(Note to readers: Today, as part of what has become a regular feature on feminist parenting, we are honored to have as a guest blogger Kandee of Lots of Thinking. These are her words...)
What's the quickest way to emasculate my little boys? Apparently, it's to teach them that they're equal to girls. Nothing says loss of manhood like being equal to women. And oh, they don't have to be rough (also emasculating). Gotta love family and their unsolicited parenting advice.
Back in the day, I would have never guessed that I would be called a feminist. But from the first 'accusation', I've taken on that label with pride. So naturally I am raising my children according to my values of gender equality. Who would have thought it was such an uphill battle? Certainly not me. I was very naïve. I heard the principles of equality spread across all parts of my life like a slogan. From tv, school, work, and even my family. But what came as a surprise to me was that, similar to race, people were just paying lip service to equality. They were being politically correct. They didn't actually believe that.
And it's not only gender equality that I'm trying to reach. My parenting style is also an effort to move (my family) away from masculinity as a form of power over women. We learned that femininity was weaker. We learned that a rightful place for a man is to lead, to be aggressive, and to be strong. So what does that say for the bulk of men that will never be the ideal? That will never be physically big, mentally strong, or emotionally tough? They feel a sense of inadequacy that can easily turn into aggression, bravado, and posturing. Well, I don't want that for my boys.
Now I've had to incorporate other people's gendered views into the lessons I teach my sons. I have to watch all their tv shows, spending half the time pausing the tv to have an impromptu lesson on gender equality, which doesn't always go over well for a 6 and 4 year old. But it pays off when I'm standing in the kitchen and I hear one of them say "hey, they're not suppose say that" or "that's wrong" when it comes to MSM's understanding of masculinity and femininity.
The language I use, the toys I buy, the television shows we watch - they are all filtered through the principle of equality. Mind you, we still have Spider-man in the house, but we discuss, engage, participate with our children in hopes that they will see and hear the hetero-normative masculine-leaning sexist practices in our culture and how problematic they are.
So far, it seems to be working. Our children have become critical thinkers, they are media literate, and most importantly, they are becoming conscious of the subtle messages sent in our culture about who they are and how false that might be. The discussions force them to continue thinking about these messages through critical lenses. I can't afford to leave the gate wide open and allow others to form their opinions for them. Especially while they're so young.
Even with all of that, parenting my way is not an option I thought I would have to aggressively pursue. There's a complexity to parenting that you are rarely warned about before you have kids. Everyone tries to parent along with you, and while there are advantages to community parenting, it usually comes up after you have kids that the family you are in may not support your parenting style, especially if you're a feminist. No, I don't want your help with toughening up my boys. They're fine just as they are. If anything, my middle one needs to calm down a bit. But the fear is that I'm not preparing them for real life. Well, when they start allowing fist fights at board meetings for managers who disagree, you let me know and I'll certainly try to toughen them up then.
(Crossposted at Lots of Thinking)