raising them is just as important as raising those strong women themselves.
Every day I count my blessings that I'm married to a really good man. My husband, Nick, can often be more of a feminist than I am. There was this one time I caught him rifling through a box of my old childhood Judy Blumes.
"I read these," he said, picking up a copy of Blubber.
"No, you didn't," came my knee-jerk reply as I grabbed the book back from his hand to return it to its box before its tattered cover began to tear away from the binding.
"I read all the Judy Blume books," he insisted. "They weren't all for girls. I read the ones for girls too, even though Are You There God, It's Me Margaret was a little confusing, but I remember being sad I didn't have anyone to talk to about it." This image of my husband as a towheaded little boy reading about what it was like for a girl to get her period for the first time made my heart feel like it had swollen to the size of a beach ball.
We need to raise a little boy who knows he can talk to us about those things, who wants to ask questions about the things that confuse him. We can read our son Judy Blume, and Laura Ingalls Wilder, and all the Nancy Drew mysteries. We can talk to him about the man who was in office when he was conceived, a self-declared feminist who made the world a better place for men and women of all colors and stripes. The burden of raising a good man in the age of Trump is a burden, but it's on my husband and me to make sure that we do this right.
Just last week, right before we got the test results, it was Nick who ultimately set my mind at ease about the possibility of having a boy. "Regardless of whether we have boys or girls we need to raise children who defy these base stereotypes of what is masculine and feminine. Hillary Clinton did a good job of being that. We can do this," my husband said with intense confidence. He's a good man.
I'm still terrified about having a boy, but there is plenty I can do to make sure he becomes a good man. And I'll start on January 21. I'll be nearly five months pregnant when I travel to Washington, D.C., to march with thousands of other women who want to show our new president that there will be consequences for bad behavior.
I would have told our little girl that these are the women who are fighting for her future. I will tell my little boy the same exact thing.
You Might Also Like