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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm a feminist mama of a two year old daughter.

One of the things I take very seriously is looking at how to raise her in such a way that she is immunized from the pervasive sexism of our culture. I am strong and very feminist and I reject our sexist culture, and yet there are a multitude of ways that I have internalized it, too.

So, what sorts of things do you do? Mama's of boys, too, since for a world free of gender bias, all genders have to be on board...

here's one thing--when I'm reading to dd, I substitute a feminine pronoun for most of the male ones. ( often write it in, too, so when other people are reading, it's consistent.) It's amazing that when you do that, you realize that the protagonists in most kids books are boys! That teaches our kids that only boys are interesting, ya know?

I mean, really, why does the bear have to be "he?"
 

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I'm struggling with this too. My dd is 3yo and my ds is 9mo. I am currently dreading the christmas flood of all things "princess" from my ILs. I am also noticing how often dd is greeted with "oh, I love your dress/hair/shirt/whatever," and it's driving me batty. I, too, try to substitute she for he when it doesn't matter what the gender is in books. Just wait until 3 though, they are really starting to try to figure out gender, and I have been told many times that girls have long hair and boys have short, even though we have at least one friend whose ds has very long hair and one whose dd has quite short. I went to the zoo last week and was consciously annoyed at all the other people there calling every single animal "he".

I found this great book at the library called "Great Books for Girls" by Kathleen Odean. It's basically a list of books and a little blurb about each one. And in the forward the author talks about how these books aren't just for girls, that showing boys stronger female protagonists is postive too, but it made for a good title. Anyway, I'm probably going to be buying this book and finding gifts for all my kids' friends birthday presents out of it forever.
 

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today's contributions:

1. I asked my friend to make my ds a FUTURE DRAG QUEEN t-shirt.
2. I sang him "Glad to have a friend like you" from "Free to Be You and Me" this morning.
3. I promised him that, just like I wouldn't let anybody cut his penis, I won't cut his hair unless he wants to.
 

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A page from an older feminist:

When my mom had my older brother (mid seventies), she knew 1) she wanted another child, 2) she wanted that child to be a girl, and 3) the next kid was going to wear basically only hand-downs from her son. So what'd she do? Buy pink and frilly things for her infant/toddler son to wear (along with dark and boyish things and just plain kids things), so her future daughter (me! ^_^) wouldn't be the only one wearing the other gender's clothing.

She got a lot of grief about it, but my brother's straight, I'm queer, and we're both feminists. Go figure.

I love my mom.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
hee, hee! Maybe I'll make a "future drag king" shirt for my dd...funny tho, I think while lots of people know what a drag queen is they might be a bit confused by drag "king"...but I am in San Francisco after all.

yeah and that brings up an even bigger question, what about challenging gender binary systems?

DD has a shirt that says, on the front "potential queer" and on the back, "don't assume I'm (going to be) straight"

dnr3301, I'll keep my eyes open for that book, it sounds good.
 

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sadie_sabot said:
hee, hee! Maybe I'll make a "future drag king" shirt for my dd...funny tho, I think while lots of people know what a drag queen is they might be a bit confused by drag "king"...but I am in San Francisco after all.[/QUOTE}

future bull dagger? uh... probably not appropriate, huh?
: but then you are in SF after all...

Quote:
DD has a shirt that says, on the front "potential queer" and on the back, "don't assume I'm (going to be) straight".
I LOVE IT!! (i am always correcting people when they say "ooh, he's gonna be a ladykiller" i say "...or maneater." when they say "the girls already go crazy for him don't they?" i say "so do the boys." when they say "you can tell his girlfriends about this" i say "or boyfriends." it really freaks people out. :LOL)

Arwyn, I love your mom too.
 

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Things I do:
1. Change the gender of protagonists whenever I can, "Jan and Jill went up a hill."
2. Told people, "No Pink clothes for my girl!" I've always said this and yet half her waredrobe is pink, I think it would all be pink if I didn't say anything.
3. Told people no more white dolls, only other ethnicities, we have enough white ones.
4. Told people to remember, "Every time you call my daughter cute, or sweet, or pretty, add stong and clever and smart."
5. Dress her in gender neutral colors and don't correct people when they say, "My what a big boy you have, how strong he is!"
6. Bought her boy toys and took all the boy hand me downs we could. People would say, "I don't have anything you would be interested in, only a bunch of action figures, blocks, construction sets, toy cars, etc." I say, "Sure we do!"

That's all so far, she's only 9 month old.
 

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I find this intriguing. I feel very strongly about openness to whatever dd turns out to be: gay, straight, doctor, musician, creative, analytical, chocolate-loving, vanilla-loving, athletic, cerebral, wacky, serious, clean, messy, etc. Gender/sexual orientation is a piece of the future, but not that much more interesting to me than the rest of it.

Beyond that, editing books to change them gets on my author-as- autonomous- creative- entity nerve -- I sat through enough postmodern theory classes during my time as a grad student in creative writing to hate the concept of the "death of the author." Why not buy books that have strong female protagonists in them? I can think of many in our house:

Alicia Has a Bad Day
Horace and Morris Join the Chorus But What About Delores
The Krazees
Wild Child

And for that matter, why doesn't your dd get to see books with boys in them? Boys can be strong. That's not bad. It's when girls are NOT strong that the problem arises. So what about books where the boys are sweet and sensitive, like:

Some Things Go Together
Cosmo's Moon
Guess How Much I Love You
Hug Me

And there is the ever-popular modeling of the behavior you want them to emulate. When my dd said she wanted to marry her female friend, we said she should ask her if she wants to get married. We didn't say that girls can't marry girls. That's an obvious one, but those sorts of things are more pervasive than we think. We have a friend who is pregnant with a girl -- the first girl to be born into her family of 3 sons. We told dd that she would get to help the new baby and be like a sister, since the baby would have no sisters, and we asked her what kinds of things she could teach this baby that her brothers could not teach. DD's answer: "I'm going to teach her to play football!" I was so proud!
She also has three animals in her bed at night, a pink bear (who we decided was a "he," for various reasons, before she was old enough to understand anything), a little baby giraffe (also a "he"), and a little black dog (also male). She told me the other night that the bear and the dog were the giraffe's mommy and daddy. I said that baby bear was a boy, so maybe the bear and the dog were both daddies, and she said no, the bear was a mommy AND he was a boy. Again, I was proud that she was not thinking in stereotypical roles -- and bummed at myself for trying to correct her!

I guess I just hate to see people pushing their children in ANY one direction -- assuming that the child is straight or joking/insinuating that the child is gay or might become gay or be a drag queen/king, etc. Just be patient and see what happens. It's exciting and fun!
 

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I read this thread title and thought: "What a clever way to fight sexism, an army of toddlers cannot lose!"

Okay that was kind of obscure.

I'm not sure if I'm doing a good job in this area, even though I've tried to find appropriate books, etc. He does have some super-boyish clothes from my mom, but people still think he's a girl. I don't really want to make him wear slogans, except maybe a peace sign or something. I don't even know if I think that clothing or appearance are the fronts for activism for me, for myself.

Probably the best we are doing for ds is having lots of people in our lives who are in same-sex relationships, who have jobs you wouldn't expect women to have, and who are a really warm community. In the area of role models and positive, affirming relationships, we are doing GREAT!

My dh is a cool guy and one I would want to model masculinity for a boy. Okay, maybe not 100%--maybe he could do the laundry a bit more often! But in general he's good and conscious. Maybe a bit more radical on some feminist issues than I am. Or talks more radical. Okay well, that's life. We'll see how our little fellow deals with the whole boys and girls thing as things chug along.
 

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just to be clear, i don't think for a second i'm going to "turn him gay" or femme, nor is that my goal. i trust that he will love who he's going to love, and express himself the way he wants to express himself, that i will bring him up to be happy and proud about that, whoever the objects of his affection or modes of expression turn out to be.

what i AM trying to do w/ that "future drag queen" kind of stuff is
* counteract, just a teensy bit, all the hetero-normal messages that we are all bombarded w/ everyday
* bring him up w/ the attitude that sex and sexuality can and should be joyful and playful
* use him as a human billboard to freak bigots out (yes, i can admit this)

ps - i just got him GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU for xmas


pps - i have nothing against masculinity. but i know i can count on everyone else to push that on him.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
i do most of those things, too.

My 2 year old tough guy looooves pink. and motorcycles. I work really hard not to devalue and belittle the things that are traditionally thought of a "girl" activities, too, tho. My dd spends a lot of time playing with her "babies" and very little time playing with trucks, and it's ok; she's doing what she sees her adults doing--we love her, take care of her, etc.

I guess there's some kind of fine line between supporting that girlie things are good, too, while countering the dominant culture idea that those are the only things she can do. The women closest to her, me and our housemates, are not even remotely "traditional", and the only people she knows who wear pink are probably boys. So she comes up with a mix of things and I try to be supportive of everything.

However, I know that in the outside world, which includes family members and the families of her buddies, gender norms are going to be enforced,albeit without conscious intent. So I am inclined to have our lives be a counter weight.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by guerrillamama
i have nothing against masculinity. but i know i can count on everyone else to push that on him.
It has not really started yet with dd, but ds is 5, and my IL's kinda freak when they realize I'm concentrating on books with strong female characters/transposing gender pronouns, encouraging tender parenting play, buying him pink pajamas or whatever. They're like, "Won't he learn it's bad to be a boy?" Or "What about showing him boys can be brave, too?"

Um, no, that's not the point. He has a whole world screaming at him that as a boy, he's brave/capable/intelligent, it's OK for him to like trucks & sports, and he can feel free to wear blue and forest green without shame. What he needs from the progressive adults in his life are messages that balance those out: he's tender/thoughtful/nurturing, it's OK for him to like dolls and teasets, and he can wear sparkly pink without shame.

Likewise, what dd needs isn't affirmation that it's "OK" to enjoy "girly stuff". Our culture takes care of that message. She needs me to tip the scales in the direction of assertiveness, ownership of her body & capability in physical/cerebral tasks.

OK, I'm preaching to the choir here, but here's a couple things I'm doing for dd (9.5 mos) that haven't been mentioned yet.

I fight the habit of using passive language with regards to her: "Will you kiss me please?" instead of "Can I have a kiss?" or "Can I give you a kiss?" Also, I concentrate on her comfort, desires, etc. instead of her appearance or other's desires. "Let's wipe you so you're more comfortable" not "Let's wipe you all clean and pretty."

I actively try to equip her with ownership of her feelings early, both through describing her own feelings & narrating the feelings of others. "You fell and it hurt! You're afraid. You didn't like that." "You're really frustrated." "Oh, [ds] is angry and sad. Daddy's helping him."

I put a moratorium on dresses, lace, frills, tights and anything else not directly accomodating to the comfort & activity level of an active toddler. Dd can't crawl easily in dresses, tights get worn out fast & won't protect her knees, lace needs to be kept clean or it gets ratty. Function is #1 for baby clothes. (This usually means I have to shop in the "boy's section"
: all the durable fabrics, rich deep colors, rewarding textures like corduroy, and anything except basically pink jersey knit with bows & kitties is in the boy's section.)

I'm trying to find more female music artists I like, so that the kids hear as many female voices as male. This is hard, because my taste in music runs to genres that are pretty male-dominated, at least in the popular market. Also, I switched off the radio & TV. Dang but commercials & popular music are misogynistic!


I'm gonna have to make some of those shirts for the kids
I especially like "Don't assume I'll be straight".
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
yeah, I also try to really give dd a strong message of love and enjoyment of her body. I roughhouse with her a lot, rolling around on the floor and stuff. I am not fully comfortable in my body and I want that to be different for her. I tell her how great her body is frequently. I also allow her as much control as possible over her body. I ask if I can kiss her/hug her, and if she says no, then it's no (and lately that's usually the case.) I see parents pressure their kids into physical stuff like that all the timeand it's kind of disturbing. yeh, she's only two, but it is her body!

She tells me about it, too. An example is, I rolled her over without telling/asking her first for a diaper change, and she got really angry, crying and shouting at me, "my body!" excellent. challenging sometimes when I'm trying to strap her into a car seat or get her dressed, but still.

I do have to work on my own acceptance of girly stuff, tho. I don't wear dresses or skirts ever (the last time I tried dd got upset and cried.) No make up, nothing like that, I wear mens clothes mostly, and that's common in dd's life. We don't have a lot of femme friends (tho we love the ones we do have
) And my friends roll their eyes if dd likes something pink. That's where we need to work to accept the girlie stuff. Femme is ok, as long as it doesn't mean weak, stupid, etc. and the only reasons we think of it that way is because of a mysogynistic sopciety that has taught us there's only certain ways for girls to be, and they're all inferior to the ways boys can be. By encouraging her to have broader interests than what our culture tells her, I don't want to unwittingly participate in teaching her that all things girlie are bad.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by sadie_sabot
That teaches our kids that only boys are interesting, ya know?
I didn't reply to this earlier (I just love sharing that bit about the clothes), but it's been bugging me, sooooo...

It's actually been suggested by a few pretty well designed studies (sorry, can't reference them, mostly stuff I've seen on discovery channel) that children in the 3-5 age range actually think there ARE more boys/men than girls/women. !!!!!!!!!!! The pervasiveness of the male-by-default is so great that they actually think there exist more men in the world than women, not even "just" that men are better or more interesting. How sad is that?

So although I do get the objection about changing a creative work, it is so important that we make sure our kids hear male/female pronouns in roughly the same amounts - if not more female because, as many others have mentioned, the rest of the world will take care of the male...
 

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This thread is very imporatnat to me. I also specified no pink, and most of dd's wardrobe is pink. She gets pretty/beautiful/gorgeous all the time, so I make sure I tell her that she is smart, strong, etc. I never correct people when they think she is a boy. What does it matter. I also change things in books. She has a book about animals, and it says something like male lions have a beautiful mane and a mighty roar, so I always add something like female lions give birth to the cubs and nurse them.

Have you read her the book Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch?
 

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what a great thread! i can't wait to get ds new t-shirt. he's definetly going to wear it in front of my BIL, who is imo, a bigot. nothing like making the holidays more interesting.

also, i can't wait to have a girl (i hope one day i get to). what a challenge and what a reward. think of how awesome it will be when they don't live up to the terrible teenage girl stereotype.
 

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I have a boy and two girls. One thing that I see happening is boys are getting stereotyped into being bad, aggressive, and mean. It really bothers me that in building up girls we are not creating a balance. A very feminist acquaintance daughter actually says things like "Boys can do that because they are stupid." "Boys can't wash clothes because they are too dumb to know how to sort clothes." "Boys always get lost. Girls are smart and have to get them un-lost."

I have often picked up books that had the girls being strong yet the boys being bad "evil". Why is the bad guy always a guy?


More often than not I am finding books were boys are bullies and girls are the sweet "innocent" ones.

This might sound odd but I want an EVIL female character besides a wicked witch/step mom. To show how females can be just as mean as boys.

I also have problems with physically changing words to books. Authors work hard on their stories. I don't disagree with changing them verbally like Jan and Jill went up the hill though.

Thought to ponder: Why just change Jack and Jill to Jan and Jill but not Jack and Bill? What message does it send if you only do a pair of girls but not a pair of boys.

While I try to build up my girls I am careful it does not pull down boys.
 

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Marsupialmom, I think you make some great points. Half my problems with commercials is the "daddy's stupid" or "men can't do laundry" bull$hit they include. (In my house, ONLY the man does the laundry! But, I did have to teach him how first, 'cause his mom always did it for him...) Feminism is the radical belief that women are people too, not that men are bad.

But, I do think you have to watch out when saying things like "in building up girls we are not creating a balance," because many of us are trying to do just that. As a society, is it working out well? Not really - in the commercials in which women are portrayed as smart or competent, it's usually at the expense of some hapless, incompetent man. Blech! There are still a lot of us who really are working, hard, at creating a balance - but when the rest of the world is so OUT of balance, maybe part of that is, yea, having Jan and Jill run up the hill more often than Jack and Bill. Because we're trying to balance out the whole damn rest of the world.

This brings up an important question for me; are you raising your boys to be feminists? (You, all you posters and lurkers, not anyone in particular!) The thing about my brother of which I am most proud is his self-proclaimed feminism. He embraces the label because he believes its message, as any good man (or woman or trannie or...) should. And if not, why not? I would say it is just as important, if not more important, that the next generation of men be raised to identify as feminists as it is for the next generation of women. And I do think that can be done without devaluing their uniqueness as males.
 
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