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?

BunFagFreddie Thu 10-Jan-13 15:25:48

Doh! I misspelt misogyny! blush

InNeedOfBrandy Thu 10-Jan-13 15:30:38

I'm not a rad feminist, I don't see all the subtle things that go on even though I know they go on, I dress my dd in pink grin but I would hate to bring up my ds to think he's better then a woman simply by being a man.

There's a few points here, no one wants to bring up their ds to be a misogynist bully we would all (speaking for all mothers here) like to bring up a son to be proud of that holds healthy views on all things. Also I'd like to point out our ds get the raw end of the deal sometimes, school for one is better catered for girls and boys are falling behind there needs as a whole aren't being met.

CailinDana Thu 10-Jan-13 15:38:05

I think a lot of it comes from the example the boy is set at home by his parents. If the parents have a loving, equal, respectful relationship then he will learn to emulate that in his own relationships. Conversely if the father treats the mother like shit then he will learn that that's what a relationship entails and act that out in his own relationships. That's why I think it's bonkers for people in truly bad relationships to "stay together for the children" because basically they are running the risk of their children repeating their relationship over and over in their own lives.

I think it's also important to make a teenage boy see things from a girl's point of view. There are still subtle but pervasive messages around about sluts and whores, and the fact that girls are partly responsible for rape, and I think it's important to tackle these head on with both girls and boys. Even if you feel your boy will never ever rape anyone (and the vast majority of the time your faith will be warranted) I think the more young people who have actually thought about these issues and rejected the damaging messages that are out there, the better.

An important thing, specifically for boys IMO, is to ensure you've not sent them subtle messages about the need to be "strong" and "manly" and not show their feelings. Crying, talking about feelings, admitting failure and uncertainty should all be seen as acceptable (in context of course!) and I think it's especially important to stop dads shutting their sons down and stealthily forbidding them from being "sensitive." Related to this, it's important to explicitly teach conflict resolution, to discourage aggressive or sulky behaviour, and to promote empathy, in both girls and boys. They are skills that are totally overlooked by traditional education, yet they determine success in such a huge way IMO.

GeekLove Thu 10-Jan-13 15:40:37

Checking in here. I have no feminist qualifications other than that men and women are equals and people first. I have two DSs and what we are doing is to lead by example. We share the chores as much as possible and speak to each other in a respectful manner. DH is a wonderful role model in that being a man of the house is the same as the women of the house. We often have to travel for work so both the boys have had time wih each parenT on our own too.

BunFagFreddie Thu 10-Jan-13 15:42:35

It's a tricky one. I also speak as someone who was a single parent for a long time. I split up with sbhp when ds was 18 months old and his dad is a complete flake. DS now wants nothing to do with him. I think this has led to DS being very much in touch with his 'feminine side' and we have a very strong bond.

He does have a couple of good female friends. However, he hasn't had a proper girlfriend yet, or not to my knowledge.

He hates football and macho stuff. I'm very much the same, so he was never pushed into doing that sort of thing. Would it have been different with a man about?

I have been with DP for 5 years now, and he isn't the macho football type either. He is very geeky and is interested in reiki and meditation.

Girlinpearls Thu 10-Jan-13 15:47:33

I went to hear Steve Biddulph (author of "raising boys") about 12 years ago. One thing that stuck in my head from that evening was that he said the most important thing you could teach your son was to respect women - his mother, his sister, his wife, his daughter, his colleagues. I absolutely believe in this and, as subtly as possible, make positive comments about women generally to him as much as I can.

AuntyDiluvian Thu 10-Jan-13 15:53:26

I'm weighing in with absolutely no prior experience, but a great deal of interest. Currently pregnant with my firstborn and it's a boy, which has thrown me a bit for some reason. Definitely identify as feminist and want to bring my son up to respect and value women as equals, to notice how our society is unequal (ie not to just see that men earn more and conclude they're all better at their jobs...) and to feel unrestricted by his sex if that makes any sense. Everything CallinDana said rings true to me - I want to make sure I'm accepting of all his feelings/talents/inclinations, not just the ones which fit with being 'manly', and I think it's important for humans of all kinds to learn to deal with and talk about their feelings.
Also, as CallinDana said, what he sees going on at home and amongst our friends will affect his attitudes of course. I'm lucky to be in what I think is a pretty healthy relationship, with a man who is very open about his feelings. Housework and cooking are both of our responsibilities and I want to make sure this is what my son grows up thinking of as normal.
BUT having gone through my good intentions, I'm sure there are weird prejudices and habits lurking in my head which will turn up once Boychild is born.

weegiemum Thu 10-Jan-13 16:07:54

I did some gender studies at uni but that was a loong time ago.

I have dd1 (signed up member of PinkStinks, she's 13 in a couple of weeks, ds (about to be 11) and dd2 (9).

I'm in many ways more concerned about raising ds. My girls are feisty, unconventional, very me (eg they play rugby!). Ds is very much more influenced by other boys in the "girls are wasters...." camp, except for the fact his best friend is a girl!

We have to regularly correct the impression that girls do housework, boys play computer games etc. It's made harder as I'm disabled so can't hold own a ft job whereas dh works 60+ hours a week as a GP.

But we feel that at home we give a good model. We share childcare at he weekend, we care for each other, dh and I are not scared to show affection to each other. I cook (they all know Dad is crap but trying to learn) and dad does the laundry, hoovering. I do most of he garden stuff but dh des ladders (my disability affects my balance!). The dc all know dad drives because the doctor said I'm not allowed to any more. They see dh take loving care of me if I fall, am dizzy or tired.

We have a chores rota so all dc take part in clearing up, hoovering, putting out rubbish etc. No boys or girls jobs. Every week each of them takes a turn at helping me cook (chopping, stirring, serving etc). They all sort and deliver, fold and put away their own laundry.

I try to treat my children equally. Later, I'll get dh to explain to ds how much more sex he will get if he's domesticated <tongue in cheek!!>

rumbelina Thu 10-Jan-13 16:35:09

Heh heh weegiemum.

drjohnsonscat Thu 10-Jan-13 16:48:51

just marking place really. Single mum of a girl and a boy here. I obviously want my boy to grow up with the right attitudes and since he's growing up in a female house he will need to have the right attitudes! But also I want to make sure he has access to everything he wants to be - my girl will get that because I can help her overcome social pressures placed on women (eg to be girly, not clever etc). For my boy I want to make sure I can help him overcome whatever limitations are placed on him even though I don't quite know what they are iyswim. I see that boys are not "supposed" to do certain things (ballet, reading) and I want to make sure he's not constrained by that without forcing him to do things "my" way as a woman.

I do notice already the subtle differences in the way they are treated - DS (3) is actively encouraged by other parents at the school gate to bomb around with their boy children and it all gets a bit physical. You can put this down to natural instinct but the fact is he never did it until he started school and got introduced to the idea by the other kids there. All these parents and children are delightful but they do, very very tacitly and subtly, permit boisterousness in their boys that they did not/do not permit in their girls. Obviously boisterousness in itself is not a bad thing but I don't really want them pushing and shoving as we wait for nursery to open. I know the same parents didn't permit their girls to do this but somehow for boys it would be deemed too controlling to stop it. And after all, as we all know, hmm boys are like dogs, right? Just need exercise and good food and boundaries hmm

And based on pure observation, my daughter is actually more physical than my son. He's a bit of a lazybones and likes sitting around playing with jigsaws. She is almost always upsidedown, mid acrobatic manoeuvre.

BunFagFreddie Thu 10-Jan-13 16:59:49

I think a lot of it is down to the parents though drjohnsonscat.

Maybe people like you and me don't expect girls and boys to conform, but some do. My cousin has two girls and one is quiet, very 'girly' and likes pink, the other doesn't. She runs around like a crazy thing with wild hair!

My son is a lazybones too, but I'm not exactly the human dynamo either! He loves reading and asked for books for Xmas. He told me that he wanted to "forcibly inject some knowledge into his brainus." confused

espanol Thu 10-Jan-13 17:00:11

I have a 4yo DS and 2yo DD. I worry as much about raising him as I do her. As I said to my brother the other day, I will have completely failed as a parent if I bring up my DD to be a strong, successful, happy and confident woman but my DS ends up not respecting women and expecting any female partner he may have (assuming he does) to do the cooking/cleaning/child rearing etc. I'd love to hear people's ideas on how to do this. Here are a few of the things we do:

I have a great DH which I think is actually 90% of the battle won if you are a 2 parent male-female household as it means you are role-modelling it every day. We evenly share the cooking and housework and childcare when we are both around and we rarely argue and treat each other with respect. DH gives me as much down time as I do him. He does as much of the crappy stuff like put out the bins and change nappies as he does the glory stuff like building lego and making cakes with the kids. He is present and active as a parent basically, and shows his respect for me as well as his children that way. One of the things that was essential to me in a partner and that he does, is he treats women with respect and surrounds himself with male friends who also treat women with respect. He has no time for some of the jokey (or not so jokey) crap men say about their female partners - so none of those jokey asides about me shopping with his credit card, that type of crap.

Hopefully DS will see all of that and just internalise it. I do think you have to model the behaviour you want from them in the early years, day in, day out. And then when they're older you can and should actually start discussing it with them too so they understand why we live our lives as we do and why it is important. Dinner conversation needs to be about feminism rather than football ;)

I also make a point of doing things like asking DS about girls in his class as much as boys. He is in Reception and he is just starting to experience some of the boy-girl separation in friendships that he has been oblivious to until now, e.g. Lucy is best friends with Sophie now so they play together so I play with Joseph instead. So I am trying to keep the girls in our conversations as much as the boys in the hope that he still thinks of them as friends and realises that boys and girls can continue to cross the developing gender divide.

I'm a WAHM. In practice this means that DS is either at school or home with me and it is very easy for him to fall into the trap of assuming mums are always at home at child's beck and call and dads are always at work. So I already discuss my work with him. Over a drink after school we discussed the fact that I spent today making numbers add up in a spreadsheet and talking to my accountant about my company. I don't want him thinking I'm just at his beck and call while dad gets to be out in the big bad world. He needs to grow up knowing that mums and dads can both work and both be at home and that all patterns of work/home are acceptable!

I also have a rule never to chastise either child for their behaviour or choice of play in terms of 'that's for girls/that's for boys'.

espanol Thu 10-Jan-13 17:06:10

Another with a lazybones son. He hates rough and tumble, shies away from boisterous behaviour. I hate that it is 'expected' by other people that I need to just let him off the lead to chase sticks and he'll be happy. He's more sensitive and thoughtful and intellectual than that. I have no problem with that, but I worry that society will. I don't want him toughened up. Similarly I don't want my boisterous, opinionated DD softened down and made docile sad

BunFagFreddie Thu 10-Jan-13 17:10:57

This is it espanol. In many ways, I had to be mum and dad for a long time. So, he has obviously not witnessed a healthy relationship from the word go. However, I didn't stay with his dad out of the belief that it was the right thing to do for DS.

I do worry about how it will affect his view of fatherhood, or how to treat women.

We have discussed it in depth though. DP and I also get on very well. If anything, I am very blokey in nature and DP is quite feminine. Neither of us does more than the other, we have our roles and each of us takes care of what we do best. This is healthy in my book.

DS has always had female friends since about the second year of first school. One of his best friends in middle school was a girl and same at secondary school. I'm guessing he must like women if he's friends with them. However, he's only 14 still. I'm actually worried about when he goes out with friends drinking. I'd be worried about a daughter going out, but people forget that young men actually get attacked more than women!

BunFagFreddie Thu 10-Jan-13 17:15:14

Don't get me wrong espanol DS is very intellectual, sensitive and thoughtful, but he has no problem asserting himself. In fact, he is very stubborn and set in his ways. God help anyone who tries to boss him around!

I have always encouraged him to never be appologetic for who he is. If some people don't like it fuck em. There are plenty of open minded people in this world. I got a telling off from DP's BIL about how I didn't force DS to play rugby and football etc. hmm I didn't take kindly to it, but that's for another time!

Lessthanaballpark Thu 10-Jan-13 22:01:58

Espagnol, I worry in the same way re. DS. He's such a sweetheart, really thoughtful and has tonnes of empathy. But I see how boy/manworld can be quite a "survival of the fittest" jungle and the pressure to not appear girly affects him already.

Fortunately he has had a good feminist training in how to spot sexist nonsense, ignore it and go his own way.

BunFagFreddie Thu 10-Jan-13 22:26:08

I think it's a matter of boys/men feeling secure. However, I think there are so many counter cultures available to young people these days that don't promote gender stereotypes.

We have all the 'The Only Way is Essex' type nonsense and artists like Rhianna. I don't think they further the cause of feminsim! But, there's plenty of bands, films and other elements of pop culture that set a better, or at least a different example to young people.

InNeedOfBrandy Thu 10-Jan-13 22:50:38

I quite like Rihanna she's very much a fuck it an fuck what you think as you encourage your son to be. smile

BunFagFreddie Thu 10-Jan-13 22:52:30

I can see where you're coming from, but she really grates on me for some reason. Probably because she's commercial artist in an industry that perpetuates the harmful beauty myth.

FrameyMcFrame Thu 10-Jan-13 23:00:15

Since when did one need formal qualification or to know the correct jargon to be a feminist?

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Fri 11-Jan-13 07:24:21

I have a DS and a DD. I've been with their Dad for 20+ years and I think he's been a good role model. Not perfect but hey neither am I.

If DS doesn't have some clue as to respecting women by 21 I'll be surprised and disappointed and feel I've failed. Like his father he was never into either football or rugby so in the UK he's immediately in a separate category to his peers. Socially he doesn't drink alcohol so another issue. But he's bright and when he puts his mind to it, affable, and I'm glad he's able to interact with people more particularly girls on an equal footing. I do think it's helped him having a DSis, no illusions, not just Yours Truly as a female template, we haven't got other female family members close by.

Likewise I hope DD has a healthy attitude towards the opposite sex and can keep herself out of man-pleasing stratagems -and be confident she's the equal of male counterparts.

Never fails to amaze when people you think you know, quite casually come out with something breathtakingly old school like, "Well, her brother's staying on to do A levels but she isn't, she'll be all right, no brains but she'll just get married anyway".
Each to their own.

I'll eat my hat though if either of them says in later life, "My parents led by example" because it's almost certain one generation feels more switched on and aware than the previous.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Fri 11-Jan-13 08:11:24

Signing in with two DSes. Back later!

LaGuerta Fri 11-Jan-13 23:28:15

I have 2 DSs aged 4 and 2.

The stand out surprise for me since having a second boy is the negativity adults have expressed about having male children and how unlucky I am to have got two boys as opposed to at least one "easy" girl.

"Is your second a boy... Oh, you're going to be busy.

"I really pity you having two boys."

From a mother of two boys in front of our children: "Don't you just wish you had had girls?"

Etc

It makes me so sad and angry that boys don't seem to be valued. It makes me worry too about what kind of impact this has on a boys' self belief and confidence.

The previous posts mostly focus upon ensuring that you raise boys to value women as equals. I wondered if anyone had had similar experiences to me on this aspect of raising boys?

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Fri 11-Jan-13 23:46:40

Funnily enough LaGuerta I had a colleague with 2 sons say in all seriousness, "You must be worried sick these days, having a daughter, all that worry about them getting pregnant and out late with God knows who".

She worshipped her own sons, she and her husband thought it hilarious when they brought home a different girl every Saturday night, "You never know who you're meeting on the landing!" and regularly joked about 'the boys' sowing their wild oats, using that exact expression.

Presumably if they brought home a girl like my DD who later 'got herself' pregnant she'd be called every name under the sun.

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.

Pinkypoops Thu 17-Jan-13 14:31:15

So true, Sleepyhead! It´s a constant slog to try and pick up on every sexist idea they come home from school with and to have to contradict some of the nonsense their friends, teachers and friends´parents are feeding them.
Was so happy when a little foreign girl joined the 7 yr old class this year who runs faster than all but one of the boys (including my son who is a head taller than her-hah!) They were all completely gobsmacked! It appears none of the other girls want to participate in races or similar- they just aren´t interested. I remember clearly seeing one little girl in my DS´s class being chastised by her mother at age 4 for running around playing a boisterous game of catch. She was told, "Girls don´t play like that!" eye roll
It´s all about Hello Kitty and Monster High apparently, while the boys are all Skylanders and Ben10....woe betide any who would dare to cross the line :-(

rainbowrainbowrainbow Fri 18-Jan-13 20:30:08

bunfagfreddie
Have you seen this site
www.pleasurevsprofit.co.uk
Might be something you would like your DS to look at at some point. It's aimed at teenagers.
Would be interested on what you think of it. My DS is 12 so reaching the age where I feel a conversation of some kind about pornography and the porn industry should take place in the not too distant future

WilsonFrickett Fri 18-Jan-13 23:38:39

We have a very traditional set-up at home which I'm fine with, but I do worry what DS will take from that.

That said, a schoolgate mum said to me today after I was talking about the temperature in my home office (it gets cold cos DH sets up the iron their in the am and leaves the door open) 'Oh, does DH do his own ironing?' with such a look of surprise I actually felt quite fem-forward for once.

We both try hard to avoid the 'boys will be boys' chat and I teach 'if someone's not having fun you stop' all the time. That one is hard for DS as he has ASD and empathy is tricky for him but it's the biggie.

After a year at a very small country school I am still surprised at how gendered friendship groups are though. I don't know if that's the school, the fact it's tiny, or if our original school was just very un-gender based.

MmBovary Sat 19-Jan-13 00:02:30

I do agree with some of the comments made here about avoiding gender conditioning from an early age.

I honestly think that we, both men and women, don't do any favours to gender relations by treating girls as the "girly girls", "fairy creatures", or "pink princesses", something that we constantly see around us these days. Or, by the same token, treating boys as "naughty rascals", "boys will be boys", "loud and dirty" etc etc.

We should treat people as people, with their individual strengths and weaknesses, not because they were born male or female, but because they are human. All this gender stereotyping is very damaging in that sense, because it alienates the sexes from each other rather than bringing us together. It creates false identities which we have to adopt as our own all our lives and that, in most cases, do not correspond with the real us, our real selves.

My boys are quite little, so I haven't thought much yet about how I'm going to approach the internet porn talk, when that time eventually comes. But I hope that they've opened their eyes to the way they are treated, and that if they're treated with love and respect, as real human beings, not creatures taken from some crass fairy tale, that they're going to treat other people - girls included- in the same way too.

WilsonFrickett Sat 19-Jan-13 09:23:24

Internet porn talk just made me remember something. We had had an internet safety talk at school last term and the presenter opened with 'believe it or not, boys are just as at risk from dangers on the internet as girls, it's 50/50' (erm, yeah, I do believe it) and then went on to use female pronoun exclusively throughout the talk. Of the videos he showed, only one featured a boy as a victim too.

We have to remember boy children are equally at risk from dangerous behaviours when using the internet and also that porn damages boys as much as girls imo. I think that's a very important strand of feminist boy parenting. There's a risk of setting up a 'boys as agressors' culture.

(not criticising your post MmeB, it just made me remember. And I do believe the reason there is so much porn is mainly down to men. But we don't have to automatically assume our boys will tread that path).

Andro Sat 19-Jan-13 16:07:02

I think DS has a reasonably good example at home as DH and I both have an interesting mix of likes/hobbies/interests. He doesn't assume, he asks questions (about EVERYTHING).

That said, I did get somewhat annoyed when an ultra feminist friend told me I was setting a bad example about gender stereotypes because of some of my interests. I cook, I bake and I do cross-stitch. I enjoy all three and I'll be dammed if I'm giving them up because they're too 'feminine'.

I think the most important lesson we, as parents, can teach, is that everyone is unique and should be respected as individuals - not crammed into pigeon holes!

tourdefrance Tue 22-Jan-13 20:37:16

2 boys here aged 2 and 5. Marking my place. Lots of really interesting comments so far. Reading Topsy and Tim go to the doctors today, ds1 said - that doesn't look like a doctor mummy, it's a lady. Argh!!

RubyrooUK Tue 22-Jan-13 20:53:01

I have a boy and about to have another one.

I suppose my main thing is bringing them up to be decent human beings. I want them to respect other people full stop and be sensitive and caring, enjoying friendships with both genders.

My DS is too young to talk too overtly about male/female relationships etc. But his dad and I share everything in the household and are both extremely affectionate people. So I hope DS' impression will be that both men and women do much the same things and both can express their feelings.

In our house we both work full time and I hope this will also add to the general picture that women and men can do much the same things.

I suppose my main fears are that my two boys will have to suppress their feelings as this is "male" - my brother was very unhappy when young as he was sensitive and didn't fit in with the boys at his school. (Ironically he is a very happy adult with a very happy life now and a very long term relationship.)

And I also worry about violence. I read a lot on Mumsnet about domestic violence but I can hardly think of any of my male friends who have not at some point been beaten up on nights out etc simply walking down the street. They all seem to think this is just part of growing up. So this scares me a bit too as few people seem to talk about how awful it is that young men just expect to be beaten up and get on with life.

Er, there's probably more but I can't think of it right now.

Yes please.

I have two DC - a girl and a boy. They are still very little but I'm trying to bring them both up to treat everyone with kindness and respect.

Regarding the focus of this thread, I'm lucky in that DH is a very active, hands on dad who does his fair share. I also have great female and male role models around (for example, grandmother working past retirement in senior role, grandfather retired and in sole charge of housekeeping).

I'm also trying to ensure both children take an equal role in household chores. I love my MIL to bits but she didn't do anyone any favours by continuing to do her son's laundry well into his twenties.

Has anyone read Jenni Murray's book 'That's my boy?'. I got it for Christmas and finding it useful to help articulate my thoughts.

Just re read NotForTurnings post about the use of the word 'lucky' in the context of a 'hands on dad'.

I totally agree, and I did think twice before using it, however I do still feel lucky. My choice to use it is reflective of an unequal society. I have friends whose DHs have never changed a nappy. Not a single one.

I do draw the line at DHs who 'help out'. On what planet is looking after your own children 'helping out'?

tourdefrance Sat 26-Jan-13 19:22:25

I would say my dp is a great role model in many ways for our boys. They see him cooking, cleaning, ironing, vacuuming. But they don't see me fixing things, mowing the lawn, washing the car etc as he does all those things too.
And he leaves the house early most days to go to work but I do most of the drop offs and pick ups so ds1 thinks that's what daddy's do.
I picked ds2 up from nursery this week and he was tottering around in high heels from the dressing up box and had been all afternoon. Our dressing up boat home has a doctors outfit, knights and various animals but of course no princess costume. If I had a girl I'd probably have been given one at some point but of course notfor boys.

Dp picked up ds1 from school this week. It turned out he didn't know where to go as he had only ever picked up from after school club since September.

DoubleLifeIsALifeHalved Sat 26-Jan-13 22:12:36

I worry a bit about ds exposure to men & male role models. He sees me helped by a range of female carers & nannies (am disabled nowadays), & not even many male friends now either, so worry that ds is going to be v confused growing up - cant model himself on me OR feckless chauvinist father either, nor carers etc. I wonder who he can
Identify with?

FrancescaRS Sun 21-Jul-13 21:45:30

Hi there, I have a son and a daughter and thinking about all this stuff too. I found the goodmenproject.com/ really helpful. If you have a moment, you might be interested in my blog 21stcenturyfeministmum.blogspot.co.uk/

duchesse Sun 21-Jul-13 21:53:48

I have one 20 yo DS who is not a chauvinist but IS very lazy. It is hard sometimes to get him motivated do anythign around the house, and this despite the fact that he sees DH (his father) doing everything in equal measures (sometimes more than me as DH does all the stuff that I would cut my hands off doing). We don't have any male/female roles at all- all the shit day to day chores are done by both (all of us when the teens don't have exams) of us and everything else divvied up according to personal ability and preference (eg DIY is DH, garden is usually me inc mowing etc). Can maintenance is both of us.

BUT DS still does as little as he can get away with, usually rather less than his sisters. That is because he is a lazy toerag, not because he's a MCP. It's hard to tackle. He will do things, he does do things, but he almost never does them spontaneously and needs multiple reminders if he's to do something. It is very frustrating and since I only have one son I don't know if it's normal. I'm pleased to report that he has been horrified by the housekeeping standards of his housemates at university and actually tried to get them interested in a rota but they all seem to think there's a housework fairy it doesn't need doing.

Boosterseat Mon 22-Jul-13 15:42:56

DH and I have had to do some serious counter action as my DD and DSM pedal the dreaded blue jobs/pink jobs theory at DS all the time (I have repeatedly requested they stop it) but luckily at 8 DS laughs at "the oldies"

I had a seriously proud moment the other week when my DD unceremoniously plonked his cricket whites down and told my DSM they needed washing, DS stood up grabbed by DDs hand and proceeded to show him exactly how to the use the washing machine along with this sage advice "Just because you are a man does not make your clothes immune from dirt Grandad, just put the damn machine on once in a while asking Nana to do it makes you look a bit thick"

I very nearly called him up on the damn, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.

DS sees mum catch spiders and his DSD cry at Wall-e we try to be as balanced as we can be and talk to him about other people's beliefs and attitudes and encourage him to be respectful, open minded and kind.

It's great to see there are loads of other parents bringing up kids without the usual gender stereotypes, hopefully if it continues within the next generation we can start to see some real change.

FreedomOfTheTess Sun 28-Jul-13 11:48:49

I'd like to think I won't raise my sons any differently to my daughters. I want all four of them to believe in gender equality from BOTH sides.

DD1 is 3-years old, she was playing with DS2 (7), and my friend's children (son, 5 and daughter, 4), they were playing hospitals. My friend's DS wanted to be a nurse, to which my daughter said, "boys can't be nurses."

I put her right straight away, as I would if either of my sons said, "girls can't be doctors/builders/whatever."

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