Any feminist mums want to chat about bringing up boys?

(66 Posts)
BunFagFreddie Thu 10-Jan-13 15:24:31

Hi there, I'm pretty new to the feminist section here, but I consider myself to be a feminist. I have no formal qualification in this sort of thing, so don't really know the correct jargon, but I did do my dissertation on mysoginy in advertising. So, forgive me if I'm a bit of a novice.

There are lots of threads on mums with DD's, but I'd like to chat about bringing up DS's. It seems that a lot of men with bad attitudes are brought up to think it's normal and acceptable. To an extent, parents should teach their son's to respect women.

I have one teenage DS and I would like to think he respects women. He's 14 and doesn't show much interest in girls so it's difficult to say. What do you do with your DS's to promote a healthy view on equality?

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Fri 11-Jan-13 23:50:07

Should say this person was 20 years' older than me sp perhaps it was more common thinking in that generation.

I absolutely agree you, it is sad when people assume boys are a handful, and put them in "Little Monster" t shirts, I know it's meant to be light hearted but it's a sort of brainwashing.

DoubleLifeIsALifeHalved Sat 12-Jan-13 07:49:58

Yes another mum of a boy signing in here.

I do think alot about what I am teaching my son (2.5 yrs), as I am a single mum with an idiot abusive ex who turns out to have terrible attitudes towards women (& me specifically!). I want to teach Ds to not only respect women but also respect himself and encourage him to be more than the male stereotypes available - alot of which are restrictive and quite rubbish when you look at them!

As ex h is so sexist & determined that I'm going to 'gay' Ds (ahem!), I do spend more time thinking than I should about getting Ds dolls/ pink/ necklaces etc.

DS is mercifully free of gender assumptions currently, he only just learnt there are boys & girls, & I think mummies are still in a category of their own! He's got tons of energy but isn't destructive or aggressive, & can also concentrate for long periods of time - basically he's doing his own thing as a toddler, not a boy first... Although I'm sure that will change.

Almostfifty Sat 12-Jan-13 19:45:04

I am a SAHM. I have four boys. We have brought them up to realise I am just as capable of working for a living as my husband, even though I haven't worked since my eldest was born. Ok, I do the vast majority of the housework, as I do it during the week, but they have always seen my DH do just as much as me when he's at home. In fact, they prefer his cooking to mine.

Now they're almost grown-up, I've noticed a difference in their friendships to when I was at school or college. They go around in groups of male and female friends, and think nothing of it at all. Even when they were younger, they'd talk much more to the opposite sex than we ever did. There is a much easier feel to their friendships than we ever had at their age. I know they think that girls are equal to them and I'm sure it's not just because of the way we've brought them up, they see it at school and their other groups so much more, as they're so much more integrated with one another.

I really do think this is the way things are becoming more and more. Ok, you'll always get Neanderthals, but you also get girls these days who think lads are useless, and you'll never get rid of the stereotypes altogether.

blonderthanred Sat 12-Jan-13 22:07:31

I have an 11wk old DS so am reading with interest. Luckily DH is very keen to be equally involved with parenting and we both want DS to grow up without gender boundaries.

The interesting time seems to be when they start school or nursery and have influence from other children as far as I can see from this and other threads. I guess you just have to keep leading by example and hope that they grow through this peer pressure to have their own thoughts and ideas.

NotForTurning Sun 13-Jan-13 07:08:42

BlonderThanRed, you wrote, "Luckily DH is very keen to be equally involved with parenting...." and I did an inner squirm! I was just imagining how it would sound if a man wrote that/thought that - ie "I'm lucky that my female partner wants equal involvement in bringing up out child, so I won't be doing it all myself".

I feel really uncomfortable when women, unconsciously, indicate that for a man to be fully involved in parenting, this indicates something noteable and 'fortunate', as if the norm really should be that he's busy doing something else, like earning the money or pursuing his hobbies.

When the day arrives that men and women assume, from the cradle, equal involvement in raising their DCs, then I'll rest more easily. I don't mean to pick on you specifically, as I think you just wrote this in passing but it really stuck out for me that you feel it's 'lucky' to have an interested and involved male partner.

I suspect that if men and women's inner, spontaneous attitude is that each gender is committed equally to the DCs upbringing, then any sons will imbibe this attitude from the start and it'll be there in the entire atmosphere within the family environment.

tribpot Sun 13-Jan-13 08:13:57

Well my ds' ambition is to be a SAHD. Or a volcano scientist. I think he'd like to do both - juggling work and childcare like we do!

Admittedly I think this is based on a rather unrealistic assessment of what a SAHP does (he is 7!) because his dad is chronically ill, so he does do quite a lot of the stereotypical 'sitting about on his arse [er, he's in a wheelchair] drinking tea' that I think some of my colleagues think their wives do all day.

ds does mainly hang out with boys at school, but partly because of age and disposition, he tends to be with the quieter (younger) boys and some of the girls.

I've not come across the attitude of 'poor you' because I have a boy, but perhaps people tend to be more cautious when you only have one child?

What I particularly want to avoid with my ds is the chronic macho 'cannot admit when you don't know something' attitude I see among my colleagues. At the moment we are doing a programming project in my team. Three of the guys have much more recent experience than me and two of the other guys, despite the fact that I think that overall I probably have more experience of commercial programming than anyone else (but stopped doing it about a gazillion years ago). So the whole point of the project is for us to [re]develop our skills, but it's like pulling teeth getting them to admit when they don't know something and need help. They're quite happy for me to admit it, I notice! As am I - I'm not going to play some ridiculous game for the sake of it.

blonderthanred Sun 13-Jan-13 09:23:42

Funnily enough NotFor I thought when I had written it, that's not right, it's not 'luckily', it's because I would never have married/partnered someone who had attitudes other than that.

I left it partly because I couldn't be bothered to change it but also it was in the context of what someone else said about that being the most important factor. Looking at my post-natal group, I have realised that it is still sadly quite rare.

But I agree with you and it's the type of thing I'd have picked someone else up on.

tribpot Sun 13-Jan-13 12:50:00

Yes, perhaps 'Unusually' would have been a better description. It may be judgement and not luck, but it's still relatively uncommon. My brothers are all pretty involved but then we are lucky to have two feminist parents (my mum and step-dad). Setting the example is absolutely key - my step-dad did all the cooking at the weekends, and made dinner for him and my mum despite the fact she was a SAHM. He also did (and does) the grocery shopping as she hates it. He did parents' evenings despite a job involving very long hours - admittedly I seem to recall in those days parents' evenings actually were in the evenings!

BunFagFreddie Sun 13-Jan-13 14:12:13

DoubleLifeIsALifeHalved, Yes, DS's dad has accused me of turning into a "nancy" and has also called DS a "nancy". DS is now 14 and decided to stop contact with his dad lasy year. Tbh I can completely understand why, and his dad hasn't made any effort to reconcile, because he is basically a complete dick.

Before they stopped talking, DS got into those really cute Japanese cartoons and the new My Little Pony cartoon and things like that. His dad and his dad's mates started making "jokey" posts on his Facebook page calling him a "gaylord" etc. So, DS wrote the most withering replies to them. DS has since blocked his dad and his dad's mates.

I think there is a trend for the more "emo" lads to like traditionally feminine things. DS doesn't have any pictures of scantily clad women on his walls at this stage. For some reason I see this as a sign that a lad is becoming sexist, although it's obviously perfectly normal for a man to appreciate the female form.

BunFagFreddie Sun 13-Jan-13 14:12:56

Sorry for typos!

tribpot Sun 13-Jan-13 14:57:54

Christ. What a way to talk to any child, let alone your own child sad sad Must have been very hard for you, OP, to have to put up with that. Good on your ds for standing up for himself.

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Sun 13-Jan-13 15:32:51

DS's dad sounds a caveman, BunFF no wonder he's your ex.

Sorry, not helpful. From what you've said, DP is a decent male role model to counter the ideas his dad has. You have a bright DS who thanks to you won't let his father belittle or bully him into conforming to some limited example of a Man's Boy.

Fwiw my DCs went to mixed schools, there seem to be distinctly separate friendship groups but not purely according to gender. In groups they hang out, socialise, the romantic attachments slowly started but by no means does everyone pair off and they still get together outside school en masse. I'd hope that blatant stereotypical attitudes get shouted down, I'd like to think each pupil feels as empowered as the next.

However hard we try at home, I see how DCs are affected, soaking up outside influences like sponges. Difficult to make any progress if one's own OH (even when an ex) or extended family can still able to exert adverse influence!

Your ex and his mates sound like school bullies, jeering at anyone different.

At 14 peer support is valuable. Does your DS have an uncomplex rapport with girls?

drjohnsonscat Mon 14-Jan-13 09:51:44

Just returning to this topic to say this www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/jan/12/hannah-evans-mother-of-boys is the kind of article I hate. If I read one more time that "bringing up boys is like bringing up dogs" I am going to have the rage. And as for having a house full of muddy wellingtons and children who like to play swords with the cardboard roll inside wrapping up paper -that is a function of having children, not boys.

My girl and boy are constantly squabbling over who gets to play with the sword (actually the bit of wood that weighted down the bottom of a blind - it broke in two and fell out so we had two swords until one got lost and now we only have one stick to wave around madly). So many stereotypes in one article - and this is in the Guardian...Grrr

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Mon 14-Jan-13 09:57:44

I read that on Saturday, drjohnsonscat, the same thought ran through my head - surely this isn't just boys' habits?

(As an aside, I had a friend who very much wanted to ban any plaything remotely endorsing violence. They lived some distance away so we didn't catch up very often. One visit when eldest boy was 6, walked in on them as she was brushing DD's hair, all the children playing guns and spears with innocent combs and toothbrushes).

blonderthanred Mon 14-Jan-13 12:33:49

I was at a party recently where the kids were playing a game where you have to fish tiny plastic objects (about 2" big) from a sharks mouth. Two little girls fished out two small plastic guns and started shooting them at each other. No-one commented.

Later on two boys started playing with cars and all the adults started saying, oh that's boys for you, head straight for the cars, anything destructive... I think people just notice what they expect to see and it reinforces those expectations.

DM has a great story (one of those that still gets trotted out at every family gathering) about having to physically seperate my brother and the boy over the road (both about 7 at the time) arguing over who'd push my dolls pram to the shops. I didn't give a stuff as I had my bike!

We have two boys (6 and 2) and we're trying to raise them to consider everyone as equals. They're both very caring but will also argue over who will push teddy in their little blue pushchair.

DH and I treat each other as equals in every aspect of life and I think this passes down in the same way as children can pick up and copy bad behaviour / disrespect too.

Well I thiink it is very important to send the right message out to boys at home. LEad by example, have a loving equal relationship with partners where there is mutual respect and care, have good solid friendships with people of both sexes, do things that might challenge old fashined gender-based roles, like doing the DIY if you're femalew or cooking/cleaning/hanging laundry up if you're male, twking part on activities or sports that might have once been more gender specific (if you want to)

I also openly discuss things a lot with DS to challenge gender stereotyping and instil in his a respect for all people, regardless of sex, I try to not generalise by sex for example instead of saying to him and his friends who are visiting "come on boys, supper time" I make sure I say come on you lot, or come on kids, or anything just to not point out their gender and group them according to gender.

DS is only 9, but as he gets older we can have more discussions about things relevant to teenagers.

We have little discussions around the dinner table, like "if it's late at night and there is a dark deserted alleyway, who is more dangerous walking down it, a man or a woman?" or the story about the boy who was in a terrible car accident, who got rushed to the operating table, and the sergeon said "this is my son" and when the boy woke up after surgery the surgeon was there and the boy said "you are not my father" How is that possible? (obviously the surgeon is his mother, it's interesting a lot of men cannot figure this one out, whereas boys under the age of 10 usually just say "it's the mum".

It's a constant tihng, worrying if I am bringing him up to be a feminist, but he says he is a feminist now, so hopefully I'm on the right track!

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Mon 14-Jan-13 16:46:32

We used to say on seeing certain ads on tv, "That is so wrong!" when it featured a girl in skimpy clothes promoting something unconnected with lingerie or body lotion/shampoo. Slightly tongue in cheek, top tip: build your youngsters' vocabulary, by declaring "Completely gratuitous" as required.

BertieBotts Tue 15-Jan-13 10:12:49

Ooh glad to see this thread, I tried to start one a few months ago but it turned into a bunfight grin

The comment someone made above about making positive comments about women and girls, I think this is a great idea in theory but possibly flawed in method? I know quite a few guys who really put women on a pedestal and that's not helpful for equality either. I was hanging out in a mixed group of friends and a couple of people said they needed a "hangover poo" - I made some kind of statement of agreement of it being a good method and this guy looked really shocked and said "Wow. I find it really hot when girls admit that they poop. It reminds me that they're not really magical fairies." (He was American hence the weird turn of phrase)

I couldn't articulate it at the time but it annoyed me so much, I couldn't put my finger on why being considered a "magical fairy" was so bad because it was clearly intended to be positive, right? And then I realised it's the same as the "ladies" thing - quite apart from being patronising, it's still othering, it's still putting totally different standards on men and women, it's not recognising the fact that both men and women are just people and people are as varied as anything and it's purely down to personality, not gender. Etc etc.

I plan to have a conversation with DS when he gets to the age when he's starting to be interested in girls (if indeed he likes girls) saying that he'll probably be less nervous and more likely to find a girl that he likes if he stops thinking about them as some totally different species. Girls are just as varied and different in their personalities as boys, and that goes for everything, even sex - some girls want to have casual sex and that's okay, some girls want to be in a relationship first and that's okay too, just as long as everyone is being honest with each other and not labouring under some delusion that "all girls want X" and "all boys want Y".

A good way perhaps instead of making positive comments about women and girls would be to ensure that your DS gets to see and hear about normal women doing normal things that it's taken for granted that men can do, and showing them being independent and not having to rely on anyone, just like men do. That's what I hope, anyway!

MmBovary Tue 15-Jan-13 10:34:37

I do sympathise with you, LaGuerta. I also have two ds's and since pregnant with my second and knowing he was going to be a boy, the flood of negative commnents began. I was really uncomfortable and it did make me sad.

In fact, I started an OP not long ago about such negative comments about having boys.

I think it's more a societal expectation these days to have one of each, not an individual one. I hear from mums having girls only that they also have to put up with a lot of bad comments too.

But in response to the OP, I do think that the way parents are around their children will definitely have a major impact in the way the perceive the other sex and gender issues on the whole.

I do have my arguments with my husband about achieving equality at home, as I think it's important that children see their parents sharing domestic and childcare tasks 50/50. I know argueing is not good, but it gives my boys a sense that there's a sort of injustice in the fact that is always women doing more of the housework and domestic tasks. I think the older one really opens his eyes to this and tries to help around the house. And my husband does a lot, to be fair to him.

I know this is very hard and in most cases, women end up doing a lot more domestic work than men, and this contributes to children having negative stereotypes about women's work. I think domestic work and child care should be valued within the family, no matter who does it, but I also think women should strive to continue in the workforce after having children, as it's the only way it will show men/boys how hard it is to run a household and work outside the house.

BunFagFreddie Tue 15-Jan-13 17:27:10

I would really appreciate some advice here...

We have a parental control program on DS's laptop and you can see which sites they've tried to visit. I've just checked out DS's browsing habits and adult sites have been blocked. I checked them out and it is just the standard nudey pics, some of women and some of men. Nothing hardcore, but what do I say and should I even say anything? He's 14, so he's obviously going to be interested in sex, but I really don't know how to approach this.

BertieBotts Thu 17-Jan-13 10:12:51

Hmm, I'm not sure. I do think you have to talk to them about porn and the reality of it, but he is going to be curious.

I probably wouldn't approach it as "I saw what you have been trying to look up" because that will just cause embarrassment, and he might go straight to "Mum's a prude" reaction rather than taking on board what you say.

I'd probably leave it a while but try and initiate some kind of discussion about it? If you try and work out what you want to get across to him, then it might be easier to slip it into other discussions rather than a sit-down formal chat about sex.

Has he had a girlfriend at all yet?

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Thu 17-Jan-13 10:44:54

Before computers I expect teens gained knowledge from books and magazines, older siblings and friends. Now they can access so much more. I'd be more surprised if a child didn't show any curiosity once they hit puberty. They want to know and not be the only one in their class who is uninformed. Girlfriends may still be a blur on the horizon. Out of all their friends chances are one will be puzzling over whether they fancy boys or girls.

Rather than come down heavy I'd remind him about the parental control program and suggest if he is wondering about anything he can ask you or DP or his dad.

Remember the most blush saving device known to parents: the car. Sitting next to each other it's easier having a quick chat en route than eye to eye at the kitchen table!

Explain you'd not want him thinking growing up, bodies, sex, emotions are something embarrassing and a topic to be avoided at all costs. You'd not be doing your job as a parent if he was getting a distorted impression of what's out there.

Pinkypoops Thu 17-Jan-13 11:34:44

Ooo, what a great thread!
I too have two boys- 5 and 7. I am in total agreement with those saying it´s all about setting examples and if you have a DP who is a good role model, half the battle is won.
MUCH harder if you don´t! Up till recently, I worked part time and got lumbered with ALL the cooking and domestic chores which I bloody HATE and it caused loads of marital strife (!). Fortunately now, I am full time and DP now does almost half if not more of all the housework and all is much rosey-er! I WAS really worried that my boys would grow up with the idea of male/female roles being strongly entrenched if it had continued.
ANOTHER thing is that I live in Spain and, oh boy, it´s soooo behind as far as attitudes go. Rejoice for being in the UK, I tell you!! haha
Little girls are taught to be uber-girlie and twee little princesses from the moment they pop out of the birth canal. Pierced ears BOOM at day 1 (cos HEAVEN FORBID somebody confuses your baldy girl baby for a BOY!Aaarrgghhh), twee dainty shoes..SLAP on the feet from Day 2 and NEVER again to be removed. Barefoot!!?? Oh the horror!
Oops, sorry...I´m going off on a sarcy rant here but grrrrrrrr, the stereotyping and conditioning here!!
Stopping for a bit because my keyboard is smoking...grin

sleepyhead Thu 17-Jan-13 14:09:58

I agree it's about setting examples, but it's also majorly about contradicting the messages they get from society & peers all the bloody time.

I've got one ds and am pg with a second. Our home life I think models equality and contradicts many stereotypes - I'm the major earner and we share childcare equally (dh arguably does more), dh does virtually all the cooking, we share other domestic duties, dh doesn't drive so I do all the driving and it's "my" car, I probably do the lion's share of fixing things, diy & other so-called "manly" things.

However, we've just had decorators in - husband and wife firm - and ds piped up after a couple of days "I didn't know ladies could do plastering". WTF did that come from? On questioning he clearly has ideas about men's jobs and women's jobs that he didn't get from home. Lots of other examples of this sort of reinforcement of stereotypes that society is giving him and that he's just drinking in, no matter what his home life is like.

Anyway, I think in the long run our job is to make him think critically about all sorts of things, gender roles and acceptable behaviour being two crucial ones obviously.

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