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Feminist Parenting of Boys bookclub

(37 Posts)
blackcurrants Fri 06-May-11 12:16:18

OK, I have no idea how to run a bookclub, I'm not even on MN every day [heretic emoticon] cos of work and DS being so demanding delightful that I spend a lot of time on the floor getting climbed on.


A few of us want to read books about how to raise a good feminist man (GFM)in this bad patriarchal world.

Personal intro: Hello! I'm fortunate in that I'm married to a GFM so DS has one male role model at home who wants to talk about feelings and flowers and why daddies do washing up - but bugger me if the rest of the world isn't out to tell my PFB that he's got to 'suck it up and be a man' every time he feels upset, and beer, porn, and Buying Things are all he needs to be happy. DS is only 9 months old, but I'm Not Having That Shit, and the pushback starts RIGHT NOW!

Talking this over with a likeminded mum, I was recommended "Raising Cain: Protecting The Emotional Life of Boys" - on another thead StewieGriffithsMum, who knows her onions, said it was terrible sexist bunk.
So - that said, until I've read more of it, I'm hesitant to recommend it for our first book club book. Should we start with Delusions of Gender, which I've still not read and might be hand to combat some evo-psych nonsense. Should we start with Pink Brain, Blue Brain? Does anyone know how to run a bookclub, anyway?

I hope this is a good idea and not doing the wrong thing in this thread. I've always wanted to join the bookclubs but not had the time to be online/finished books on time (I live in the USA which also complicates things, timing-wise). But I think that, if we think of reading and critiquing the patriarchy, we find it's actually a form of activism. It's certainly going to help me fight back when everyone tells me DS is "such a boy because of x, y or z'' when in fact those are just things babies are like!

Firkytoodle Fri 06-May-11 13:05:28

Count me in. I have a DD and DS who is almost 20 months old. Already finding some comments coming his way e.g about his golden curls and his behaviour e.g. he got frightened and came running to me for a cuddle and my dad called him a wimp angry and he gets lots of comments on the fact he usually has a dolly tucked lovingly under one arm.

I have read Delusions of gender recently and it was superb, but happy to read it again. One thing it made me realise is that I have lots of books and films full of strong female characters for DD but its just as important that DS sees different role models- daddy's looking after children, boys playing with dolls, boys showing emotion etc so I have started up a list of these sort of books for him too- perhaps we could also share any recommendations with each other?

DH is also a good role model but is mostly absent due to work etc, so it would be good to get some more ideas about how to ensure DS doesn't turn out like a Neanderthal! Luckily DD's best friend is the most wonderful little boy who is kind and polite, loves babies and small children and is happiest wearing a dress (at 5) so DS has another role model there. DD on the other hand is a total tomboy, which helps too as she is equally happy playing dolls with DS and then going and playing in the dirt/playing cars with him. ATM he is Amy Pond to her Dr Who.

I don't know how to run a bookclub either, I guess you should just choose a book and a rough timeperiod to talk about it..hopefully someone with more info will come and help soon grin

blackcurrants Fri 06-May-11 13:18:54

yay! I was actually quite sure we were having a girl, and DH and I had already started to assemble a library of story books with good female role models, so when DS arrived we both looked at each other and thought: Right, now we get to buy more books! (most exciting part of pregnancy shopping for me and him, I suspect!) We've both focussed on loving male role models in children's books, I love "What mommies do best/what daddies do best", 'man's work" which is just pictures that shows a dad doing housework with kids, and all the "Little Bear" books. Also, "Guess how much I love you" is a Daddy hare and his DS. smile

regarding raising feminist boys, I've read that "Real Boys : Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood" is good, but again, not actually read it yet.
Yes, I will have to start lurking on the established bookclub threads to see how they're actually run.

Firkytoodle Fri 06-May-11 13:31:59

I heard some good things about 'Raising Boys by Steve Biddulph.

I shouldnt buy any more books at the moment-serious overcapacity problem here, so on my wishlist for DS (once he gets past his insistence on four books about diggers on endless repeat as we have a building site opposite atm) are:

Tusk Tusk David Mckee

Mr Seahorse Eric carle

Something else Kathryn Cave

Oliver Button is a sissy Tomie de Paola

King and King Linda de Haan

Tango Makes Three Justin Richardson

and finally:

Williams Doll Charlotte Zolotow

I've added all your suggestions except for Guess How Much I love you which we had 5 copies of (all gifts), all of which have disappeared over time, but there must be at least one left in the house somewhere.

StewieGriffinsMom Fri 06-May-11 21:29:02

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

blackcurrants Sat 07-May-11 00:48:02

Stewie - oddly, i'm about 2 chapters in (invigilated 3 hour exam today, got bored of marking!) and have not yet thought "erugh" - which is saying something, since I think (I hope?) my 'sexist-twaddle-o'meter' is quite finely tuned. It is completely focussed on boys but oddly, that's quite refreshing - it's about boys because that's the point of the book, rather than being about boys/men because that's the whole scope of humanity. If you see what I mean.

I've never read so clear and well-argued a case of why the patriarchy creates a culture of toxic masculinity which creates boy-and-then-men who aren't fully people, boys and men who are entirely emotionally illiterate, boys and men who are encouraged not to empathise or to demonstrate the feelings they have, and which bubble up only as anger or self-hatred. I don't see any blaming of Those Pesky Feminists for this - quite the opposite, it seems to be a critique of our social (patriarchal) construct of masculinity.

The one place where I think, potentially, it could be mis-read or data-mined for misogynist twaddle spouting, is that the book is fairly clear on where boys fall down in primary school (developing impulse control and communication skills later than girls, etc) and how badly they fit there until they're older (by which it's sometimes too late, as they've decided they hate school and the teachers have decided they're 'naughty boys', or whatever.) They point out that girls are better socialised to cope with requirements like sit down, stop talking, share (not that this is a good thing, but that girls are told to do these things from a young age, and not just on entering school). They also deal pretty well (pretty non-sexistly) with the evo-psych nonsense, pointing out that ALL children have equal amounts of testosterone until age around 10 years, and so 5 or 6 year olds who are hitting, shouting, biting, etc, might, in fact, have not been socialised to use words for how they feel. They don't dismiss differences - pointing out, for example, that most 8 year old boys who are 'behind' are at the same level as most 6 year old girls, because some key skills seem to emerge later in boys as a rule - but they point out how things change past puberty. I imagine some sexist tosspot might see this as "OMG overly feminist/feminine schools are failing our boys!!11!! PANIC!!!" but actually it's a criticism of how we raise boys before we shove them into the school system, and an indication of the ways in which we prevent them from the emotional literacy needed to actually deal with their feelings. They identify the ways boys who enter puberty talk about alcohol, girls, and sex as indicative of whether they've been brought up knowing how to talk about how they feel (and thereby KNOW how they feel, and how others feel). Surprise surprise, the ones with no empathy were keen to brag about how much they could drink, or how they've taken part in "exploitative sex" (yes, weasel words for sexual assault and possibly rape, but in the context of not knowing any more, I'll quote them).

As I say, I'm only a few chapters in. But so far I'm finding it refreshingly feminist. yes, it's Patriarchy Hurts Men Too - but as it's ABOUT men and boys I don't mind. It's Why The Patriarchy is Hurting Your Son, as far as I can see - and why I blame the patriarchy even more today than I did yesterday.

oh god I just saw how long this post is. I'm going to hit 'post' before I wimp out and delete it!

I meant to say: I'd love to vote on what we want to read. We seem to be getting a good shortlist together.

StewieGriffinsMom Sat 07-May-11 09:27:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Grumpla Sat 07-May-11 09:43:07

I got that Steve Biddulph book Raising Boys out from the library and I have to say I LOATHED it. I felt that there was SUCH a massive emphasis on the 'natural' gender differences, barely any consideration of how these are constructed. Also didn't get on with the concept of the mum having to parent in one way and the dad in another, very thinly veiled implication that the dad 'has to be' the boss in the family or your son will be a smack addict and your pretty feminine head will explode... I admit I am extrapolating slightly here as ended up throwing the book down in disgust.

Love the second review on that Amazon page for 'Man's Work' - do you think they missed the point slightly grin

Firkytoodle Sat 07-May-11 22:13:43

removes Raising Boys from Amazon wishlist grin

Firkytoodle Sat 07-May-11 22:14:19

stupid bolding

* removes Raising Boys from amazon wishlist **

elliott Sat 07-May-11 22:39:32

Found you! Marking my place for when I have time to look through this.

blackcurrants Sun 08-May-11 00:25:17

Welcome! Which book should we start with? While I think we've decided "Raising Boys" is probably not going to give us what we want, we could absolutely read some BAD books on how to parent boys, later on, and do devastating feminist critiques of them. Could be a useful tool in the toolbox for when other people come up with nonsense theories on how to parent boys.

For now, though, we're probably looking for some explorations of what feminist parenting of boys would look like.

dizzy77 Sun 08-May-11 11:01:56

Thanks Blackcurrants! for being so proactive! Placemarking: happy to go with the flow about where to start. Whilst I've started on Pink Brain, Blue Brain, I reckon that is something I'll use as a reference/resource (have so far read up to pre-school as DS isn't due to arrive for another couple of weeks). Delusions of Gender is exciting me in both a parental and professional capacity (I work in L&D) could be more of a zippy ready to start... Open to other suggestions: that Amazon click finger is ready to go...

ReshapeWhileDamp Sun 08-May-11 21:45:20

Hated Raising Boys here too. smile

What I do return to, time and time again (am the only person who gets it from the local library, seemingly) is Jenni Murray's That's My Boy!, which is actually rather good. I find it very reassuring and nurturing when I'm confronted with people expecting my older boy to be a nightmare merely because he has a willy. hmm
(We love the Little Bear books here too!)

blackcurrants Mon 09-May-11 00:54:23

oooh, thanks for the recommendation Reshape - that looks like a good read - and I can imagine her dulcet tones reading it to me, too! Hmm, I wonder if there's an audiobook, now I come to think of it.
I get sick reading on buses but spend 6-8 hours on them every week, commuting. I love audiobooks! Does anyone know of any good feminist podcasts? Actually, that's a thread in itself. Let's hope there are some good ones!

StewieGriffinsMom Mon 09-May-11 09:39:05

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Firkytoodle Mon 09-May-11 12:28:12

I just ordered that from Amazon Reshape, looks great.

Amusingly the one star review of it is from a Steven Biddulph who criticises who says:

"I found this book disappointing - it doesn't add anything that hasn't been said (years) before, and it seems in denial about some really useful findings about boys and girls differences in development. Really excellent books like Steve Biddulph's Raising Boys or Michael Gurian's Wonder of Boys really gave me something new to understand my sons, and has proven very helpful. Jenni Murray (the clue is in the sixties spelling of Jenni !) just rehashes 60's feminism - fine in itself, but a bit old hat, and much of the book seems like padding on a few core ideas. She isn't willing to live with the reality that boys and girls are often very different, and this does NOT mean stereotyping. Perhaps its because she doesn't have a daughter. Life is more complex than the one Jenni lives in. Journalists are not really equipped to write parenting books, yet they are always being sought after by publishers. I think the writer was just needing some extra cash, or desperate to feel relevant in a world that has passed her by.
Opinion mixed with wishful thinking and some patronizing humour does not make for good parental guidance, and I think this book can do more harm than good. "

I dont think he realised it was going to be posted under his real name smile

Firkytoodle Mon 09-May-11 12:30:09

Few typos there, DS is trying to help me type.

Link to book here

StewieGriffinsMom Mon 09-May-11 13:11:14

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

blackcurrants Mon 09-May-11 14:26:11

60s feminism, eh? well whether that reviewer knew it or not, he's just made me order Jenni Murray's "That's my boy!"

OK: I have read enough "Raising Cain" to want to suggest it to you all. that makes our shortlist:

Pink Brain, Blue Brain
Raising Cain
That's My Boy
Delusions of Gender
My Mother Wears Combat Boots (I thought this looked good but a bit preg/baby-centric - please read it and tell me I'm wrong, cos I LOVE the title!)

Since The Jenni Murray one looks funny as well as clever, shall we start with that, and maybe move on to some others on the shortlist?

Our First Book will be Jenni Murray's "That's My Boy!"

Now, when shall we read it?
I need to get it, obviously. When's a reasonable time to start the bookclub. How long to people want, to read it?

Should we start at the start of June, or sooner?

StewieGriffinsMom Mon 09-May-11 15:06:45

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

blackcurrants Mon 09-May-11 16:42:26

Ooh thanks SGM, that's really helpful. I wonder if we could nab the 3rd Wednesday of the month, then? That would be the 18th, for us - would that work for everyone?

StewieGriffinsMom Mon 09-May-11 18:34:09

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MadameBoo Mon 09-May-11 18:39:19

Hello, can I join? I have a 3 year old boy and most of my friends have girls. They (the kids) all mostly adore him, so so far so good, but it's a murky old blue/pink world out there and any help wading through it whilst keeping my feminist head held high will be a bonus. Great fred. smile

blackcurrants Mon 09-May-11 19:02:48

Hello and welcome, Madame! I am getting really excited about the excellent feminist mothers on board here - I think I'm going to benefit from your experience!

I need the need to order the book too.

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