Pitfalls of love and affection

Dear President Trump,

I’m in Boston today to watch my daughter row in the Head of the Charles Regatta tomorrow. I took a red-eye last night and didn’t sleep much at all on the plane so this letter may be pretty rough.

Continuing with the issue of opportunity for misogynist, abusive behavior to fester, I think it is important to bring up the role of love and affection. John Stuart Mills (and his wife, who ironically but predictably was not credited) observed in his/their brilliant manifesto on women’s status that the entrenched belief that women were second class citizens is enabled by the affection and love women feel for the men in their lives as it hinders them from calling out and challenging this oppressive, day in, day out, behavior.

A few weeks ago my daughter came home from a rowing fund raising event and she was so angry she was almost in tears. She explained that her coach insists that his team members step up and make sure everything is taken care of all the time. She went on to say that the boys’ coach does not demand this from his team and despite the girls requesting the boys’ help with various things, they routinely do nothing to help make sure things are running smoothly. It all falls to the girls. This is not at all surprising, anyone could write this script. Where it really got to me was when I started asking a few questions and shared a similar story about a team of medical residents where the male doctors always leave right after a procedure is completed and expect the female doctors to clean up and take care of the documentation even though the unfairness has been pointed out repeatedly. When I started making gentle comments about sexism and inequity, my daughter quickly shifted over to talking about what great, fun guys they are. She loves them and has genuine affection for them so even though their crappy behavior brings her to tears, she can’t stay angry or fully address the issue. I realize this is not an example of sexual assault or harassment, but I think it illustrates the point that love holds girls and women back from asserting themselves or from leaving unhealthy situations. It’s heartbreaking to hear it playing out in teenagers. How about we all grow up and stop this?

May we be safe to assert ourselves.
May we be happy to do our fair share.
May we strike a healthy balance between cool/fun and chores.
May we radically re-write how we all are with each other.

Tracy Simpson

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