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07:00 am: Gender issues
I'm mighty glad I have a boy. Mostly because Teddy is a really wonderful kid exactly as he is and any other kid wouldn't be Teddy, no matter how wonderful.

But also because gender issues are hard. Boys have their own hurdles to jump (people in general do, but I'm making sweeping generalizations here), including being treated like broken girls in the classroom and especially being treated as fundamentally bad, from "snakes and snails and puppydog tails" onward ("Boys suck. Let's throw rocks at them." is not something I want to see on a t-shirt for sale at my local mall).

This stuff's mighty important but it's gonna take some endurance to stay with me. I'm fragmented on the subject. Everything's kinda jumbled in my head and I'm writing to sort it out.

So. yeah. I finished Gail Collins' When Everything Changed, which is a staggeringly good book. It took me a while to finish because my response, throughout, was intense. So I'd read 'til I was overcome, set it down for a few days, pick it up again, read some more. It's interesting that just reading the names Phylis Schlafly and Anita Bryant still makes my stomach churn. Reading about the non-ratification of the ERA has the same effect.

Collins reminded me, over and over again, of how much women have gone through to get where we are, and what I've gone through to get where I am. I think every woman should read this book - particularly any young women who reap the benefits of others' struggles, probably unaware of what those struggles entailed.

I'm fortunate to know many wonderful, thoughtful, very aware women.

I've also stumbled across a few who said things like "I'm no feminist!" as if it were a dirty word (and as if they weren't riding the skirt-tails of many feminists before them), or "there's no such thing as a glass ceiling" or who imply that sexual harassment, if it ever existed at all, surely doesn't any more and anyone who ever claimed to have suffered from it was a whiner who couldn't stand up for herself.

These women make me sad and angry and none of them is reading this blog, so I guess I'm looking for sympathy rather than action.

And then there was Clay Shirky's recent blog post, in which he ranted against women for not being lying, blowhard assholes (it's our fault, you see, that we don't get the same opportunities as men because we're not willing to lie and be jerks). Because of course the world is right and the little women just need to have everything mansplained to them to make it all better. The interwebs surely did explode over that one. (Not least because there are plenty of men who aren't lying, blowhard assholes who deserve as much success - more! - than those who are.)

Sadly, there's also the dance teacher with the child porn. :shaking head: There's a lot of really thoughtful debate on Yehoodi about that, as well as some truly mind-blowing ignorance (possession of child porn is a victimless crime? EGADS), and a pretty deep divide between male and female responses (and parent and non-parent, I suspect). It's illuminating to read how many women report BB's inappropriate behavior with them, and how many people (men and women) don't understand how difficult it was for them to say anything to anyone else (though all ultimately did).

(I never personally witnessed or heard of behavior that was over the line. I believe that I would have spoken up, but I'll never really know.)

At the party last weekend, I got into a discussion with one of the other Moms about allowing kids to refuse physical affection. I suggested she look at Gavin De Becker. Her husband, an otherwise thoughtful, intelligent guy, has been pushing their daughter to hug and kiss family and friends. De Becker and others urge us specifically not to push kids to express affection against their wishes, because it teaches girls (especially, but also boys) to ignore their instincts and allow other people to take liberties with their bodies.

De Becker et al. also point out that the vast majority of sexual abuse comes from people we know, not from strangers. The emphasis on "stranger danger" is a disservice to children, who need more to learn not to let anyone do anything that makes them uncomfortable, no matter who that person is.

There's such pressure on girls to make nice, not make waves, go along to get along... and to be lying assholes to get attention in business, if you're Clay Shirky and others of his ilk, who seem to believe that The Way is the Male Way, so women are broken and should be fixed. This has been an infuriating theme throughout my life. I do not want to be an asshole. I do not want to be a liar. If success is defined as something that requires me to be a lying asshole, I want a different definition of success. I think the world needs fixing, not women.

Though certainly many of us (me most of all) also need to work on ourselves (being more direct, more willing to toot our own horns, and so on), it's not because the "feminine" approach - cooperation, inclusion, consensus, empathy, etc. - is wrong.

On a personal level, I've been thinking a lot about the effect the attempted rape 30 years ago had on my life, but also the effect of working for a defense contractor early in my career (vast majority male, significant majority in management of retired military), and the effect of sexual harassment. (I've also dealt with religious harassment, which was bad and uncomfortable, but never felt threatening the way sexual harassment did.) I don't think any of those experiences defines me, but each has had huge, continuing effects on me.

...and all those effects were deeply influenced by my gender.

Tricky stuff.

What do you think?

Current Location: Longmeadow
Current Mood: sadsad


[User Picture]
Date:January 23rd, 2010 10:20 pm (UTC)

What do I think?

Send her back!!!!! I don't know what to do with a girl. I was raised all "don't speak unless spoken to... listen, don't talk... be polite and obedient..." Obviously I didn't get that myself but it took many years and feelings of guilt because I am not my family (pride thing).

And now I have a daughter. How to teach her to be polite and honest and fair but know that the rest of the world may not be that way, that she can create it for herself but have a thick skin b/c it could be a bitch and you'll get frustrated easily, etc......

Too much, I haven't figured it out yet, she's two and I already note my reaction when she gets frustrated or angry or.... acting inappropriately or exercising her right to speak out!

What world will she live in in another 10 years? Such a big topic Kate...! After 6 days of 2yr molars, my head can't comprehend. Give me time.
[User Picture]
Date:January 24th, 2010 11:20 am (UTC)

it is kinda big, isn't it?


IMHO, one of the most important things is to verbalize our own confusion on the topic. "Yes, it's difficult, yes, it's a balancing act, no, it's not fair, yes, I'm here to help you with the struggle."

[User Picture]
Date:January 25th, 2010 02:11 am (UTC)
I got the Gail Collins book for Christmas--I got the sense it would be kind of overwhelming, so I've been dancing around reading it a bit, but I'm glad to hear that it's overwhelming in a really good way, if that makes sense.
Not being a parent yet myself, I only have experience as an observer. One of my grad school friends (a guy) has a 2-year-old daughter, and it's been really heartening and fascinating to watch him parent her with such awareness and acceptance--he's hyper-aware of gender stuff, but without it being the Big Thing in his parenting. She apparently has totally fallen in love with Thomas The Tank Engine and is a super-awesome kid. Brad is hoping that she discovers dinosaurs soon.

B and I talk about how we'd like to raise our future hypothetical kids, and it's such a huge help that B is very much a feminist, and is a really good example himself of how to raise a man to be feminist--he loves prototypical "guy stuff"(hiking, dinosaurs, building things), but he also respects traditional "female" qualities such as kindness, empathy, etc. He thinks it's important(as I do) that any kids we raise know how to sew, and cook, and take out the garbage, and mow the lawn, and change a lightbulb, and write a thank you note.

Also, I'm glad that you are a parent, as it means there's one more super cool kid on the planet.
[User Picture]
Date:January 25th, 2010 01:11 pm (UTC)

aw, shucks!

I must admit that I have to show ENORMOUS restraint in not encouraging you to jump on the parental bandwagon, 'cause y'all are going to be awesome parents. We need more super-cool kids on the planet.

The Collins is overwhelming, but I wouldn't say the good is unmitigated. Some what she writes about is very still upsetting (ref. Schlafly and Bryant).
[User Picture]
Date:November 18th, 2014 07:31 pm (UTC)

you're a parent now, right?

any new insights? would LOVE to hear what you're up to!!
[User Picture]
Date:November 18th, 2014 09:13 pm (UTC)

Re: you're a parent now, right?

Wow, LJ! Haven't looked at mine in probably...years. Yes, I am a parent now, of a very smiley four-month-old (four months today, in fact!). He is less smiley today because of vaccinations, but he is currently out on a walk with B to get another nap out of him. He managed to nap twice at daycare, huzzah!

Insights at this point are mostly of the "survival by any means necessary" variety, and also the "wow there are so many more kids books now THIS IS AWESOME" variety and the "breastfeeding makes me so HUNGRY" variety. I have two friends at work who are expecting babies in the next couple months, and it has been nice to be helpful to them, both in the "WOULD YOU LIKE A BABY SWING" variety and the "read the baby sleep books NOW so that you know what you're up against!" sort. I didn't know I could function on so little sleep, though my kiddo is a better sleeper than many, and that he would just be so darn much fun, especially now that he's more aware about the world.

Am pretty stoked to be able to raise a feminist boy. I think that part's pretty cool.
[User Picture]
Date:November 19th, 2014 12:59 pm (UTC)

Happy 4 months and 1 day!

Naps, huzzah!

Survival by any means necessary is an EXCELLENT strategy.

Raising a feminist boy is most excellent indeed.

When y'all are ready to come up for air, I'd love to see you all.
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