June 1, 2016 by Dadinator
Yes you read that right, it’s a post about feminism and it’s about my son. It’s not about how he treats women or how he regards them. It’s not about consent, sex and power (I have covered it a bit before). It’s not about wages and it’s not about privilege (Although it kind of is….).
It’s about rigid masculine roles. It’s about social expectations we place on men to be manly and on women to be womanly – and what those words mean. It is a post about him and the pressures he will face as he grows into a man, and as he lives as one in the world.
What if he’s not manly? What if he’s a “girl”? He might throw like a girl, cry like a girl, run like a girl or hit like a girl. He might care about how he looks, that’s pretty girly, right? What if he’s a feminist (gasp!).
He might write poems, sing in musicals or be artistic. He might not want to play football, he might dance. He might want to form friendships with girls instead of just wanting to screw them. That’s all pretty girly, isn’t it?
It’s also pretty gay (which is a whole other kettle of fish). So if that’s the way my exuberant, chirpy and highly social little cherub goes with he’s life, well he’d better watch out. Femininity and effeminate behaviour is, of course, something to be frowned upon in boys. Boys don’t cry. Boys toughen up. Boys will be boys.
Unless they’re not. Then what are they? Girls? Soft? Whusses? Pansies? Poofs? Pussies? Biatches? Sissies? Queens?
You can keep going with the list of insults with the same basic meaning. You’re not a man, you’re effeminate, you’re weak, you’re female. I’ve received and (I am ashamed to say) delivered some of these insults in my time. It seems to be a part of male discourse. The obsession with strength. With dominance. With hardening the fuck up.
But why’s that a bad thing? Boys will be boys, right? It’s just the way they are. Then they grow into strong men. Dependable, dominant, competitive. They earn more money, they hold more positions of power, they have a raft of privileges. That can’t be bad for you, right?
But it all takes a toll. Men can expect worse health outcomes, higher rates of obesity, higher rates of incarceration and criminality, shorter life spans, more mental illness and more suicide. Less likelihood to get help, to see a doctor, to talk to someone. More likelihood to die young, take a stupid risk or to take your own life.
This expectation we place on boys to be boys, to be rough, tough, slugs and snails and puppy dogs tails come from exactly the same place as the expectations we place on girls to be quiet, demure, sugar, spice and everything nice. They are two sides of the same coin.
And that’s precisely what feminism rejects. It rejects that gender limits people. On the one hand it rejects the idea that a woman cannot be good at business simply because she’s a woman. She may well suck at business for a raft of reasons, but her gender isn’t one of them. At the same time feminism rejects the notion that a man cannot manage a household, cook, clean, commit to relationships or be nurturing and loving parents. He may well suck at them for a raft of reasons, but his gender isn’t one of them.
So, when you see a bumbling dad in a TV show don’t cry reverse sexism because that’s not what it is. It’s not reverse anything, it’s a trope that reinforces existing stereotypes. Men don’t belong at home, they belong out in the work force making more money, so a man at home sucks at it. Next time someone says “you baby sitting” or “you looking after the kids for mum?” it’s the same thing. They are reinforcing gender stereotypes. Women are the nurturing ones, not men. Women can’t be leaders, so men can’t be parents. Women are all crazy and emotional, so men must be rational and in control. Again two sides of the same coin.
The movement that tells my daughter she can be whatever she wants (astronaut, a mechanic, a hairdresser or a stay at home mother….), also tells my son it’s okay to, to cry, to be nurturing and loving and to stay home and parent if he wants to. It tells my son that he isn’t worse at parenting because of his genitals.
So, yes. My son needs feminism. He needs to be himself, work out what it means to be The Lad without worrying about being “manly”, being strong, cold and silent.
I might let Josh Thomas have the last word, because reading this still makes a tear form in my eye. Sorry, shouldn’t have said that. Need to harden up….
Okay I lied. Last word goes to Justin Trudeau, because I should remind myself of this sometimes: