Tag Archives: feminist parenting

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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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

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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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Kill your television

I don’t like media aimed at children. I don’t like the absence of women, and people of color in most movies. I don’t like the reinforcement of gender stereotypes. I don’t like the emphasis placed on heteronormative relationships. I don’t like that girl characters, or POC characters, or disabled characters are often relegated to supporting roles. And I don’t like that movies that are considered to have broad appeal are really movies that are aimed at boys (through a gender stereotyped construct).

Kidlet watches a few tv shows on Netflix. Thomas, and Kipper notably. He asks to watch the movie Cars, and Nemo, and sometimes Toy Story. We’re not a TV free house, but I wouldn’t be upset if we were. Instead I just get anxious, and hate it.  I hate it because these shows and movies remind me how marginalized women are in the world. And my kid will be influenced by this.

From Geena Davis’ Institute on Gender in the Media

…in family films, there is only one female character for every three male characters. In group scenes, only 17% of the characters are female. The repetitive viewing patterns of children ensure that these negative stereotypes are ingrained and imprinted over and over.

It’s not just about negative portrayal, it’s the influence of women and girls being almost entirely absent.

The vocabulary that we use to communicate with children (really, with all people) will say a great deal about the things we feel are important. And if we absence women from movies, we affirm the idea that the contributions of women aren’t important.

I have the same feelings about major league sports. Turn on your TV on the weekend and try to find a sports event showcasing women. You might get lucky and find a televised gymnastics, or maybe an ice skating competition, or beach volleyball, but more likely you’ll find golf, football, basketball, hockey, or baseball, all being played by men. (If you’re on the West Coast, you might be able to watch some Pac-12 women’s volleyball.) You’re not likely to find a WNBA game, or a WPS  game. Based on a sampling of televised sports, you certainly would think that women don’t actually play them.

I even got pissed at a PBS show the other day. Travels to the Edge with Art Wolfe follows a nature photographer wherever he goes to take pictures. Last week he travelled to New Zealand and in the 30 minute show he talked with half a dozen people, and photographed a few more, and in the entire show – only one photograph, composed of 5 Maori faces, included a woman. Lesson? There are no women in New Zealand.

Bluemilk linked to this post from Reel Girl the other day; “Questions to ask when considering a movie for your kids.” I think the questions are great because they challenge us to think critically about what our children are seeing.

Is the movie titled for a male star?

Is the movie centered around the quest of a male?

How many lines do the female characters have?

How many of the females’ lines have to do with what they’re wearing, what they look like, romantic relationships, or shopping?

How many of the males refer to the females only in reference to romance and how they look?

The questions also provide a great place to start for conversations with your kids about what they see in movies. (Or, I imagine they would be good questions for a kid who could answer them instead of running around shrieking, “Race cars go fast! Race cars go fast!” (Though that does illustrate what he takes away from the movie at this point in his life.))

I can’t opt out entirely, kidlet’s dad enjoys professional sports a great deal, and there are times when we put him in front of a movie, or the tv so we can have 30 minutes (or 6 hours – hello road trips and cross country plane rides!) of time to eat, or cry from exhaustion. (It’s hypocritical I guess, though I have little patience for calling out hypocrisy, we’re all guilty of it.) But I want things to be different. I want him to see that women and people with disabilities, and people of color ARE important, and influential. So I have to work harder to find those representations. And if I can’t find those representations, I’ll have to work to create a critical dialogue about what he does see.

Do you have any favorite kids shows that you think do a good job of illustrating positive female, or disabled, or POC role models?

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