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Archive for the ‘raising sons’ Category

You talk about how boys lose authenticity over time, or become less authentic and more performative, taking on roles rather than expressing what they really feel directly. But isn’t it good for people to learn how to be less natural in some ways? Toilet training for example; you don’t want them to do the natural thing, right?

Absolutely; being socialized is not inherently problematic. Obviously we want to teach our kids to be appropriate so they’re not at a restaurant dancing naked on the table. You want to teach them to be savvy and strategic; you don’t want them to be vulnerable in every situation and then have that vulnerability taken advantage of. But it’s more that distinction between compromise and over-compromise, in which they’re so focused on setting up a particular image that they believe will get them what they want—acceptance and popularity and success—and realizing that that comes at a cost. And that cost comes when the fit between who they are and who they feel comfortable being doesn’t perfectly match society’s expectations, and they feel like, oh, I can’t show people this part of myself, because then they won’t like me.

That’s not to say that they need to be open and out there in every situation. But they need to have at least one place or one relationship where they can do those things.

From “How boys teach each other to be boys” in The Atlantic.

One way to do this is by teaching boys and men to cultivate empathy — and not just for one another. The violence prevention organization A Call to Men, for example, encourages boys and men to recognize and reject a culture of manhood that enables violence. Part of that involves actually talking to girls.

Societally, “we teach men to distance themselves from the experiences of women and girls,” said Tony Porter, one of the organization’s co-founders. Boys aren’t encouraged to befriend girls, he said. When they do, they are teased about romantic or homosexual implications. To encourage mutual respect, however, boys and girls must be allowed the space to form meaningful bonds.

A Call to Men conducts workshops — on football fields and in community centers — across the country. During these sessions, young men are encouraged to question traditional gender roles and challenge sexist and misogynist attitudes — often in the presence of women.

“As a society, the only emotion we allow boys to have is anger. We need a critical, purposeful conversation with our sons about their experiences. Doing this early on is very important,” Porter pointed out. “Once they turn 16 or 17, they become accustomed to not talking to us.”

From “The case for raising feminist men” in AlJazeera America.

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I won’t lie; I miss you. Well, since we only met seven or eight times, I miss the fantasies of you I used to create. You were a career Air Force officer, so I used to make up all kinds of missions for you. When asked, I’d say you were over in some devastated pocket of global real estate, fighting bad guys. I mean, why else wouldn’t you be around? I’m smart, funny… I am a good son.

Once the fantasies stopped, the pain and the hurt crept in.

Hell, it didn’t just creep in, it moved in—it took up residence in my heart. During certain moments it was nearly impossible to breathe because of the amount of hatred I felt for you. There were times I scared myself because of the sheer awfulness of the things I wished upon you. I felt so cheated. You weren’t around physically and Mom was ill equipped to be a parent; not to mention that every dude she dated knocked us around.

I didn’t really begin to date until college, because I was afraid I’d become one of the monsters Mom decided to invite into our home. Whether it was Brooklyn or Minneapolis, she seemed to have a nose for hooking up with pugilist man-children.

And I blamed you for this.

If you were there, she would have felt worthy of being loved, and we both would have been safe. I write these things not to pile on you, but to get them out and keep them out. I no longer want to hold onto my negative feelings and memories of you. I’ve come to understand that my holding onto all these adverse emotions has severely limited my ability to parent like I want. That is changing.

From Shawn Taylor in Ebony.

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This is a very interesting reply to my 10 Questions About Your Feminist Parenthood over at Meet Jesus At Uni. It touches on Tamie’s Christianity and her combination of faith with feminism as well as her experience of being a white woman living in Tanzania.

One of the things that stood out for me in reading her response is how culturally-bound some of our experiences of the patriarchy are while others are universal.

8. If you have a partner, how does your partner feel about your feminist motherhood? What is the impact of your feminism on your partner?

My husband is also a feminist, a true partner and advocate for me, just as passionate as I am about feminist parenting! Our situation at the moment is more flexible than it would be if we lived in Australia. The lines between ‘work’, ‘home’ and ‘social’ are much more blurred in Tanzania, and particularly in our role, living on campus at the university where we work. That means we haven’t had to deal with issues surrounding maternity leave and housework in the same way we would in Australia; the structure of society has given us more room to job-share and to parent together.

 

(You can find all the many other responses in this series here. If you’d like to respond to these questions yourself you can either email me your answers and I’ll put them on blue milk as a guest post or you can post them elsewhere and let me know and I’ll link to them).

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Eminem’s anger with his mother has always been so incredibly public and so incredibly visceral. I always wondered how that fury towards women, including his ex-wife, would be resolved in him given he is primary carer for his daughter. Creating a woman while hating them would surely eventually be an unsustainable dissonance.

So I was fascinated to see that Eminem has just released a new track, Headlights with a video clip depicting an apology from him and an imagined reunion with his mother. The lyrics for this song are every bit as broken-hearted about mothering and trauma as the vengeful Cleanin’ Out My Closet was, but this time with the generous acceptance that comes from been-around-the-block parenting maturity.

You’re kicking me out? It’s 15 degrees and it’s Christmas Eve (little prick just leave)
Ma, let me grab my fucking coat, anything to have each other’s goats
Why we always at each other’s throats?
Especially when dad, he fucked us both
We’re in the same fucking boat, you’d think that it’d make us close (nope)
Further away it drove us, but together headlights shine, a car full of belongings
Still got a ways to go, back to grandma’s house it’s straight up the road
And I was the man of the house, the oldest, so my shoulders carried the weight of the load
Then Nate got taken away by the state at eight years old,
And that’s when I realized you were sick and it wasn’t fixable or changeable
And to this day we remained estranged and I hate it though, but

‘Cause to this day we remain estranged and I hate it though
‘Cause you ain’t even get to witness your grand babies grow
But I’m sorry, Mama, for “Cleaning Out My Closet”, at the time I was angry
Rightfully maybe so, never meant that far to take it though,
’cause now I know it’s not your fault, and I’m not making jokes
That song I no longer play at shows and I cringe every time it’s on the radio
And I think of Nathan being placed in a home
And all the medicine you fed us
And how I just wanted you to taste your own,
But now the medications taken over
And your mental state’s deteriorating slow
And I’m way too old to cry, the shit is painful though
But, Ma, I forgive you, so does Nathan, yo
All you did, all you said, you did your best to raise us both
Foster care, that cross you bear, few may be as heavy as yours
But I love you, Debbie Mathers, oh, what a tangled web we have,

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.. and that is that some people will suspect you are going to grow up to be a paedophile because you’re a guy. It’s a horrible and unjust stigma and I have known several male friends who were victims of abuse and who struggled with this additional shame in identifying themselves as victims.

This is superb writing from Martin McKenzie-Murray in The Saturday Paper with “Inside the mind of a paedophile”.

I lied about not being angry. There was something that stung me. In the messy and confusing aftermath, some blamed me for what happened – specifically, I was asked if I had encouraged it. That hurt and, after a stunned pause, I bitterly expressed my incredulity.

This wasn’t the most disturbing consequence. Not long afterwards, a family member mused thoughtlessly in my company that abuse engenders abuse. I instantly felt sick. The comment shredded me, and I carried it for some time. I thought, naively, that I was doomed to be an abuser myself – conscripted by fate to play out what happened to me. I was cursed.

As a young man I moved to South Korea to teach English to young children. One day, while supervising the kids in the playground, I began brutally thinking about my curse. I broke out in a sweat. Was the curse real? Should I be here? Was I doomed to offend, to play out some cyclical indecency? I wasn’t and I’m not, but that loose comment years earlier took a while to leave my system.

I admit when I started reading his article I thought nice work here but if this is another one of those pieces asking me to empathise with paedophiles (and I try my very hardest to empathise with anyone relating their perspective to me), without ever reconciling with the terrible damage these people can do then I will be infuriated. Because, I understand that everyone has a story and in everyone’s life there is some pain and tragedy, including in the lives of abusers, and sometimes people do awful things without necessarily being awful people.. but there is a bit of a thing going on lately with edgy journalism examining the stigma around paedophilia and crossing right on over to victim blaming.

So, I very much like this piece by McKenzie-Murray because it is written in such a way that yes, you may see a paedophile’s point of view and that’s important, but you will not be leaving the show without damn well seeing the point of view of a victim, too.

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This response from Eliza at tea plus oranges is such a considered response that it’s hard to imagine it was written with a sleeping baby on her chest… and reading it was a lovely opportunity to revisit those first early months of motherhood. All my love to new parents.

If you have a partner, how does your partner feel about your feminist motherhood? What is the impact of your feminism on your partner?

I’m interested to see how this will pan out. It’s something we’ve talked about a lot at various stages of our relationship, mainly in relation to balancing two careers. We met at uni as two ambitious law student types, and he fully supports the idea that I should be able to go forth professionally and do interesting, meaningful things in paid work, as well as being an available and attentive parent. However, there is an inevitable tension in trying to carve out an equal relationship in a non-equal society. “Lean in” feminism emphasises the need for a supportive partner; but the limits of individual action in working around structural problems also apply to the concerted actions of a couple. He wants to support my career, but doesn’t want to sacrifice his. That’s fair enough. Why should either of us have to? Why can’t employment conditions accommodate family life for both partners? Yet, they don’t. So we intend to find some way of realigning the division of labour once we’re through the early years of parenthood (in which I want to be at home with my babies). Watch this space.

He took four weeks’ leave when bubs was born, which was really really fantastic. I’m now passionate about the feminist importance of paternity leave. There was a revelation in that month – he “gets” household management now. Five years of living together, I’ve done more than half the domestic load, but since bubs arrived that has changed. All it took was four weeks in which I completely abdicated responsibility for everything other than breastfeeding… He’s back at work now, and while our relationship may look very traditional at the moment, in many ways it’s more equal than ever (we’re both exhausted). I’m really grateful to be able to spend a full year at home with bubs. In an ideal world, we’d have better maternity leave provisions, so that women’s ability to do this doesn’t depend on the work status of the father. In the meantime, I’m pretty glad to have a breadwinner spouse just now.

(You can find all the many other responses in this series here. If you’d like to respond to these questions yourself you can either email me your answers and I’ll put them on blue milk as a guest post or you can post them elsewhere and let me know and I’ll link to them).

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My latest column for Fairfax newspapers is here:

Go ahead and brainwash your baby. There are few enough privileges as a parent, you might as well seize this one. If you want to change the world and make it a less sexist place then this little human sponge of yours is the best chance you’ve got. Because truth is, the world is going to try to brainwash your baby right back. I’m wary of anyone being too prescriptive about either parenting or feminism these days, I’ve made my share of compromises with both, and I’m not much interested in perfectionism. But in case you’re after a starting point with anti-sexist parenting then here’s three general tips from my own experience.

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