September 22, 2014 — My ex-husband and I split up five years ago, when my son was just shy of four. The reasons were varied, but one was definitely his lack of support and often sexist ideology. And while we have joint custody, I’m doing my best to influence my son, now nine, in how to treat and respect women. I’m a strong personality, so this hasn’t been too difficult. I work two jobs, I do CrossFit, I play tennis, I’m active on social media. Every day, he sees a confident no-nonsense woman in his mother. But he also loves sports and watches ESPN. A lot of ESPN.
So while I’m showing him a world where women can achieve, he’s seeing images of mostly men. And yes, the sports world has gotten better at highlighting the accomplishments of female athletes, but as was all too evident lately, our male athletes still have a lot to learn about how to treat women.
Because he’s a sports fan, a couple of years ago I re-did his bedroom with Fathead decals. These are oversize sports figures that you put on the wall. He chose several players from various teams and various sports. One of them was Ray Rice.
When the incident of Ray striking his now-wife surfaced a few months ago, I immediately saw this as a teaching tool and of course, didn’t want a wife beater in my house or on my son’s wall. So I sat him down to talk about what Ray did (he was all too aware since, like I said, he only watches ESPN) and told him we were going to have to throw Ray’s Fathead in the garbage, because that is where men who hit their wives belong. He didn’t seem too upset about this, especially when I told him we’d replace Ray with someone else.
But to take it one step further, I reached out to Fathead on Facebook and let them know I wanted to replace the decal with a more appropriate role model and would they offer me a coupon code to get something else. They responded immediately and sent me a coupon for 25% off my next purchase. I had hoped my son would choose a woman for his wall (although Fathead could certainly use improvement in this area), but he chose Kevin Durant from the Oklahoma City Thunder instead.
This incident has brought up many opportunities for my son and I to discuss how to treat women. I saw it as my responsibility to use those conversations to mold my son into the man any woman (or man) would want. My hope is that he will one day be vocal enough to say something like this. And that he will help women get a seat at the table in professional sports, like this.
To cap it all off, we were watching the Ravens pre-game, Ray Rice’s first game after his indefinite suspension, and there were women, lots of women, wearing his jersey to the game.
I was dumbfounded and felt compelled to post on Facebook:
There are women wearing Ray Rice jerseys for the game tonight. I want to know where in their life did someone go wrong that supporting a man who punches his wife in the face is something you think is appropriate. I feel such sadness that these women clearly think so little of themselves that this is the result. And I pray their children find better, stronger examples.
My son saw me posting and asked to read it. He understood my words and knows he has a strong example, and then we changed the channel.