Tag Archives: feminist mothering

Parenting in the face of misogyny

Last week I wrote this post about how I’m trying to raise a confident, kick-ass kid who will be happy to have a penis and wear pink shoes his whole life. He’ll totally be able to stand up to bullies, and is the future of paradigm shifting in the world. My kid is awesome, and, in this respect, kidlet’s dad and I are rocking this parenting gig.

And then Unladylike Musings left a comment that drives home a lot of the fear I have for raising my kid.

“You have so much power over who that little person becomes. You know who you want them to be. Someone who is courageous. Someone who isn’t tied down by the gendering of small children. But there’s only so much a parent can do. Society, other children, other parents, and teachers can also have a huge impression on your child, for good or bad. And that, to me, is terrifying.”

PARENTING IS TERRIFYING. WHAT IF I FUCK IT UP? WHAT IF, DESPITE MY BEST INTENTIONS, MY KID TURNS INTO AN ASSHOLE?

This is a fear I felt to my toes when I found out I was pregnant with a boy. I cried, big, sobbing, gasping for breath tears. Not because I was unhappy I was going to birth a boy, please don’t misunderstand this, but because I felt so utterly un-equipped to raise him in a culture that encourages violence, misogyny, and sexual aggression from our boys. FROM MY SON.

And all of that fear came rushing back to me, like an avalanche, as I read Soraya Chemaly‘s piece at Feministe about Facebook’s newest fuckwittery, the “12 Year Old Slut Meme” page. A Facebook page which advocates public branding, and shaming of TWELVE YEAR OLD GIRLS.  Status update from the page,

“As long as there are sluts, we will put them in their place. “

The page has 215 THOUSAND ‘likes.’

I read this Friday and I cried a little. I remember being that girl, the object of this type of harassment. I remember that hot anxiety that would overcome me, well into my twenties, when I found myself in a group of a certain type of men. When I knew I was being sized up, judged, and would probably be subjected to some subtle, or maybe not, harassment. When standing up for myself would lead to nothing but more judgment and ridicule. I remember wondering, through my tears, what I should do differently so that I wouldn’t be subjected to these assholes.

WHAT IF MY SON TURNS OUT TO BE ONE OF THOSE BOYS? What if he toes the USian rape culture line, embracing his middle-class white male privileged status with a gleeful smile on his face? What if all of my efforts and best intentions yield nothing? OH MY MAUDE I worry about this daily.

But I have to believe, I have to believe that my efforts will yield an empathetic, inclusive, confident person who will appreciate and seek out differences in people. And who will be courageous enough to turn to his friends, when they try on these hyper-masculine costumes of assholery, and gently but firmly and repeatedly tell them to knock it the fuck off.

 

Advertisements

7 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

These are for boys and those are for girls

A few months ago I was standing in line at the craft store,  there was a short wait and the woman behind me was with her son, who was, predictably, grabbing all the stuff at toddler level and asking for it. “How old is your child?” I asked. “He’s almost 4,” the woman replied. Me, with a chuckle, “I have an almost 3 year old.” How nice, two women sharing the bond of parenthood.

Until the boy picked up a bright pink foam tiara and asked his mom to buy it for him while putting it on his head. “PUT THAT DOWN,” she hissed at him, reaching to take it out of his hand, “that’s for girls and you’re a boy.” He whined that he wanted it and she repeated, “PUT IT DOWN, you’re NOT a girl and that’s for girls.”

And my heart broke a little.

Kidlet’s favorite shoes are his “sparkly sneakers.” They have pink and blue glitter on them, and light up when he walks. He picked them out a few months ago and wears them all the time. Yesterday, outfitted in a t-shirt, shorts, a pair of baby legs with helicopters on them, purple socks, and his sparkly sneakers, we headed out to the park after I picked him up from school.

And it happened. One of the moments I’ve been dreading. Another child, a little boy, ran up to us and asked, “How old is she?” I said, “He just turned 3, how old are you?” And the boy said, “He? But he has girl shoes on!” And I died a little. Here it was – kidlet’s first direct challenge to his choice of footwear. I tried to find a smile and gentle tone as I replied, “They’re pink and blue sparkly shoes, they’re for anyone,” but my mind raced. Had kidlet heard this? Would he remember it some morning while getting dressed for school? Would I hear him refuse to put them on while explaining that they were “for girls”?

Shoes

We live in a binary world. I understand that. I understand that when I go shopping for my own clothes I shop in the “women’s” department. And I understand that 9 out of 10 times I buy kidlet’s clothes in the “boy’s” department. I participate in gendering him. But, as I said to Alison Piepmeier here, “If my penis-having child wants to wear a tiara WHY IN THE EVER LOVING HELL WOULD I STOP HIM?” If he presents me with something that HE WANTS, that doesn’t fit our culture’s gender binary, why would I refuse him?

I guess that’s a terrifically complicated answer. I mean, I wouldn’t refuse him. But I know parents that would, and I don’t fault them for it. We are taught to conform. And we’re punished, literally maybe, and socially often, when we don’t. We tease, or are teased, we laugh, or are laughed at, we use words and body language to directly or indirectly remind people that non-conformity is suspect and will not be tolerated, outside the safest of spaces.

So I want my kid to have a safe space. And I will do everything I can to provide him with a safe space, both in our home, and in the communities I choose to introduce him to. It’s a terrifically privileged position to have – that I have the ability to choose his communities – I recognize that. Not everyone has that option. Maybe the mom standing behind me at the craft store doesn’t have that privilege. Maybe she has a family or a community that would punish her for allowing her child to express himself how he wanted to. I don’t know.

I was blessed with 2 parents whose bedrock principle of life was non-conformity. They encouraged me, from birth basically, to question everything, to challenge the status quo, to demand an explanation when I was told that something was supposed to be a certain way. I was expected to form my own positions and opinions based on the answers to questions I asked. And I was supported. Which was the most important gift of all.

Yesterday the little boy who challenged kidlet’s shoes turned out to be a pretty nice kid. He and kidlet spent the next 20 minutes or so playing football, which mostly amounted to the older child letting kidlet chase him around and tackle him. It was really cute to see them playing. And while they were playing, another mom said to me, “It’s really great to see his creative expression” as she gestured to his clothes, “you don’t see a lot of parents who will let their kids do that.”

All the patterns

20 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized