Tag Archives: feminist parenting boys

You can totally teach 3.5yos about consent.

I love that when my 3.5yo wants to be tickled he says, “Tickle me mama! When I say “purple” you stop.” And that’s how we play. He picks the word that we’ll use for “stop” and when he says it, I stop. “Now you tickle me,” I say, and when I say, “Purple,” he stops.

I respect the boundaries he sets, and he respects the boundaries I set.

This is how I’m working to stop rape/bully culture.

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Is 3 too young to teach boys not to rape? I don’t think so.

This is a quick hit, because lately all I can think is “ao@*&#dg;9760iuehTAE” when I sit down to write. I’m sure this deserves to be fleshed out.

Last week Zerlina Maxwell went on the Hannity show and tilted the world off it’s axis when she said stop telling me how to not be raped, and start telling men not to rape. (The whole linked clip is worth watching, but she speaks at 2:35.) She followed up today with a piece at Ebony, 5 Ways We Can Teach Men Not To Rape.

I think about this a lot. I think about it more since about 2 years ago when I overheard a dad at the park encouraging his 3/4yo son to go give another little girl a hug, and upon hearing said little girl’s mom say, “She doesn’t like hugs, he better watch out,” continued to encourage his son because, “Oh, she’ll be fine. Someday she’ll like it.”

I am raising a son, and you can damn well believe that I am laying a foundation, at his current pre-school age, so that he doesn’t become a rapist.

He’s being taught to ask his friends if they want hugs from him, and he’s being taught to respect it when they tell him, “No.”

When he gets older he will hear his father and I critically examine sports announcers on our television. He will attend women’s sporting events.

He will be taught that “bitch” is not a word we use in our house.

He will see and hear his parents speak up when we witness rape culture.

He will be taught that all people are valuable, and that listening to the experiences that other people have had, and learning from them, will make him a better person.

We will teach him these things so that, if we do it right, he will be an ally against rape in his chosen community.

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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.

 

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I Get Around

Alison Piepmeier has a piece in the Charleston, SC City Paper today, and she was kind enough to include some of my thoughts. Go check out Spider Man isn’t just for little boys and let me know what you think!

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Lock up your daughters!

Tomorrow’s Valentines Day! What better way to celebrate than with this t-shirt for your little boy!

OMFG Target. Are you kidding me with this?

This, my dear friends, is not cool. It’s not cool because it portrays boys as predators. Because it sends the message that it is okay for boys to act in a sexually aggressive manner, and that it’s even cute. It’s not okay because it suggests that girls need to be locked up to keep them safe from the uncontrollable urges that boys find themselves awash in.  It’s not okay because it says that it’s all damn normal. Isn’t it cute to normalize predatory sexual innuendo? FOR CHILDREN. (That t-shirt is a size 18mos. I found it in the toddler section at Target.)  (I’m pretty sure this was a tactic of the Taliban. Keeping women inside to ‘protect’ them from men who couldn’t control their sexual urges. This is an adorable philosophy to emulate, Target!)

And also? My son is not a predator. My son is not a rapist.

Wait. Rape? Who said anything about rape? Well, that shirt does. It says, “Keep your daughters away from me, because otherwise I might do something I can’t control, and can’t be held accountable for!” and because it’s cute-ified (is that a word?) on a t-shirt, we can all sit back and laugh about it. “Oh..haha…it’s cuuuuute.”

I bombed Twitter with this picture Saturday after I took it because I was so pissed about it, and one of my followers posted on Target’s Facebook page,

Very disappointed to see shirts that say “Lock up your daughters!” being sold at Target. Way to further perpetrate rape culture on Valentines Day just to make a buck.

The responses in the comments?

I just cannot handle anymore people being so overly sensitive!! Why is everyone always offended about everything??? How in the world is a little boys shirt “perpetrating rape culture”???

How does that sound remotely close to rape? Geez! I’m going to lock up my daughters from people like YOU.

I’ve read a lot of stupid posts on this page but this just takes the cake. I cannot understand how in the world anyone could be offended by that shirt!!

These are being sold in the boys dept? Aw, if I saw a little guy wearing one, I’d probably chuckle. If I saw a grown man wearing one, I’d think yeah right, dummy… now rape would never enter my mind. Especially on a little boy, geez.

Maybe you should analyze yourself and find out why you think a harmless little boys’ shirt is promoting rape. And this has nothing to do with defending Target. More like defending rationalism and common sense.

it seems people will find anything to complain about. I’ve seen that little boys shirt and there is nothing wrong with it!

Not surprisingly, the t-shirt is harmless and she’s (an I’m) too sensitive and over reacting. Yay! Rape culture and silencing all in one place!

I get it, I do. It’s just a t-shirt  but that t-shirt, combined with the idea that the message it’s sending is okay, partnered with all the other sex and gender messages that kids are fed combine to create an environment where men feel emboldened to commit acts of sexual violence because they’ve been told all their lives that it’s okay. Not too long ago I read something that said one of the reasons that sexually aggressive behavior is so common among  early-twenties men is because when they’re all sitting around in a group talking about sex, and women, and the talk takes an aggressive turn, no one speaks up. No one says, “Oh, shit, you had sex with her while she was passed out? Dude, you’re a fucking rapist.” Instead they all sit there uncomfortably and smirk at one another. No one wants to be THAT guy, so the behavior goes unchecked. And the more often men observe other men’s behavior going unchecked the more their own behavior is emboldened.

So, when I see shit like this, I check it. This is me checking the behavior. I’m that guy. And I’m okay with it.

The Mamafesto has a post up today that talks about kids clothing and gender messages too, you should check it out. (We didn’t even coordinate!)

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Not that gender neutral nonsense again.

Gender neutral parenting. It’s a big buzz word these days. Parents who want to give their children the freedom to explore gender constructs on their own terms and without shame. Shocking!

It gets a bad rap sometimes. It seems a great number of parents are perfectly  happy telling their sons that pink, and dolls are for girls, and teaching their daughters that firefighting costumes, and trucks are for boys. I can’t blame them exactly, consciously counteracting the prevailing social norms is exhausting, and confusing, and often leads to alcohol consumption to combat the never-ending feelings of frustration with the world. Walk into any major toy store (and even an independent one) and you’ll be assaulted with the “toy section” and the “pink section.” It’s nearly impossible (nearly? It might BE impossible) to avoid the influence that gender stereotypes have on our children.

I’m gonna wade in with two of my own experiences, one that’s cute and satisfies me perversely, and the other that makes my little feminist heart sing.

Kidlet wears a ponytail. For the last month or so, nearly every morning he says, “Mama, put mah hair in ponytail!” We sit down on the floor together while I comb his hair, and he holds the rubber band. Then he spends the rest of the day checking to make sure it’s still there. Apparently ponytails are the major gender indicator for toddlers, as everywhere we go, people refer to him as “she.” He’s often dressed in clothes from the boy section, though I try very consciously to not buy him clothes that have construction equipment or sports motifs on it, and I know he has a penis, so to ME he looks like a boy. But I guess because of the ponytail, people assume he’s a girl. I’m cool with that. Doesn’t bother me in the slightest. But, HOOO WHEEE does it bother other people. I don’t bother to correct people unless I’m asked a direct question like, “How old is she?” then I’ll reply, “He’s…” Here it is – boys don’t have to have short hair, and girls don’t have to have long hair. It’s really that simple. So, my piece of performing masculinity subversion, acted out through my son. Yeah, yeah, I’m using my kid to further my own agenda. Know what? I’m ok with it.

The second piece is significantly more important to me. This toy is pretty popular in our house these days:

Kidlet calls this toy his FIREFIGHTER. YES!!! A thousand yesses! Instead of calling it a fireman, my kid has picked up on the efforts of his dad and I to speak in gender neutral terms whenever we are given the opportunity and now speaks in them too! I love this. This is so important to me because so many professions represented to children are represented as male, which winds up creating a subliminal understanding that boys have certain opportunities that girls don’t. I think the language we choose to speak in, with it’s ageist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, and violent  roots teaches our children VOLUMES more than we think it does. So, to hear his little 2year old mouth speaking to me in gender neutral terms…well, it just makes my day.

How do you support your children in their gender exploration?

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