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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?

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."

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.

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.

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 really helpful. If you have a moment, you might be interested in my blog

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?

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.

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'?

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.

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.

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!!

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!

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).

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 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.

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

Have you seen this site
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

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 :-(

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 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

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.

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?

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.

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.

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!

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.

overmydeadbody Mon 14-Jan-13 16:29:51

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!

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