Monday, October 22, 2012

Raising boys

Since the birth of my son, I've been in a curious spot trying to think long term about the things that I find important and want for him to learn.  One constant theme that I'm running into even before my son turned one is the gender stereotyping, and "norming" on those lines.  My parents, and In-laws both are projecting a good deal of boy roles onto him already with the toys they buy but the worst usurper is in my own household, my wife.  We lost a daughter at full term, and thus had a house full of pink things for baby girls.  Most of the items where functional, clothes bedding, ect.  When we found out that it was going to be a boy overnight most of that stuff was sold, or donated and a flood of blue came into our house.  I argued (and still argue) that the pink things, especially the things like bedding, and clothes that they only really wear for a short period of time and are just going to spit up on can be any color in the damn rainbow.  I think she needed the validation that it was a boy, I'm pretty sure my son was wholly unaware of both the color of his clothes and how people reacted to him in those clothes.  By casting colors as gender specific we are limiting him, and ourselves, and that seems ludicrous.  In a related sense, I also am trying to be mindful of what types of toys I buy him so as to not force the type of play that we allow him to engage in.  I think this article addresses the issue fairly well.

Another issue is respecting women, both their autonomy and their intelligence.  I suppose you can gather that I have some feminist leanings, and in that vein I wanted to raise a boy and hopefully a young man that has some appreciation for the amount of projection that women are subjected to, but also how marginalized they can be.  It wasn't until really the last few years that I've had my eyes opened to how pervasively American society has sexualized and marginalized women, but anyone that has been watching this years political cycle no doubt is aware of how politicized women's health and autonomy has become.  It's appalling that politicians think that they should be in charge of choices that a woman and her health care provider should be making.

And finally there is his own sexuality.  I don't remember how I found Goodmenproject, but this article on sex education is one of the guiding lights I have for conversations that are inevitable as he grows up.  Like the author of that article I was also left on my own, to guess and talk with other boys my own age.  I had a sex education class around grade 6, but even then I would not have been comfortable asking questions in that kind of group setting so aside from some of the biology they taught, not many questions where answered.  I was fortunate to live with a nurse so I was able to get some questions answered, but really how much do you want to talk to your parents about sex?  As such I had the typical boy vocabulary that marginalized any body that wasn't a cisgendered male, and that makes it hard to explore what your sexuality even is.  In essence it's dictated to you by gender roles you absorbed from society or your peer group.  I still have a hard time not saying fag (online gamer, it happens from time to time), but taunts based on sexuality are exactly where it starts, and I'm hoping to at least educate him on how harmful it is to.

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