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"How to mold a feminist child"


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http://community.feministing.com/2008/08/h...minist_son.html

This is something I ponder quite often, as I am currently a student in the "How To Raise a Five Year Old Boy" school. My son is beautiful, smart, and extremely capable. Obviously, this terrifies me. I have spent a lot of time asking myself this very, very important question: How do I teach my son to not abuse his privilege?

To be sure, I recognize the privilege my son received by accident of birth. He was born to two white, middle-class parents. I have a college education, as does my current partner and my son's father. He is an only child, and has four grandparents in his life that absolutely dote on him. There is a never-ending supply of love, learning, and involvement. My son has opportunities that many children are not blessed with. Obviously, I don't think I'm the perfect parent, nor is his environment guaranteed to always work in his favor. I make mistakes, I do stupid things, and I don't spend nearly enough time thinking about how my parenting reflects my feminist beliefs.

However, I do spend a lot of time analyzing the role that early childhood shapes who we become, and especially how parental beliefs can conflict with what society teaches our children. Below are some of my musings - I would love to have a conversation about how we should be raising young boys to actively engage in our world in a feminist manner.

~ We recently purchased a house, and to make the transition easier for him, we allowed my son to pick whatever color he wanted to paint his room. He originally picked pink. (My son adores pink, and spent most of his toddlerhood wearing pink and purple pajamas.) I agonized over the choice. There was a part of me that was overjoyed...my son obviously is confident in what he likes, and doesn't feel the need to conform to what the world tells him about being a BOY. However, I flashed forward to the time when he would invite his male friends over, and they would tease him endlessly about having a "girly" room. The thought of my child being the subject of ridicule is horrifying, as I'm sure any parent can attest to. (Plus, who wants to repaint when he changes his mind in 6 months?!) Ultimately, he chose orange walls and pink trim. I still think about this incident, though, and ponder what it means to try to balance feminist parenting with living in the "real world" where kids can and do get hurt for being different.

~ My son is very sensitive. He cries easily, gets his feelings hurt often, and is generally more attuned to what is going on with people's emotions around him. He has always been kind of my little empath, reacting to the world around him and showing every bit of what he's feeling to anyone who may be paying attention. This causes MANY of the people around him, especially older men, to be very troubled by his shows of emotion. He has been told more times than I can count to "toughen up", "act like a boy", and "don't act like such a baby, girl, (insert insulting feminine word here)." I get very frustrated trying to teach him that it is OK to be that way, no matter what the world is telling him he *should* act like. I am actually very surprised that more of the behavior hasn't been conditioned out of him yet. I hope that reflects my never-ending support in him and how he choses to display himself. I dread the day when all the conditioning he has received about how to "act like a man" starts to take hold, and I see my beautiful son start trying to hide his emotions.

~ I am very careful to correct people (mostly people that I know, although I have done it to strangers) when they ask my son "Oh, do you have a girlfriend?" that I do not presume my son's sexuality, and he may very well end up with a boyfriend, or not want to have a partner at all. This is usually met with eyerolls or stern looks.

~ I am outreach worker for a family planning agency, so my son has spent most of his life being immersed in a very liberal, pro-choice, diverse community. I have many friends of different orientations, ethnicities, backgrounds, and beliefs. I find myself wondering if I selfishly seek out people to be acquaintances so I can provide a diverse group of people for my son to interact with. I'm not sure how to balance my desire for him to grow up surrounded by different perspectives with the knowledge that I cannot use people's lives to set examples for him. It's a difficult line to straddle.

~ I have tried to consciously raise him a non-violent environment. He was not allowed to watch any tv or videos that implied or depicted violence as a younger child. (I cannot believe how many people I know allow their 2 and 3 year olds to watch explicitly violent movies and shows!) I had a no-violent-toys rule until very recently, and I'm still queasy about allowing him to play violently. This article really changed how I viewed the issue: http://www.mothering.com/articles/growing_.../bang-bang.html I try to explain to him the importance of not playing like we're hurting other people, but it's nearly impossible to control the influence his peers have on his play behavior. This is one of my greatest struggles, and I don't have any easy or actual answers for this dilemma.

I hope other feminist parents raising boys can have some insight or wisdom to depart on this subject. I see a lot of discussion on raising girls in feminist circles, but not a lot on raising boys. Any input is appreciated!

Over the top feminist aside, I wonder how this is going to really help the child later on in life. Maybe some group therapy for the future teen would be in order?

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"My son is very sensitive. He cries easily, gets his feelings hurt often, and is generally more attuned to what is going on with people's emotions around him. He has always been kind of my little empath, reacting to the world around him and showing every bit of what he's feeling to anyone who may be paying attention. This causes MANY of the people around him, especially older men, to be very troubled by his shows of emotion. He has been told more times than I can count to "toughen up", "act like a boy", and "don't act like such a baby, girl, (insert insulting feminine word here)." I get very frustrated trying to teach him that it is OK to be that way, no matter what the world is telling him he *should* act like. I am actually very surprised that more of the behavior hasn't been conditioned out of him yet. I hope that reflects my never-ending support in him and how he choses to display himself. I dread the day when all the conditioning he has received about how to "act like a man" starts to take hold, and I see my beautiful son start trying to hide his emotions."

Hmm, what's wrong with this? If he's emotional, empathetic, etc he should be allowed to be...

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Hmm, what's wrong with this? If he's emotional, empathetic, etc he should be allowed to be...

I agree. I mean honestly, the kids five, hes going to cry and be emotional i haven't met a five year old kid (boy or girl) that isn't. At the same time though the kid should learn to "toughen" up a little bit or he's really going to have a hard time coping later in life, sometimes you just got to suck this shit up and roll with the punches, it shouldn't hinder his emotional development.

And i dont know why everyone is on this feminist kick, STOP TEACHING FEMINISM AND START TEACHING EQUALITY!

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God dammit, I didn't even read that article because I was fucking offended by it.

I'm sorry, not many things will get me that angry, but I was raised by feminists, and I am one. Just throwing that out there before I go and actually read it.

EDIT: This is almost exactly how I was raised. Seriously. I didn't have a pink room and I wasn't overly emotional (I was a relatively normal kid) but still. Pretty much everything else sounds familiar. My mom told me what sex was so she could explain to me why abortions were a good thing. When she told me it was illegal in the U.S. for two men to marry each other, I just thought "that's stupid," because I had always assumed that people could do whatever they wanted, and I couldn't think of a rational reason why dudes shouldn't get hitched.

Honestly, this is far, far better than homeschooling your kid to believe that the world is flat and God created everything 6,000 years ago but will kill him with fire if he ever gets a blowjob. In fact, I don't really see any problems with this. This is a person who is aware of class issues but also knows that they benefit from an oppressive system. Since I feel the same way, I can really empathize with them.

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(as I'd imagine that she means anything violent so including stuff like Power Rangers, Tom and Jerry and stuff which is quite frankly normal for kids to enjoy).

My parents wouldn't let me watch violent stuff when I was a kid but they were fine with stuff like that and, I dunno, Star Trek. I didn't watch Power Rangers when I was a kid because we only got like three channels on our TV. I watched Bugs Bunny and stuff.

What the? If I said "I'm a misogynist" around here, no doubt I'd be told to fuck off by everyone. I mean, are you aware that you just said that you hate more than half this website by admitting that?

Not to mention it's unproductive as a feeling.

I kind of skimmed over that and thought she was joking.

EDIT: And I'm not gonna name any names, but there is some pretty sexist (against women) stuff said by certain members on this site.

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What the? If I said "I'm a misogynist" around here, no doubt I'd be told to fuck off by everyone. I mean, are you aware that you just said that you hate more than half this website by admitting that?

Not to mention it's unproductive as a feeling.

Hmm I don't care if you say you are a misogynist. I don't even really care/comment on a lot of misogynist things that get said on this site a lot. :O

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Hoo boy... I just think five years old is a little too young. Children are CHILDREN, not sexually active adults. This also covers the whole "Don't assume he's straight" mentality she was trying to go. When someone ask him if he has a girlfriend... well, it's more than likely a joke. And how harmful is it to assume that the boy would be straight considering 90% of the male population are straight? I meant, I can understand having this conversation during the pre-pubescent ages, but five years old? Pus the way she is trying to shield her son from violence isn't working well. I meant, the whole world isn't nice and once he finds out that the world isn't safe outside of his little nest, hell will break loose. Really, when has it become politically incorrect to act like a boy?

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"~ I have tried to consciously raise him a non-violent environment. He was not allowed to watch any tv or videos that implied or depicted violence as a younger child. (I cannot believe how many people I know allow their 2 and 3 year olds to watch explicitly violent movies and shows!) I had a no-violent-toys rule until very recently, and I'm still queasy about allowing him to play violently. This article really changed how I viewed the issue: http://www.mothering.com/articles/growing_.../bang-bang.html I try to explain to him the importance of not playing like we're hurting other people, but it's nearly impossible to control the influence his peers have on his play behavior. This is one of my greatest struggles, and I don't have any easy or actual answers for this dilemma."

That's the only problem I have with the article. It's natural for boys to push each other around. I don't like the fact that "playing nice" is now considered something to be lauded, as it forces boys to live to female standards. Otherwise, I can't see how any reasonable individual would have an issue with this. How is this over the top feminist in any way?

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"~ I have tried to consciously raise him a non-violent environment. He was not allowed to watch any tv or videos that implied or depicted violence as a younger child. (I cannot believe how many people I know allow their 2 and 3 year olds to watch explicitly violent movies and shows!) I had a no-violent-toys rule until very recently, and I'm still queasy about allowing him to play violently. This article really changed how I viewed the issue: http://www.mothering.com/articles/growing_.../bang-bang.html I try to explain to him the importance of not playing like we're hurting other people, but it's nearly impossible to control the influence his peers have on his play behavior. This is one of my greatest struggles, and I don't have any easy or actual answers for this dilemma."

That's the only problem I have with the article. It's natural for boys to push each other around. I don't like the fact that "playing nice" is now considered something to be lauded, as it forces boys to live to female standards. Otherwise, I can't see how any reasonable individual would have an issue with this. How is this over the top feminist in any way?

I suppose I was referring to this part...

~ I am very careful to correct people (mostly people that I know, although I have done it to strangers) when they ask my son "Oh, do you have a girlfriend?" that I do not presume my son's sexuality, and he may very well end up with a boyfriend, or not want to have a partner at all. This is usually met with eyerolls or stern looks.

But in hindsight, not really. Either way... the last thing that a five year old child would think about is his own sexuality. I meant, like mentioned... they are children, not adults.

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While I'm sure that anyone asking a five-year-old if he has a girlfriend is joking, I can definitely understand a parent not wanting people to ask him that. Even if they're not serious and the kid isn't thinking about his sexuality, if he grows up being asked by everyone if he has a girlfriend or if he likes a certain girl and never if he has a boyfriend, he's going to assume that that's the only option.

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After reading the article, it makes me glad that I wasn't really "raised" by anyone inparticular, but thankful I wasn't ever subjected to feminism. I've been a part of every type of family I can think of and this woman is trying to have some type of lazzie-faire feminism that is borderline bigotry. She wants her son to be free, yet she wants to control how he should be, but she doesn't want him to be influenced by "the way things are", yet she is trying to create an impression of her beliefs in her son. Hypocrite.

Not letting her child be involved in any "violent activities" is idiotic as well. Violence is a part of life, we have been killing each other since the beginning of time, and sheltering your child from the harsh reality of the, yes, the "real world" is doing nothing but damaging their outlook and acceptance of what life really is. Peace is a lovely idea, but with peace, it breeds no competition and rivalry, and then productivity and progression will grind to a halt because no one wants to surpass anyone, so, idealism at it's best.

The sexuality thing is also idiotic as well. If you are offended because someone asks you if you have a girl/boyfriend even though you are gay, then you are just uptight, and that opinion is from a lesbian herself (my best friend). She says that getting caught up in peoples mistakes is ignorance incarnate, and you're just showing how uptight and insecure you really are. Correcting someone because they assume that, like the rest of the world, that boys and girls get together is ignorant, and personally, I would tell her to go fuck herself if I was corrected by her.

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really, i don't think you can fuck up a kid too bad, as long as you love them, try for some measure of watchfulness and discipline, and allow them to experience at least some diversity and exposure to different lifestyles. So, I think this mom is OK, all parents have to be themselves.

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To be fair, when she said she was shielding her son from violence on television, she was unclear if she meant the glamourised "Hollywood in your face, bitches!" violence or the typical acts of violence that can be seen in the news.

But really, what are the odds that a typical five year old child would think about gender roles?

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But a typical five year old is already exposed to and caught up in gender roles. They might not think about it, personally, not having the intellectual capacity to really do so (I consider most people before the age of 10-12 not really humans because up until that point most people are just little versions of their parents).

This mother is having a problem that a lot of progressives I know have; that is to say, she knows she's right, but at the same time she knows that knowing you're right is a major downfall of conservatism (as Lula Fortune mentioned, white trash who "know" it's cool to be ignorant, or fundamentalist Christians who "know" that every word in the Bible is literally true). This is why you get that dichotomy of wanting her kid to do whatever the kid wants, but at the same time she wants to raise the kid in line with her beliefs about the world. Obviously this woman isn't perfect, but she's doing her best, something that the article makes clear.

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Off subject but I keep freaking reading this topic when I scroll over the main page is "how to molest a child" and I keep coming to close said topic.

Mission accomplished.

On topic: See, I guess I was reared differently than a lot. When I was five, I was trying to make friends with anyone my age, regardless of gender.

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