While so many people have openly and rightly lamented the devastating effect the misogynistic MAGA movement is having on girls and young women, we’ve forgotten something critical: our sons have been watching and listening, too.
I’m not sure we’ve stopped to think about what kind of young men we’re creating right now, that we’ve considered the collateral damage of these days on the boys in our collective care.
I don’t think we can fathom what so many of MAGA America’s sons are likely to grow into:
- men with a dangerous sense of entitlement when it comes to the bodies of women.
- men for whom violent, hateful, objectifying words about women are viewed as normal.
- men who believe that money and power and their penises give them license to do whatever they want with a woman regardless of what she wants.
- men who inherit a religion that dehumanizes women.
- men for whom the very idea of consent is irrelevant.
- men who believe they will get rewarded for their misogyny and sexism and moral filth, because they’ve watched it happen.
- men who grow to have no value for gentleness and sensitivity and empathy.
Just before the 2016 election, I remember my then 11-year old son asking me what Donald Trump had said about women in the audio that had been unearthed and was being talked about. I did the best I could to relay it all without using the actual words, because to use the actual words Trump used, would have meant subjecting my son to the kind of vile vulgarity that isn’t normal and shouldn’t be normal for 11-year old boys—or to men of integrity of any age.
The fact that a man with such a well-documented pattern of misogyny and mistreatment became the earthly messiah for so many professed Christians, should be cause for national mourning among decent Americans and effusive repentance within decent followers of Jesus. We should be sick to our stomachs right now, watching an entire political party dismantling the rights of women and realizing how poisonous this all is to the hearts and minds of our boys who will emulate these assaults. We should be openly condemning it all, if we had any regard for them and any interest in who they are becoming.
That so many fathers (and mothers) are not doing so, means that maybe Donald Trump and this predatory Republican Party are exactly the correct people to represent us in the world at this point. Maybe that is how low the bar we’ve set for our young men really is. Maybe these millions of MAGA disciples are a true measure of the hatred so many men have toward women and the self-loathing too many of the women around them are afflicted with.
All I know, is that there is a terrible trickle-down from the Supreme Court, the halls of Congress, and the pulpits of megachurches—and into the homes and hallways where young boys are having their brains formed, their morality shaped, and their standards established.
I have better dreams for my son than this.
- I want him to know that girls and women, that all people—are worthy of respect and decency and gentleness.
- I want him to know that dehumanizing a woman is never normal: not in a locker room or a frat party or a board room or a bedroom or a court room.
- I want him to know that another woman’s body is not his jurisdiction.
- I want him to know that a woman’s outward no is louder than his internal yes.
- I want him to know that there is a huge difference between being a man—and being a gentleman.
- I believe my son deserves better than this toxic, fragile MAGA masculinity.
All our sons do.
They deserve a higher definition of what it means to be a man than what they’re seeing in the Republican Evangelical platform.
They deserve a Christianity that isn’t as pliable as the Conservative Right and so many professed believers have made it, in order to accommodate the moral cancer of Trumpism.
They also deserve better than to see adults making excuses for the misogyny they have so easily sanctioned with their votes. They deserve parents, mentors, and role models who won’t sell their souls to align with a party just to retain power.
I dream that my son becomes a man who recognizes women as valuable and equal and worthy of respect. Because of that, I’m going to shout down all the voices that would speak something different into his ears, even if those voices are of family members, friends, pastors, politicians, and former presidents.
Rationalizing personal or legislative violence toward women and dressing it up in the trappings of religion, are the best ways to ensure that too many of our boys grow-up to become abusive men who have contempt for women and believe that to be what all real men do. I refuse to participate in that.
At this point, opposing a platform of misogyny shouldn’t be seen as a political strategy—but a human decency move. There shouldn’t be an alternative side to choose here, not if we want to teach our young people to become adults of character.
Right now my son and millions of other bright and beautiful boys with big hearts and bigger questions are watching and listening.
The MAGA movement and its surrogates are failing them.
The rest of us must not.
Republished with permission from John Pavlovitz.
John Pavlovitz is a writer, pastor, and activist from Wake Forest, North Carolina. A 25-year veteran in the trenches of local church ministry, John is committed to equality, diversity, and justice—both inside and outside faith communities. When not actively working for a more compassionate planet, John enjoys spending time with his family, exercising, cooking, and having time in nature. He is the author of A Bigger Table, Hope and Other Superpowers, Low, and Stuff That Needs to Be Said.