While we originally had anticipated this in honor of Father’s Day, the answers fall very much in line with the way many are responding to the way convicted rapist Brock Turner’s father excused his son and sought leniency for his sexual assault. Those of you who are fathers, or are partnered with a father, or have fathers in your family, please read the answers to this week’s question and take them to heart.
What do you think every father should teach their son?
“Like, just don’t rape.” — Katharine Heller
“Empathy and compassion. How to listen to others. When to use a position of power to speak up and when to step aside to elevate other voices. That force is not the same as power.” — Ki Russell
“That he’s not owed a girl or woman’s time, attention, body, response to his greeting, smile or anything else she doesn’t want to freely give him. Period. The end.” — Deesha Philyaw
“Don’t rape people. If you’re ever unsure, just stop. If you’re sure, still ask. But don’t rape people. It’s really not hard to control yourself from hurting someone else, no matter how intoxicated you are.
“Cry. Cry when you feel like it. When you’re happy and sad. Cry to your friends and your partners. Cry to your parents. And when you’re not crying, show other emotions — because it’s okay to do so, and not doing so will lead to some serious repression issues.
“Did I mention not raping people?” — Naseem Jamnia
“I want every father with a son to teach them about privilege early on.” — Danielle Corcione
“I think every father should teach their son that there are many ways to be a man, none is better than the other and that enthusiastic consent is the bee’s knees.” — Brianna Cox
“More fathers should teach their sons that ‘being emotional’ is okay, and by that, I mean to validate to them that there are healthy ways to express all of their emotions. We seem to live in a society where boys who are gentle and compassionate are told to ‘toughen up,’ and girls who are angry or excited are told to ‘calm down.’ Both genders are oppressed under the expectation that men are strong and angry and women are weak and compassionate. Everyone needs to know how to healthily express a full range of human emotions. We are all human beings, but society only allows each gender certain parts of the spectrum of ‘being human.'” — Shaindel Beers
“My son’s father has taught him that it’s totally normal for a dad to cook and do laundry. In our home, Dad is the only one who cooks (my cooking skills are nonexistent and I think my husband went to culinary school to keep himself from starving). It’s come to the point that my son told my daughter that it’s ok if she cooks too but only until she gets married — then her husband has to do it.” — Amanda Adams
“That masculine is not a default and feminine does not mean ‘less than.'” — Nicole Rea
“One might argue that I am ever-so-slightly more qualified than most women to offer fatherly advice, since I’ve literally fathered children. Which seems confusing, unless you know about trans people, and then it’s not. I will say that I think there’s quite a bit less difference between moms and dads than we’re taught to think. Anyway. I was sorely tempted to submit ‘don’t rape.’ But I thought about it a little more, and I ultimately concluded that the reason that doesn’t appeal to me is that it’s a command, and not a lesson. A command can be ignored once the issuing party isn’t a factor anymore. A lesson becomes integral to the student, and must at least be reasoned with if one wishes to defy it.
“So, I think every father should teach their son (or any of their children) empathy. Teach them to consider how they would feel if they saw someone else doing what they were doing, or what they’re thinking about doing. Whatever that is, good or bad, just, as a principle, to ask themselves that question. If they are acting upon a person, teach them to consider how they would feel if that action was being done to them. I would go on from there, but that’s kind of it; the conclusions are pretty inevitable.” — Seranine Elliot
“I think every father should teach their son that there’s strength in emotional availability. Expressing a wide range of emotion in a healthy manner is good for all of humanity. There’s no shame in crying.” — Sherisa de Groot
“On a recent trip to the beach, I heard a father tell his young son, who was struggling to climb over some rocks to reach a pier, ‘You could take the stairs over there… if you want to be a girl about it.’ This kind of phrasing — ‘don’t be a girl’ and (worse) ‘don’t be a pussy’ — shames and sends a clear message to young boys that weakness is a female trait and a negative trait at that. Every father should teach his son that men and women can both be strong — and that ‘weak’ is not a bad thing, either. Teaching softness through empathy, vulnerability, openness and kindness is valuable for both young men and women, but it is especially important for boys to see and experience these traits in the father figures in their lives.” — Emily Bingham
“Every father should take the time to teach their son — both in word and in their actions — that masculinity is not something that is defined as narrowly as society would tell him. That it can be varied and can include being vulnerable, wearing makeup, being strong, being courteous, and all manner of other things. So much of what the patriarchy teaches young boys about the way ‘real men’ do things is toxic and damaging. A father that gets ahead of all of that and shows his son that there is no one true way to own their expression of themselves as a man and as a human being… that’s a man who really deserves a holiday.” — Seraphina Ferraro