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Feminism: Sex & gender discussions

Raising boys

20 replies

memoo · 13/11/2010 11:19

This is something I have been thinking about a lot lately.

I have 2dds, 2dsds and 1 ds who is 9yo.

I consider myself a feminist and obviously I want to raise my DDs to be strong, confident woman. I?m trying to teach them to be their own person and that they don?t have to subscribe to the labels society puts on woman.

I am also trying to raise my son to see girls/woman as his equal in every way and he does have a good understanding of what sexism is and that gender stereo typing is wrong. He even pointed out to me the other day that an advert on the TV was sexist.

It feels like such a battle though, and I don?t feel as confident with the way I am raising ds as I do with the way I am raising my dss in terms of ensuring he doesn?t grow up to be a sexist man.

I?m not entirely sure that I am explaining myself very well but I would really like to hear other peoples experiences and any advice/tips.

OP posts:
thefinerthingsinlife · 13/11/2010 17:44

Watching this thread for ideas too

LeninGrad · 13/11/2010 21:55

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

sethstarkaddersmum · 13/11/2010 22:04

I have a 3yo ds and I'm amazed how explicit he makes his assumptions, which makes it sort of easy to challenge them. Today he had turned on motor racing on tv and remarked to me 'This is just for boys to watch, isn't it?'
So I said 'No, some girls like it, and some boys don't....' and he accepted that.

on another occasion he said 'Wow!' in an awed sort of voice when I informed him there were boys who liked pink (his much admired 4yo best friend, in fact).

I'm sure it will get harder....

TeiTetua · 13/11/2010 22:28

Sorry if this isn't welcome, but you've said a fair bit about your son and not a word about your son's dad. I think you could talk feminism all day to the wee lad, but if his father sets a bad example you might as well forget it. On the other hand if he gets it from both of you and he sees your relationship as matching the talk, then he might get a good lesson. There's the issue of four girls that he lives close to, as well. Will the various relationships among the kids match the message too?

memoo · 13/11/2010 22:39

My Ds's dad isn't around but Ds does have a good role model in DH who does all the cooking in our house and shares all the housework and childcare with me. Dh often gets DS to help out with the cooking too.

OP posts:
memoo · 13/11/2010 22:41

I think I treat all the dc equally too, they all have chores that do differ but only because of their different ages, not because of their sex.

OP posts:
TryLikingClarity · 14/11/2010 10:42

It's funny how deeply ingrained stereotypes are in our own minds. Often we need to be aware of them to be able to teach our DSs what is right and wrong.

For example, my DS (PFB) was at a toddlers group the other day and made a beeline for the basket of toys. He picked up a doll with a pink tutu on it and was playing with that. My first thought was, they are girls toys! I almost went over to take it off him and replace it with something more 'boyish' but caught myself on and left him to it.

I know that I need to challenge my own prejudices and ideas from my own upbringing in order to be a good role model to DS. DH needs to be aware of that too.

ByThePowerOfGreyskull · 14/11/2010 10:53

I try hard not to poo poo any of their ideas that are on the more stereotypically girlie side. they regularly like to have nails painted if I am doing it, they cook, clean and sew. But for me the most important things are happening around them in the outside world.

in DS1's football team there are 2 girls who are great at football. so there is no suggestion that football is for boys.
At beavers there are also girls so DS1 gets to see that girls do enjoy being involved in all the adventure type stuff.

I think it is also important for them to see that Mummy and Daddy are equals in our relationship.

Pogleswood · 14/11/2010 11:54

My DS has always had quite stereotypically boy interests (or at least he has since he discovered Power Rangers - it was as if a switch had been flipped in him!) but he also played a lot with his older sister and her friends,got to dress up in her clothes,etc.
I'd never suggest to either of them that something they wanted to do was unsuitable because they were the wrong sex,and DH is a good role model at home.
It surprises me sometimes though how many things are covered by gender stereotypes,things I would have thought were neutral he's got in his mind as boy things or girl things.
What I wouldn't say is that I'm trying to raise my son to see girls/woman as his equal in every way - because that to me seems to be starting from an assumption of the opposite - I want him to grow up to see people as people,not to prejudge them,and that includes not making assumptions from gender.
We talk a lot too(hopefully not too much - I do wonder sometimes)
And then after all that I have moments of insecurity when I wonder if he will be too different from his peers and not fit is difficult...
Dh is not at all sexist - and he grew up in a fairly sexist household,with a Mum who wouldn't let him and his brother do anything in the house.I've asked him why he thinks he grew up to believe wehat he does but he doesn't know (sorry - not helpful!)

TheFeministParent · 14/11/2010 13:59

I'm a regular, namechanged so please don't out me, and will be taking part in an interview for the times on feminist parenting!! Whilst I am new to this I have been great with the boys, never saying 'that's for girls/boys' and following my dcs lead. No violent cartoons or toys in this house, I simply don't believe that boys are more violent, just more physical (due to 30% more muscle at birth). So the boys have had kitchens, pushchairs, dolls, loads of teddies, we allow them to express themselves, ds1 wore head bands to school at eight! They are brilliant with girls and have lots of friends of both sexes, dd is a different story and has found her individuality in being female in a house of boys...we are investing in lots of good books for her and the boys where girls get to be the hero, I wonder if there are nay where boys are vulnerable?

RubberDuck · 14/11/2010 14:50

The issue that's come up for me recently is while I'm very vocal about equality for girls (and have been stamping down on my dses wrong assumptions as others have mentioned), it's important that they see I'll fight for their equality too, i.e. it's inequality and unfairness that makes me angry.

Recently at school, ds1 (who plays netball in a mixed sex after school club) came home distraught because at the end of term, there is going to be an inter-school competition, but girls only. (Because clearly netball is a girls' sport Hmm). Both me and dh agreed with him that it was blatantly unfair and dh raised it with the school (as he happened to do the school run that day). To give full credit, the school agreed and while they've already agreed to participate this year will look into something different next year, and are going to make sure that the boys have something to look forward to at the end of term too.

Ds1 has since 'got' the point about equality a lot more now, I think. And I also now have an example to use in future in a "remember how you felt" sort of way.

BelleDeChocChipCookieMonster · 14/11/2010 14:59

ds is 11 and I started this very early. I found showing him pictures of air brushed women in the magazines quite helpful, then we had a chat about why the publishers do this and about girls self esteem. If there's something that belittles women on the TV then I'll point it out to him.

Zenyattadottir · 14/11/2010 15:04

Ds' secondary school is very good on all equality issues and has done more for him on the question of sexism than I could ever have. It's a boys' school.

tabouleh · 16/11/2010 00:28

TheFeministParent - ooh excited about your impending Times interview.

I hope they get the tone right (crosses fingers).

Will you let us know what day it's in and I will suspend my Times boycott I will buy the Times that day.

wubblybubbly · 16/11/2010 09:19

DS is 4 and is already coming home from nursery telling me 'that is for girls, that is for boys'. Like others have said, I gently explain that everyone is different and just being a boy or a girl doesn't mean you can't enjoy or like something.

He loves cars, cooking, pushing his teddy in the pushchair, helping me and DH clean up and fix things, I try as much as possible to show there are no defined roles limited to your sex. However, it really cheese me off that almost all of the toys traditionally linked to women's roles come in pink. I took me ages to find track down a tea set and a buggy that didn't come covered in pink hearts and flowers.

I've recently realised though that all of the boys in his class are much more aggressive then he is. They are watching things like Ben 10 and Doctor Who, whilst DS is still happily watching Fifi or Peppa Pig! I do worry that I'm perhaps setting him up to be ostracised from his male classmates.

I'm sure I'm doing the right thing, but I hate to think he might suffer because of it Confused

BeenBeta · 16/11/2010 09:37

wubblybubly - we have an interesting experience of the ostracising issue.

What we have found wth our 2 DSs is that despite pur best efforts other children often put a lot of pressure on them to adopt 'typical boy' attitudes and activities.

Unussually, our DSs go to a school which is 80% girls and even at age 8 and 10 many of the girls already have very fixed ideas about what being a girl means. They often exclude our DSs from their games because they are boys. Our boys end up playing football with the other boys mainly because there is no ne else to play with. They like it when girls come and play football and they like it when girls let them join in their games and sometimes complain to us about how exclusive the girls are.

The point I am making is that children reflect parental attitudes about sex roles and then can exert a lot of peer pressure on other children to conform to those sex roles.

upahill · 16/11/2010 09:57

I have two boys.They are 14 and 11.
I have left them, to a degree, to find their own sense of self.

My job is to teach them respect, manners, life skills, resonsibility and consideration for others.

If they get this other issues will fall into place so you don't have to worry too much about things like sexism and racism and so (or so I have found)

I don't agree with the idea of almost forcing the issue of 'it is ok to play with dolls or wear pink if you are boy' because it suits your feminist principles, not necessarly what the child wants to do.

My youngest is the only boy in his school to wear very long hair. He gets teased but really doesn't give a toss. I asked him about it and he said ' I know what I am - I am a boy- just because I've got long hair doesn't mean I'm feminine.' Fair play to him I say!

I think children follow what they see.

Mine see their dad going out to work, taking breaks to come to football matches with them, making their school lunches and helping with homework. They also see their dad being kind to me and treating me respectfully and if they dare speak to me in a disrespectfull way (as teenagers often do) they see their dad coming down hard on them because it is not acceptable for them to be cheecky or talk to me in a certain tone.

The boys help their dad do the cleaning and shopping and other jobs.

I think that because I have always worked and often worked irregular hours the family have always had to muck in and get things done so nothing is soley 'mum's job' eg I will ring up from work and say to DS1 'I am going to be another hour or so here can you get tea on'

The boys do have traditional 'boy hobbies' that they have found for them selves such as BMXing, (DS1) making dens and go karts (DS2) as well as unisex stuff - mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, cinema etc.

Gosh what a ramble! I was just jotting thoughts down as they came into my head so I hope it makes sense!

wubblybubbly · 16/11/2010 10:13

BeenBeta, I hadn't even considered that! At the moment, most of his friends at school are girls, but you're right, as they get older they're less likely to want to play with a boy. It's not that he doesn't like playing with boys, but he's slightly taken aback by them running and screaming in his face. Not out of any malice or anything, that's just how they seem to express themselves right now.

He does like football though, so hopefully that will see him through Grin

upahill I've never forced anything upon him. I've bought him things he enjoys playing with, regardless of whether they're seen as traditionally boys or girls toys, much to the horror of my DM, who thought a pushchair was far too 'feminine' for a boy Confused. Yeah, 'cos Men never take their babies out do they Hmm

upahill · 16/11/2010 10:28

Wubbly!! I really wasn't suggesting that you were forcing stuff on. I said it was a ramble.

I just remember the department that I work for now was very 'right on' in the 80's and early 90's and everything that was done seemed like a battle cry for the enhancement of all things female.

It was if boys/young men didn't have a role in society anymore but future was feminine.

I remember thinking then (This was before I had children) that the balance of power was being swayed too far in the opposite direction when I believe any power balances ( be it gender, religous, political, financial) should be in the middle and not extreme.

wubblybubbly · 16/11/2010 10:41

upahill, no worries, I didn't really read it as being directed at me particularly Smile

It seems to me to be entirely natural for both boys and girls to want to mimic Mummy and Daddy. It is sort of depressing then that toy manufacturers/shops seem to think that everything related to housework/cooking/cleaning should only come in pink! That does seem to send out the message that these toys are only for girls.

Honestly, I had a hard enough time from my Mother with a mulicoloured pushchair, if it had been pink I think she might have called social services!

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