Reporting on the Golden Globes last month, NY film critic Kyle Smith said they should have called the whole thing “Girls.” There was just “too much estrogen,” he said. I mean, imagine: a major awards show, televised around the world, hosted by two…oh my dear god…WOMEN. EW! And who did they think they were being all loud and opinionated and…kill me now…FUNNY.
Hold onto your tiny little testicles, Kyle, because guess who’s hosting the Oscars? ELLEN. Yes, run for cover because all of Hollywood is being overtaken by VAGINAS.
Some men seem to have a hard time sharing the spotlight. They just want women to stick a sock in it. Or maybe something that rhymes with sock.
Like, seriously guys? After hundreds of years of running the world, can’t you just wiggle the fuck over a little bit and give us some room to, oh I don’t know, tell a few jokes? Do something other than cook and clean and look pretty and give birth to your noble sons?
If my son Max grows up with this misogynist attitude, I’m putting him up for adoption. I don’t care if he’s thirty, he’s going to live with the witch from Hansel and Gretel. Luckily, it appears my suggestive feminist parenting is working. I got a note last week from the mom of a little girl who goes to Max’s daycare. She told me her daughter, Amelia, is supah pumped about her blossoming friendship with mister Max. And I’m pretty stoked that Max’s buddy circle is not exclusive to Spanky and Alfalfa. Here’s how Sara’s conversation with Amelia went:
Amelia: Mom! Max spoke to me today!
Sara: Oh, he doesn’t normally speak to you?
Amelia: No, he just pretends like he doesn’t know me but I know he really does ‘cause he’s always been at my daycare.
Sara: Yes, you guys have been in the same class since you started going to daycare. Well that’s really nice that now you guys are talking. So what do you talk about?
Amelia: Oh he just said, “I had a fun Christmas.”
Max. What a stud muffin.
Sara said when she picks Amelia up from daycare, she often finds her playing with Legos or trucks with Max. If you’ve read my book, you know how happy this makes me. (Page 96.) See, I’m well aware of the tendency of parents to separate the girls from the boys, using words like “girly” and “boyish” to classify certain behaviours and activities and even toys. They don’t mean any harm. They’re probably not even aware of the harm it’s doing. Because it’s all we’ve ever known. When we grew up, and especially when our parents (who taught us everything) grew up, the big, strong men went off to work (or war) and the women baked pies in the kitchen and buns in their abdominal ovens.
And marketers have made it even worse, completely immersing us in the “boys over here, girls over there” bullshit. Toy giants separate the blue from the pink like the other side is cyanide, suggesting that venturing “over there” — a girl playing with a fire truck or a boy pushing a toy stroller – is just CRAZY CAKES. Surely it will alter their DNA and make the boys sprout breasts and the girls grow giant wieners. And OBVIOUSLY it will make all of them as queer as three-dollar bills. Basic science.
Until we start talking about how ridiculous all this is, it will stay the same ridiculous way. And it all starts with our kids AND WHAT WE TEACH THEM.
The gender stereotyping foolishness only perpetuates the natural tendency of our little towers of testosterone to form “no girls allowed” cliques, swinging their swords and lightsabres, leaving out the (supposedly) gentler subspecies. Sure, some boys are naturally more aggressive and gravitate to certain types of play. But there are many exceptions. Girls like sports. Boys play house. We need to encourage different types of play to show our kids that everything is available to everybody, and it’s all perfectly okay. And most importantly, just because we often like different things does not mean we get to treat anyone else with contempt. Just because girls are usually the ones playing dress-up instead of smash-up doesn’t mean they’re somehow weaker. Just because boys are usually the ones zooming around in the superhero capes does not make them the sex that’s super. They are all just kids, playing.
What you’re saying to your son when you say “that’s girly” is: Stop acting like a girl, because being a girl is bad. You’re also saying: You’re a boy, and boys are supposed to act a certain way. (That’s a whole other can of worms.)
Max came home last week and told me that one of the boys at daycare called another boy “girlish.” “That’s not a nice word, is it Mom?” he said.
This made me chuckle inside, of course. Clearly I’ve managed to put “girly” and “girlish” right up there with the F word. But I kept a straight face and replied: “Well Max. It’s not a nice thing to say because it makes it sound like being a girl is bad, which it certainly is not. Being a girl is awesome! Look at your mom, for example. Am I awesome?” Max nodded his head. We both smiled. “So really, when someone calls you girlish, it’s a compliment.”
Then I had to explain what a compliment is.
It can get complicated. For now, all I’m teaching him is that girls are great, boys are great, we are all freaking great. It doesn’t mean we are all exactly the same. We’re all different, and that’s a wonderful thing. Nobody is better than anybody else. What I’m doing is setting the groundwork for him to think before he speaks. To think before he goes along with the crowd that invariably tends toward boy-girl blue-pink segregation. To make him realize that we are not “boys” or “girls” but people who are more alike than different. I am setting him up to be Patrick Stewart.
I don’t drill it into him. I’m a feminist (hopefully everyone is), but I’m not burning my bra in the back of his Tonka truck. I simply seize opportunities to continue the conversation. The day he said he wanted to be a fireman, I said great – and casually reminded him that even though people usually say “fireman”, girls can be firemen too. The truth, of course, is that only 3% of firemen are female. But at least my son won’t have an attitude that discourages that number to grow, if I can help it. Same thing goes for nurses. I’ve made sure he knows boys can be nurses too. I have to point this out, because 99% of the nurses he’s seen in books, on TV, and in real life have been female. If I don’t tell him these things, who will? How will he know being a nurse is an option if nobody tells him? And if little boys don’t know they can be nurses (and girls can be doctors!), how will we ever change the status quo? How will we ever make the world a better place for our grandchildren (especially our granddaughters)?
If I could trust that all the other parents and teachers and coaches out there were as mindful of our systemic sexism as I am, maybe I wouldn’t need to be so diligent. But alas…
Sara and I are going to keep tabs on our kids’ friendship. Apparently a couple days ago Max taught Amelia about lightsabres and told her “girls can have boy powers too.” He’s on the right track. I’m hoping one day Sara tells me she walked into daycare to see the two of them having a tea party, with Amelia dressed as a fireman and Max as a nurse. Now THAT would be progress. I’m working on it…