Raising Feminist Boys

A few weeks ago, the SMH‘s weekend magazine, Good Weekend (not online), had an article about tweens. I can’t remember the headline, but it seemed to promise an article relevant for the parent of a child between 8 and 12. Since Chatterboy is about to turn 7, it seemed like something I should read.
But the article was just about girls, so I stopped reading after a few hundred words.
Quite frequently, the blogosphere (particularly the feminist parts) comes alive with indignation about the latest toy for girls, and just how extreme girls’ introctination is getting. I agree, of course. But as the mother of two boys, I’ve found myself reading, being shocked, and thinking how nice it is that I don’t have to worry about it.

But recently, having read the tweens article, I’ve found myself wondering why all the indignation is for the girls’ toys… the girls’ prematurely sexualised behaviour. What about the boys toys? And the messages that boys are getting about sexuality? Is it just an update of that oldfashioned blaming of the victim that feminists have been tired of for years?
I mostly hang out in the feminist blogosphere (with a bit of current affairs on the side). The feminist mothers I read naturally have boys as well as girls, but none of us really get worked up over boys’ toys in the same way. There isn’t the same level of angst about teaching boys a healthy kind of sexuality as there is for boys. While there is the occasional discussion of the colour pink, and how boys should be allowed to wear it, we don’t seem to agonise to the same extent about bringing up our boys, and what kind of men we want them to be in a patriarchal world, as we do for our girls.
Of course, for our girls, we worry about how the patriarchal world will treat them. And we know what a patriarchal world was and is like for us, so we worry for our daughters. But I’m starting to wonder why we don’t put as much emotional energy into helping our boys be some of the influence for changing that patriarchal world. This wonderful letter from Flea to her boys about the My Lai massacre and rape is about the most serious thing I’ve seen on the topic.
I’ll leave you with an anecdote, while I think about what I can seriously write about raising feminist boys.
When Chatterboy was in Kindergarten, each child got to write on a big poster a little bit about themselves, including “when I grow up, I want to be…” Chatterboy wrote “a daddy”. I was torn. It was wonderful that Chatterboy thought that about the most important thing a man could be was a parent, looking after children. And that he thought that was something to aspire to. And yet, if our roles had been reversed, if I had been a stay-at-home mum with a daughter aspiring to be a mummy, I would have been horrified that that was the extent of her ambition.  But on balance, I’m more proud than not.  At least in parenting, my boys don’t see themselves as limited in their roles by their gender.


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