Sexism and our sons - Mothering Forums

Forum Jump: 
Reply
 
Thread Tools
#1 of 105 Old 04-07-2005, 04:28 PM - Thread Starter
 
guerrillamama's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: heck-bent on anarchy
Posts: 4,197
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Fresh start?

Mothers of daughers are welcome to chime in but may find more relevance on this thread: http://www.mothering.com/discussions...d.php?t=270917
guerrillamama is offline  
#2 of 105 Old 04-07-2005, 04:33 PM - Thread Starter
 
guerrillamama's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: heck-bent on anarchy
Posts: 4,197
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
I'll start...

Here's what I wrote in the other thread (just copied and pasted, so sorry if it's a little out of context):

I am completely committed to raising my son as a feminist and I have no reason to believe that I will fail in that. However, I am very aware that he is going to benefit from sexism, that he is going to have male privilege. I'm not going to get mad at him for that. I am going to expect him to recognize it and fight against it.

I think a lot about how to raise a feminist man in a patriarchy. It's pretty frickin hard. There's so much... it's pretty overwhelming.

One example is what Eilonwy brought up. I love what you wrote! We get that "hearbreaker" stuff all the time too. I am going to start using your line: "Actually he's going to be very respectful of women." The other thing I say is when they say something like "oh the girls will go crazy over him," I say, "the boys will too." No compulsory heterosexuality for my boy!

At 16 mo it's hard to find concrete ways to be anti-sexist.

For example, just about every day we walk through a gauntlet of cat-calling day laborers. They have to stand there all day, waiting for their underpaid demeaning jobs, I sympathesize. But I don't appreciate the cat-calls. I just ignore them, anyway; in fact I hardly ever hear them anymore. But this thread has reminded me that my son hears them every time, although he doesn't understand, he is still absorbing it. What can I do? I'm not going to stop and argue with these guys, I just don't have the time or the energy and I suspect that neither my Spanish or their English is good enough for that level of discourse. How can I send my son the message that this behavior, which he sees me put up with every single day, is not ok?
guerrillamama is offline  
#3 of 105 Old 04-07-2005, 05:48 PM
 
eilonwy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Lost
Posts: 15,410
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
How do we prevent our sons from growing into these people? Should we allow girls who are 30 pounds heavier and four years older to push our little boys at the playground? Should we encourage our girls to take toys from little boys without apologizing, but demand apologies of our boys for doing the same thing?

I really think that this is just as damaging to (little) boys as it is to girls. Our society tells boys that they're not allowed to cry in public once they're more than a year old, that if they have long hair or big eyes they're "too pretty to be a boy," and that if a girl takes a toy or pushes them it's okay. At the same time, we're telling girls that they're victims of sexism if a little boy at the park takes their toy, and that they should stand up for themselves by taking that toy back even if the boy who took it is just a baby who doesn't understand. The problem should be taking the toy, not the fact that a boy took it.

I don't want my son to internalize the idea that violence against women/girls is okay, or that it's normal or reasonable; in fact, it was this very argument that convinced my husband that we should homeschool. However, I do believe that boys are victims of societal pressures just as much as girls are. It's very unlikely that a boy who isn't openly gay (a whole different discussion) will be held down and have his pants pulled off in front of classmates, but at one point the kid pulling the pants off was most assuredly a victim of societal pressures to "be a man." I totally understand not wanting to make boys the victims here, but I really believe that they are, particularly when they're young and vulnerable.

Rynna, Mama to Bean (8), Boobah (6), Bella (4) and Bear (2)
eilonwy is offline  
#4 of 105 Old 04-07-2005, 09:16 PM
 
wildmonkeys's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Metro DC
Posts: 1,644
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
I don't know and doubt this is going to be very logical - am feeling pretty drained from the other post but I have to say that at some point my views on this have shifted as peoples perception of my child has changed.

When my older ds was little (under 3) I used to think about this issue in terms of feminism because people were still saying stuff like "oh what a sweet little boy" However, now that he is 5 it has not escaped me that many people let me know upfront that they consider him a threat based on his age, size, gender. It is usually moms of little girls which frustrates me because we have two very aggressive little girls on our street who have hit and bit my boys many times. The irony of this is that I think that this sort of hostility exacerbates the problems we are trying to avoid later.

So at the same time I am struggling to prepare to raise sensitive men who respect men and women alike - I can not overlook the way he is being treated right now. He matters right now, his feelings matter right now (and being five - he has good enough comprehension to frequently understand the outright terrible things that people say about boys in front of him) I am not comfortable blowing it off because when he is older there will be girls his age who are mistreated.

Finally, I can't help but wonder if how we feel about this has to do with how the experiences we've had as women? The first post on this thread mentioned the advantages of being a man. I haven't ever really felt at a disadvantage as a woman - honestly, I think that my brother and I were treated very equitably both at home and in the school system we attended. He currently has a masters degree in teaching and I have one in social work/social policy. I know the world is bigger than my experience but I just don't feel like I had any limitations placed on me BECAUSE I am a woman.

BJ
Barney & Ben
wildmonkeys is offline  
#5 of 105 Old 04-07-2005, 09:40 PM
 
ShadowMom's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 4,416
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Hmmm. You know, I don't have that much to contribute to this thread but am finding it fascinating. My only thought is this : I think that, overwhelmingly, the way our sons treat women will be based on the example that the parents set (or, in the case, of a single mom or dad, the example set by possibly multiple relationships).

I believe that the best thing I can do for my son (in terms of him growing up a little more evolved than the rest of our culture) is to be involved in an equitable, respectful relationship with his father.

In my darker moments, when I look at the relationship I have with DH, we are not always setting the example I want to set. But, there's only so much of an existing relationship that I can control.
ShadowMom is offline  
#6 of 105 Old 04-07-2005, 09:44 PM
 
Oh the Irony's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: grateful for truth
Posts: 3,880
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Truthfully, I have not put a lot of thought into it. I just think my day to day actions and being surrounded by strong and caring women and men will be a positive influence on my sons.

I did see the double standard though when my son was in kindergarten. One girl in particular would totally violate his personal boundaries and was not called down by the teacher for it. If he did something that violated a girls personal boundaries he was punished.

He is going to a Quaker school next year--the school is founded upon the ideals of simplicity, justice and equality so it will be interesting to see what happens. I'm excited because they teach the kids conflict resolution skills.

I guess I don't have a grand plan. I don't know, do I need one?
Oh the Irony is offline  
#7 of 105 Old 04-07-2005, 09:47 PM
 
LeftField's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Land of well-adjusted weird people
Posts: 2,528
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Well, my sons are younger (one is almost 4 and the other one is 1) and they're not in daycare/preschool/organized playgroup, so social conditioning hasn't really started yet. So, for me, I'm viewing it from a different angle right now. With them, I'm fighting to protect that androgynous part of them that I believe is central to young children.

For example, my oldest recently picked out some pink Blue's Clues fabric for the pjs that I'm going to make him. He has other pink pajamas and is unaware right now that pink is considered "feminine". He likes pretty things (who doesn't?). He plays with his little kitchen. He was nursing his baby the other day in his sling. He is gentle and affectionate. Some parents try to snuff that out of boys, discouraging them from expressing emotions or freaking out over the like of "pretty things". We try to keep a balanced environment for them.

I am concerned with other people planting ideas in their heads that these things are not masculine or that they are undesirable, you know what I mean. My goal is for them to not be afraid of the feminine side or not to ridicule such things; they are whole people. We all are whole people. That's my sexism issue with sons right now.

I am lucky that my husband is supportive of this and that he models affection, hugging, gentle ways, nurturing, caretaking, etc. One time, in a Gymboree class, my oldest son chose some pink fluffy wings to wear during dress-up time. I think he was about 3. He said he was a butterfly and he was admiring himself in the mirror when the teacher said something like, "If Daddy were here, he wouldn't let you wear that.". Can you believe that?? I don't know what people are afraid of. I guess I don't get it. I really cringe at the phrase, "all boy". Can you be 25% boy? What does that even mean? I know what it implies and I dislike that. I dislike the small boxes that we force ours sons into.

The other angle of sexism wrt sons that I've already alluded to is modeling of caretaking. My husband changes diapers, bathes, cooks. We don't teach gender-divided work. We all share. If my sons can be like my husband, men who are kind and nurturing and equal-minded, then I will feel like we've wildly succeeded. The only thing I could wish for in them that maybe he doesn't do so much is for them to be more expressive of their feelings. I think that's hard for men, based on social conditioning. We talk about feelings a lot and we accept feelings. Ds1 and I were just talking about this today, in light of ds2 crying; I told him that everyone cries sometimes and that's Ok.

My oldest knows that he's a boy, but I don't think he really knows what that means, from a cultural perspective. He has no idea that dolls are not considered boys' toys. He's picked out pretty pink dresses for ds2 when out shopping. I've put barrettes in his hair. He does not presently identify with his gender, because he doesn't realize that it means anything more than having a penis. I'm not sure that he's thought that through either. I love the androgyny and I think that if people left kids alone, that we would see a lot more of that; I think it's natural.

Anyway, as they grow older, of course, we will talk about respecting people and those people include girls/women. We will continue to model and teach how to treat people respectfully and how to respect their body boundaries. As they get older and much more aware, we can talk about specifics.

In terms of how my sons are hurt by sexism, I think it comes out in society's ridicule of some pursuits as being, "sissy", "gay", not "all-boy", etc. Society wants to limit them and push them into the box, all while complaining that men aren't more forthcoming with feelings and respect. It makes you think and I can't figure out what people are afraid of when they fight to make their little boys "all boy".
LeftField is offline  
#8 of 105 Old 04-07-2005, 09:57 PM
 
shishkeberry's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: In Potions class, daydreaming...
Posts: 1,784
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
I'm going to : and subscribe to this thread--I've been thinking and talking to my dp about this very subject a lot.

DS 8/4/04 "You're my best mommy in the deep blue sea!"
****5****10****15****20****25****30****35****40*
shishkeberry is offline  
#9 of 105 Old 04-07-2005, 10:13 PM
 
Oh the Irony's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: grateful for truth
Posts: 3,880
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Leftfield, Good that makes me feel more like I've been doing stuff!

Yeah, we have always let him wear what he wants and not steer him towards specifics. We have been very protective of "childhood" in a sense...his halloween costumes come to mind. One year he wanted to be a butterfly, the next peter pan and then a black cat. He has been comfortable with the incredible hulks and spidermans, but he has gotten some odd looks.

He is also affectionate physically with other kids. Likes to hug and kiss and I am starting to see kids shut that down.

My husband and I also share responsibilities well. I guess I don't see it as modelling because it is just who we are.

My husband works in theatre. It is cool looking at it now--my 7 year old has grown up seeing men dance, wear make-up and tights, etc. He's seen men play women and women play men. Arts communities tend to have blurrier "boundaries" than others, so it is a great way to raise boys IMO.

PS. i have a seven year boy and a nine month old boy.
Oh the Irony is offline  
#10 of 105 Old 04-07-2005, 10:30 PM
 
Britishmum's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: USA
Posts: 4,345
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Fascinating discussion. And I can post on both sides, as after two girls I now have a baby boy too. :LOL

I've always been careful with the girls to give toys, books etc with no particular gender bias and/or positive messages about their gender. Same with clothing, and neither of my dds will wear 'girlie' stuff - they go for simple, practical clothing that doesnt hinder movement (a real issue for me is girls in dresses etc that naturally inhibit movement at an early age). I dont want ds dressed in shirts with typical 'boy' stuff on - trucks, etc, because I dont want to overly influence his choices. Same with the girls, they dont have princess or flowery stuff on their clothing or toys, although the one thing they are into is My Little Pony (a kid can never have too many ponies, according to my dds).

I was bothered recently by a gift from a good friend for ds. It's a really cute onesie, but the wording on it is something like "Lock up your daughters." It really, really bothered me. Everyone else thought it was cute and funny. I just didnt. Am I way off base, and lacking in humour? What do others think? I smiled and said thanks, but wont ever put it on him. Dh thinks I'm overreacting, but it just sort of turned my stomach when I read it.
Britishmum is offline  
#11 of 105 Old 04-07-2005, 10:42 PM
 
asherah's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Swimming in the cauldron of rebirth
Posts: 2,848
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
My son is extremely gentle and sensitive.
At three, he loves animals and babies.. he cries if someone else cries.
He is very very sweet, and not aggressive at all.

I totally support his right to be who he is.. though I do worry he will be bully-bait. But rather that try to "toughen him up" or inflict male-gender stereotypes on him, I plan just to help give him confidence enough to defend himself and his boundaries. I will definitely start him in a responsible martial arts program young, as I think those disciplines are a supurb way of developing confidence.. both physical and mental. I won't force him if he HATES it, but I will encourage him.

I thought my biggest concerns about my son WOULD be making him aware of male privilege, encouraging him not to think in terms of gender-stereotypes and to respect women.
But in OUR house.. he is going to hear a LOT of discussion about those issues as a matter of course. And he is such a gentle soul by nature... it is already very EASY to help him understand people's feelings and respecting others.

What bothers me the most is all the horrible, negative messages about boys that DO get spread in the name of "feminism" and teaching girls self-confidence.
I don't see how it is "feminist" to teach that ALL male sexuality is predatory.
That ALL males are predatory.

Yes, men are more likely to rape and molest and assault. But the MAJORITY of men do NOT do these things.

I am so worried about what my son's relationships will be like, if he is out there with his precious, gentle heart.. dealing with a world full of others who automatically see him as a threat.. or a testosterone-poisened liar who will say ANYTHING to get sex.
Here I am as a feminist, expected to teach my son that tenderness, open-heartedness, honesty and consideration for others are valuable MALE qualities.. and he's already branded a potential predator at age 3.

It is really heartbreaking to try to raise a decent man in an indecent world.

We ALREADY talk about privilege, though we don't use that word yet. But we talk about kids who don't have as many toys, or enough to eat. We talk about how girls can do anything boys can do.. and all kinds of things.

But sometimes I wonder why I bother... considering that he's already being branded the "enemy" in the name of feminism.

Edited to add: I am one of the FIRST to rail against patriarchy.
And to acknowlege that girls/women need safe space.
To acknowlege that men, internalizing patriarchy, have wreaked HAVOC on women and on this planet. I want my son to know all about what unchecked patriarchy has done.

I also want him to know that being a man does NOT mean internalizing patriarchy.
And that he is NOT responsible.. nor should he be HELD responsible.. for the acts of men who do.
No matter what others may say about men and boys.
asherah is offline  
#12 of 105 Old 04-07-2005, 11:10 PM
 
ian'smommaya's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: In the apothecary working with the fae.
Posts: 4,296
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1 Post(s)
lurking but thinking


maya working on raising her son anti sexist.

Visit the Holiday Helper thread and join in on the giving and fun! Loving and working with the plants. I have a store! or two!
ian'smommaya is offline  
#13 of 105 Old 04-07-2005, 11:27 PM
 
musingmama's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Seattle
Posts: 431
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
: don't have time for a lengthy reply now,
but thinking......
Britishmum, I would feel the same way about that shirt, why do we need to imply that male sexuality is dangerous or that women are weak and need to be "locked up" , or sheltered... I know there is reality and history to deal with, but can't we do that with our parenting w/o assuming the harmful stereotypes... and they are children, why even go there! ? !
oh and dont even get me started with the "all boy" phrase! we live 3000 miles away from our relatives, and when i was talking to my dad and stepmom, my dad asked how steffen is walking (well- gee he is almost 2- pretty good by now!) and I said, well- he is running everywhere-- to which my stepmom replied- "oh, he's all boy!" ......

homeschooling mama to 8 yr old biggrinbounce.gif with a new little one(5-5-2011) babyf.gif...  h20homebirth.gif

musingmama is offline  
#14 of 105 Old 04-07-2005, 11:37 PM
 
PoppyMama's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: In my own delusions.
Posts: 3,305
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1 Post(s)
What is a feminist male? I would love to hear some different definitions. As for me- I have a ds (5) and a dd (7). Since I am a single mom my son is always outnumbered by women and you can tell. I don't think that's a bad thing- I guess it just means that I am raising him to respect women without working too hard. I don't try to control what my kids wear or what they enjoy watching, listening to, computer, etc. except to make sure that they are being exposed to anything horrible, violent, etc. My son loves boy stuff and he has lots of it, and he also likes girl stuff and wears toenail polish most of the time. He loves to play the "girly" computer games with his sister and will play makeup with her if she asks nicely. I don't like it when people say that things are for boys or girls and I will say something if I hear about it. People are a lot more vocal in telling boys what is not "appropriate" for boys than they are with girls. I have shot down several daycare teachers who told my son not to let his sister paint his nails because that was only for girls. I haven't made a big deal about raising him feminist because I haven't noticed anything that worried me but I will be keeping a sharp eye.
PoppyMama is offline  
#15 of 105 Old 04-07-2005, 11:40 PM
 
the sunshine's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 1,450
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Can we quit blaming feminism for men's behavior? Of course not all men are predators. BUT how are we to know who is and who isn't?

I personally haven't experienced anyone demonizing my son, and he's fifteen now. But I believe everyone who has related their experiences. So can we discuss raising our sons well and stop demonizing other women while we do it?
the sunshine is offline  
#16 of 105 Old 04-08-2005, 12:05 AM
 
asherah's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Swimming in the cauldron of rebirth
Posts: 2,848
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
I HAVE had my son demonized.
And I WILL post about that here, as it IS part of what I am facing in raising my son and dealing with these issues (much to my surprise).

I have never blamed feminism for mens' behavior.
But I WILL criticize other women if I feel they are part of the overall problem.

And I will not allow ANYONE to tell me what is and isn't acceptable to think or to discuss (as long as I am not violating the user agreement!)

As for how we are to know who is and isn't a predator:
We develop our inner knowing, we look for the signs and signals, we take a long time to trust people, we teach our children to ACT on THEIR inner knowing, we listen to and BELIEVE our children, we read books like Protecting the Gift, we stay informed about and connected to our kids' lives.. we speak out against exploitation... we learn how predators act and we watch out for them... We DO challenge patriarchy..

But we don't demonize boys and male sexuality.
asherah is offline  
#17 of 105 Old 04-08-2005, 12:12 AM
 
the sunshine's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 1,450
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by asherah
I HAVE had my son demonized.
And I WILL post about that here, as it IS part of what I am facing in raising my son and dealing with these issues (much to my surprise).

I have never blamed feminism for mens' behavior.
But I WILL criticize other women if I feel they are part of the overall problem.

And I will not allow ANYONE to tell me what is and isn't acceptable to think or to discuss (as long as I am not violating the user agreement!)

As for how we are to know who is and isn't a predator:
We develop our inner knowing, we look for the signs and signals, we take a long time to trust people, we teach our children to ACT on THEIR inner knowing, we listen to and BELIEVE our children, we read books like Protecting the Gift, we stay informed about and connected to our kids' lives.. we speak out against exploitation... we learn how predators act and we watch out for them... We DO challenge patriarchy..

But we don't demonize boys and male sexuality.

Perhaps you misunderstood my post? Someone above commented on feminists looking down on them or something, I don't remember. I'll look for it later so I can explain my comment better.

I never told anyone not to post anything, and I certainly never told anyone not to post about their sons being demonized. In fact, I said I BELIEVE EVERYONE WHO HAS HAD THAT EXPERIENCE. OK?
the sunshine is offline  
#18 of 105 Old 04-08-2005, 12:15 AM
Banned
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: raising the revolution
Posts: 4,913
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
While I do feel society has a lot to do with shaping ideas, outlooks and the like, I think most of it is formed by our family life, who we are exposed to almost all the time, how our mothers and fathers see the world. I do firmly believe it begins there and the foundation is laid there.

I could go on forever about it but I am too tired. I firmly believe though, that the (appx) 8 year old boy I saw in the store the other day with his father who was wearing a t-shirt that said "If a tree falls in the forest and a woman isn't there to bitch about it, do we sill get in trouble?" (or something very similar) ...will potentially grow up to be MUCH more sexist than a similar 8 year old boy who sees men cat calling or whistling at his mom (for example) ---not saying both aren't sexist etc, but it begins VERY early, and anyone with any credentials will tell you that family and early life and caretaker experiences have much more of an impact than anything else...

The point is, I don't worry about it. When I see a young sexist male or a young girl with low self esteem etc, I rarely have to look further than their own family life, ideas, philosophies, comments etc...not saying that is ALWAYS the case, but moreso than not...

ETA: I DO worry about it, I didn't mean to sound so cavalier, I meant that I don't worry so much about how society will shape my children in that respect, as I believe that the close people in their life will shape them more and have more of an impact and lay the foundation, so when they are bombarded with society, they will have that to fall back on.
captain crunchy is offline  
#19 of 105 Old 04-08-2005, 12:21 AM
 
the sunshine's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 1,450
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Ok, I think I was mixing this

Quote:
But sometimes I wonder why I bother... considering that he's already being branded the "enemy" in the name of feminism.
together with some stuff from the other thread, and that isn't really fair to this thread, so disregard my earlier comment.
the sunshine is offline  
#20 of 105 Old 04-08-2005, 01:16 AM - Thread Starter
 
guerrillamama's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: heck-bent on anarchy
Posts: 4,197
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Asherah, this comment
Quote:
But sometimes I wonder why I bother... considering that he's already being branded the "enemy" in the name of feminism.
threw me off, too. If I didn't know you from other threads, I would probably have interpreted this way differently, like someone who thinks that "feminist" means "crazy man-hating feminazi" -- which I know is not what you belive. Just wanted to say I understand how that could have been misinterpreted. BUT I do hear what you are saying. I am thinking of a guy I know, an ex-bf of a very close friend of mine, who was raised by an uber-feminist mama and 2 sisters, and he has mad issues with his sexuality, is in fact scared of his own sexuality, because he has internalized all these messages about male sexuality as violent and predatory. Obviously I do NOT want that for my ds.

At the same time, I strongly believe that it's not enought to just model "being a good person." I wish it were that simple. But this is a sexist society, we eat drink and breathe patriarchy every day, and like it our not all our sons will be exposed to its influences. The default setting IS sexism, so I feel a responsibility to arm my son with an analysis of sexism and some tools to fight against it.

How? I don't have any models.

As for those who don't see sexism or male privilege as a problem... uh, I'm just too tired to explain it for the millionth time, so whatever.
guerrillamama is offline  
#21 of 105 Old 04-08-2005, 01:26 AM
 
asherah's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Swimming in the cauldron of rebirth
Posts: 2,848
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
I just meant that I feel like I am fighting a losing battle.
Here I am trying to raise my son to be a loving, respectful man...

and he's already the subject of suspicion at 3.

I feel like I am up against patriarchy and privilege... but I am also up against the fact that my son is being considered guilty until proven innocent.

My son is already painted with the gender brush too, no matter what I do.

THAT is what I was trying to say.

And for the record, and to avoid any other misinterpretation:

I am a proud feminist and enemy of the patriarchy.
asherah is offline  
#22 of 105 Old 04-08-2005, 01:35 AM - Thread Starter
 
guerrillamama's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: heck-bent on anarchy
Posts: 4,197
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)


Asherah I know you are a fellow soldier. And I share your fears for my son, and all our sons.

But I think the problem you're describing is another symptom of patriarchy, kwim?

I'm really tired, I think I probably can't articulate this well so I think I shouldn't try right now.

It's hard. But don't ever say it's a losing battle.
guerrillamama is offline  
#23 of 105 Old 04-08-2005, 04:13 AM
 
Mothra's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Posts: 2,109
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
I talk with my 7yo about priviledge often, and I use the word. We talk about white priviledge and male priviledge and the priviledges associated with being middle class and not being fat and not being disabled. I thought it would be something that I struggled with, but it isn't. I've found that he can handle a lot more than I thought he could and he really seems to get it.

Because boys are socialized to be more aggressive and aggressive behavior is more acceptable of boys, I am more cautious about letting my children play with boys than girls. Note that I didn't say that I feel this way because boys are more aggressive, I said that because they are socialized this way-- there is a difference. I see this at my playgroup all the time-- two boys get in an argument over a toy or something and the parents say "lets just let them work it out", but the instance two girls start tugging and pulling the parents jump up and intervene. Other parents are willing to let their boys go further in an argument and allow it to get physical than they are their girls. Boys, in general, are more rough, but it isn't because they are born that way. I can tell a major difference in my 7yo's behavior when he comes in from playing with a group of boys or a mixed group than when he has been playing with the neighbor girls. He's more agitated, wound up, and more likely to start a fight with him brother. I prefer his attitude when he's been playing with the girls. I don't tell him this, of course, but it is there.

I'm also shocked at how much of an affect my husband and I have been able to have on him. Three years ago, when he was four and just started preschool, I felt like it was going to be a losing battle. He's only in the second grade and we still have a loooong way to go, but I'm constantly amazed at his awareness of gender issues. We have a basketball court in the common area just outside of our fence out back. Frequently there will be a group of teenaged girls sitting around watching the boys play basketball. In the evenings, it is usually me and sometimes one other mom out there with the dads playing with the kids on the basketball court. My 7yo talks about this all the time and talks about how he hopes that his 15mo old sister is on the court playing with him and not sitting down watching him. He doesn't understand why the girls are sitting watching the boys, but he realizes that it is problem.

I know that it will get much more difficult, but I think we're on the right track. This isn't just something we talk about, we work very hard to incorporate feminism into our lives in as many ways as possible. He's innundated with images of male professionals in the media, his schoolbooks, and through discussions with his friends. We take the kids to female doctors, dentists, and even chose a female accountant when we needed help with our taxes a few years ago and had to take him with us to her office. Reverse sexism? Doesn't exist. Considering how many men and women who avoid female professionals because they are female, I figure I'm just canceling one of those people out and it has the bonus effect of exposing our children to women in professional jobs other than teaching, nursing, and reception.

So my main point is that I don't feel like it is a losing battle. I have run into situations in which I felt like my son was being portrayed in a negative light because he was a boy and assumptions were being made because of his gender, but far, far more often he benefits from being male. Any backlash that he will supposedly experience as a man will still be a drop in the bucket compared to the priviledge he will experience and I want him to know that. I'm optimistic.
Mothra is offline  
#24 of 105 Old 04-08-2005, 04:36 AM
 
asherah's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Swimming in the cauldron of rebirth
Posts: 2,848
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
"Backlash he will SUPPOSEDLY experience."
Well, thanks, Mothra, for invalidating my fears and pain.

You know, I don't think I can talk about this here.

Hearing Mothra talk about being more cautious about letting her sons play with boys HURTS.

The issue HURTS.
My son is so sweet and gentle and it HURTS.

I am not talking about intellectual theory, or feminist philosophy.. I am talking about a mother's PAIN in her heart to think of people looking at her beautiful boy this way.

I understand that I am not going to find much sympathy here from the women I am usually allies with. Apparently fighting privilege and being a feminist means you can't be concerned about boys' feelings at all.
Well, count me as falling out of the ranks then.

Because, sorry, I can't get over my aching heart and toe the proper feminist line on this one right now.

I hope he DOES toughen up. He's gonna need to be tough to deal with all the pain out there, despite his male privilege. His gentleness terrifies me in this world, because of the expectation that "boys don't cry" and all that stereotypical gender-role crap...

but also because of other people's assumptions that he's being socialized to be aggressive, etc etc etc.

Even toddlers don't get the benefit of the doubt, apparently.

I am leaving this thread now.
This topic is another one I just can't tell my truth about here at MDC.
asherah is offline  
#25 of 105 Old 04-08-2005, 05:31 AM
 
Mothra's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Posts: 2,109
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
asherah-- I'm really sorry that you are hurt by my words and I'm sorry that you felt that I was invalidating your feelings. I wasn't. I was stating my own and I could easily say that your words invalidte mine since they are contradictory. You have to protect yourself and your son in your own ways and I have to do the same. I cannot assume that all boys are as sweet as my own are and as sweet as I'm sure yours is. I have no doubts that he is a sweet boy and that you have managed to deflect much of the negative socialization that goes on with boys from birth as I hope that I have.

Honestly, I see no need to compare what boys go through to what girls go through. However, I don't see how anyone could argue that the outcomes are the same. Men end up in a position of power regardless of how we raise them, girls become second-class citizens. Women of color, disabled women, and women who live in poverty get hit from all sides at once. I cannot equate any backlash, perceived or real, against men as a true threat to their personhood when at every turn they are being validated as members of the more powerful, more important gender. I'm far less concerned about the fact that other mothers might be more cautious about letting her kids play with my boys (a fear that would be mitigated easily by watching them interact with other children) than I am the likelihood that my daughter will be the victim of a violent crime, sexual harrassment, and discrimination in the workplace. Crimes against women are the only crimes increasing in this country and the only crimes that have never seen a decline. My daughter's body can be held hostage by pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control pills. The list of ways that her everyday existence will be affected by sexism directed at her is endless, and the least of which is that her feelings will be hurt. She is in physical danger from our sexist society, as are all women.

No one said that male priviledge completely mitigates the pain that men who allow themselves to stay sensitive feel. I finally have men in my life who understand this. However, this cry that heterosexual white men are somehow being oppressed at large by the feminist movement just baffles me. The fact is that this is bigger than our individual children and I have to keep this in mind as I guide my children into adulthood.

I've seen more sexism directed at my 15mo old daughter than I have this backlash against my 7yo son. I can think of a handful of times when I've felt uncomfortable about something someone has said about my son in a feminist context. I can think of a handful of times today that I was uncomfortable about a sexist remark made about my daughter, and we spent the day in the backyard among neighbors who I generally like.

The fact that sexism that hurts women hurts men. It is a human issue, and I believe that none of us are free until we all are. I also talk to my 7yo about his responsibility in dissembling the patriarchy. We talk about refusing priviledge when we recognize it and talking about it when we see it. As he gets older, we'll have more frank discussions about to prevent rape and sexual and domestic violence. I'll continue to find strong female role models for him so that he continues to feel connected to women and develops a strong respect for women, not just in a familial context.

I'm not trying to silence you, asherah, but I'm not going to censor myself, either.
Mothra is offline  
#26 of 105 Old 04-08-2005, 05:34 AM
 
Mothra's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Posts: 2,109
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
And when I used the word supposed I used it when referring to my son as a man. I'm sorry, but every story I've ever heard about the effects of feminist backlash affecting men has been crap. I NEVER hear men talk about the priviledges they enjoy, only how they got screwed out of a job because some underqualified woman got the job because she put out/flirted with the boss/evil affirmative action. And that I will stand by.
Mothra is offline  
#27 of 105 Old 04-08-2005, 05:35 AM
 
Divina's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: CO
Posts: 541
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
I'm getting into this late and did not see the original thread, but ...

My first child is female and is now grown and out in the world on her own. All my other children are male, one 17 and the others still very small.

IME, being feminist and raising kids is tough no matter what in this society, but raising boys is much harder. Asherah, if you are still reading this thread, I understand exactly what you are talking about--on the one hand, DP and I have had pressure to "toughen up" our oldest son (the 3yo), on the other people just seem to simultaneously expect and encourage boys to act mean and to condemn all boys whether they fit the stereotype or not.

I get so tired sometimes, just all the stupid stuff that people say and do, and often enough that I get angry with myself about it, I wimp out and don't say anything. Like when my DP's mom told Rowan, who was happily playing with a small dollhouse, "Oh you don't want to play with that--it's a girl toy".

If it helps any, I am enormously proud of my teenage boy. He is pretty reserved, but he is not afraid of arguing with his friends if he thinks they're acting sexist, or of resisting peer pressure to treat women as objects. I don't know, really, how he turned out so well.

I worry about my two youngest. My DP is a remarkable, thoughtful, and pretty strongly feminist man ... but he is honest about the fact that he prefers non-girlish clothes for his sons (no problems with traditionally feminine toys, just clothes). And our division of labor is currently very traditional, for financial reasons. We do have a female doctor, whose partners are also mostly female. But I still worry, especially when I chicken out so I won't have to argue.
Divina is offline  
#28 of 105 Old 04-08-2005, 07:33 AM
 
asherah's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Swimming in the cauldron of rebirth
Posts: 2,848
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
agree with everything you said, Mothra.
But I ache for my boy anyway.

I am scared for him.
Scared of bullies. Scared of the violent boy-culture of video games/TV that certainly objectify women and portray them as victims..
but that also make HIM more vulnerable to violence. Teenage boys are INCREDIBLY vulnerable to violence.. though certainly minorities much more so than white boys.

I am wondering what alternative images there ARE for him.
Sure, I can teach him that the macho, violent, he-man, Arnold/Steven Segal models of our culture should not define maleness...

But what alternative male role models can I offer him?
Where are the non-violent, humane male role models in our culture?

Of course, he has his dad, uncle and grandfather, who, luckily.. are awesome men.

But our culture at large doesn't offer a lot of alternative male role-models.
Yes, I can show him women in all kinds of positions of authority to get him to understand women are to be respected.. heck, I am the main breadwinner in our home. He is surrounded by strong women. He is surrounded by family who talk openly about these issues, who do volunteer work, who are activists in their communities.

But where do I find images of MEN in the culture-at-large for him to emulate?

How do I tell him men don't have to buy into the patriarchy, culture of violence.. without offering him alternatives?

That leaves him even more vulnerable.

And supposing I DO counter these awful images successfully... will women value him? (I get the distinct impression he is gonna be straight, so I am assuming he will be for the purposes of this discussion. If he isn't.. cool with me, but that would add ANOTHER layer of difficulty in this culture)

Are women/girls still being taught to value the macho boys? The "bad boys?"

I feel it is me against the world sometimes, in the effort to raise a healthy, humane, FEMINIST boy.

And, thanks for the kind words, Divina.
I kind of do feel abandoned by women I would normally be in solidarity with.
Because all I have is my boy.
Maybe it'd be easier if I DID have a girl. Then I could just continue to rail against men without worrying at all about the affect that has on boys.

But the being I love more than anything in the world has a penis.
And while I realize that affords him vast power and privilege in this culture, compared to women... and I think Mothra is totally correct in her analysis...
That penis endangers him, too.
asherah is offline  
#29 of 105 Old 04-08-2005, 09:47 AM
 
cmb123's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Connecticut
Posts: 1,468
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
I have 2 dd's (5 and 9) and one ds (7). So far, they are all great kids. I will admit though, that I do think it's been good that he has been surrounded by girls most of the time (i'm a single parent). His sisters are who he plays with, always. He is in school, but I can count on one hand how many playdates he's had with other boys his whole life. Why? Because, I want him as far away from the mainstream boy culture as possible. He goes to school all day, he hears and see's it all there, I have no interest in him spending his free time playing with these kids.I have witnessed an increase in his aggressivness after playing with the boys... At the same time, I feel like he is starting to really want some "boy" time. I really can't blame him. He's a terrific, kind, gentle boy, I think maybe it's time to let him venture out there some more, before he ends up hating me

Here is my worry in parenting... As a feminist who's life is EXTREMELY woman centered (my job revolves around women, my love life is with women, my friends are 95% women, and I have 2 dd's). I sometimes can see myself getting angry with him faster than I do with the girls. I catch myself feeling really rageful inside (no I don't act it out on him, but I still don't like feeling it) if I see him hitting his sister, or screaming at her, more so than what I do if the girls hit eachother, or argue with eachother. It IS ingrained in me, even though I don't want it to be. He has never at the age of 7 tryed to use his "maleness" to intimidate or bully. In fact he truely is blind to gender and race- that's how he's been raised. BUT I still find that creeping up in myself.
Have any other mama's felt that way?
cmb123 is offline  
#30 of 105 Old 04-08-2005, 10:09 AM
 
LeftField's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Land of well-adjusted weird people
Posts: 2,528
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Cmb123,

I don't like mainstream boy culture either. Gender aside, my oldest is highly sensitive and gentle, pretty cautious too. I've noticed that he prefers to play with girls. He likes to do pretend play (that mostly revolves around making food) and lots of quiet activities. He's just not a very physical kid. I'm sure some of this will change when he's older.

Anyway, I noticed the boys at our last LLL meeting. Two of them were playing like a Power Rangers game; they were hitting each other with those foam pool noodles. Ds watched for a moment and then went on with what he was doing. He was using the blocks and some of the girls were using the blocks too.

I guess my bias is that I have a hard time with all the physical contact stuff that seems to go with boys. We do roughhouse at home, which I would do if I had girls too. But my oldest is not into play-fighting or weapon-play (yet?). My bias is that I like it that way. I guess it would be harder for me if he were the kind of child who ran around making gun noises or doing karate kicks. Dh says that this stuff is not so bad, but it's my bias. I guess I feel comfortable with ds hanging out with the girls, not because they are girls, but because they seem to do quieter and more peaceful pursuits.

Edited to add:
I guess I also wonder how much of the violent role-play is biological vs cultural conditioning. And if it's cultural conditioning, the media and all that (which I think 90% of it is), what do we do about it? My husband is a very sensitive and kind person. Yet, he played all these games as a kid. I guess I don't like seeing boys doing all the play-fighting and stuff, because it strikes a nerve. As girls, most of us were afraid to play with the boys because they were too rough. They were mean and threw things at us. I hate that whole macho thing. I know that people say weapons-play is a way for ordinary kids to work out issues bigger than them. But I still have a problem with stereotypical boys play, because it's like an unpleasant flashback to when I was a little girl.
LeftField is offline  
Reply

Quick Reply
Message:
Drag and Drop File Upload
Drag files here to attach!
Upload Progress: 0
Options

Register Now

In order to be able to post messages on the Mothering Forums forums, you must first register.
Please enter your desired user name, your email address and other required details in the form below.
User Name:
If you do not want to register, fill this field only and the name will be used as user name for your post.
Password
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.
Password:
Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.
Email Address:

Log-in

Human Verification

In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.



User Tag List

Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page


Forum Jump: 

Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are Off