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So. Gender Norms…

When I first discovered I was having a boy, I was so grateful. Not being a ‘girly’ girl myself, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to raise one. A boy sounds easier, right? They’re rough and tumble. They fall down and get right back up. You don’t have to worry about their feelings quite as much. You don’t have to worry about having a conversation about periods or boobs, or getting pregnant. There’s no fear about their safety as they start to develop, you just have to teach them about consent and respect. This was going to be a breeze.

Riiiiiight.

Cue a montage of 8 years’ worth of memories.  

Ollie witchMy son likes nail polish. He cries more than I ever did, and he has WAY more friends who are girls than boys. The first Halloween costume he ever picked for himself was a witch. He was three years old, and we had cycled through every dress-up outfit he had, until he decided on the Dollar Store dress we had purchased for when his cousin visited. On the other hand, he loves guns, army dudes, video gaming, and anything that grosses out his mother. I couldn’t be more proud. To me, this means I’m doing my job as a parent right.

I never really planned out what kind of mother I wanted to be. I had a general idea, of course, of what I wanted to accomplish; I wanted my son to be a happy, kind, loving person. I liken it to seeing the treasure in the distance without a map to get me there. My parenting style was hammered out like most, one decision at a time.  Oh! You like the pink baby stroller and not the truck I was trying to get you? OK. You like putting on heeled shoes and want blue nails too? Um, why not? I didn’t stand up one day to declare myself “ENEMY OF THE GENDER STEREOTYPE”; I just listened to my child, and didn’t judge…just like I would have if he had been a girl. Eventually, though, I realized that this was the overarching theme to my choices, and started to think of the consequences he may face.

Ollie DrumsIs he going to be called a ‘pussy’ because he thinks it’s ok to cry? Will he get beaten up by those kids who’ve been taught it isn’t? Will people assume his sexuality is tied up in his ‘masculinity’? What are the repercussions of that? While I try to teach him it’s perfectly fine for him, or any other person, to love someone of the same gender, I have to teach him that not everyone feels that way… and it’s exhausting.

I want the rest of the world to step up now please.

Stop making men feel like they are failing if they talk about their feelings. Stop using ‘girl’ and ‘faggot’ as the worst insult you can dole out when they don’t live up to your image of hyper-masculinity. Start teaching them that chivalry isn’t about the ‘weaker sex’ but rather respect; that opening doors, or taking extra bags, is what you should do as a human being, not as a ‘man’.  Teach them they don’t need to put others down to raise themselves up. And please…

…Let little boys be who they want to be, so they can grow up to be the kind of men they could be.

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