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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?

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?"


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.

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