As anyone who writes a blog knows, part of the job of blogging is accepting and responding to criticism. I welcome comments and questions and have enjoyed many interesting conversations with people who have challenged something I’ve written.
But of all the criticisms I receive on my blog, there is one that really irks me: the assertion that my discussion of male gender stereotypes is just a thinly veiled plot to turn boys into “honorary women.”*
I was reminded of the intensity of this sentiment yesterday when someone posted a link to an appallingly misogynistic video in the comments of one of my posts. The video argued that feminism’s end game is the complete emasculation of men. Another comment on the same post claimed, sarcastically, that we should just let boys wear pink and purple (as if that is really a problem) and that we should go so far as to let men and women share the same bathrooms.
At no time have I ever advocated anything so ridiculous. Nor have I ever said that boys should be forced into so-called “feminine” behaviour. In fact, my argument is quite the opposite. I am asking that boys stopbeing forced into certain roles simply because they are boys. And the other “feminazis” (to quote that video) who work on the same issues as me have made the same argument.
The corollary to the “you want boys to become girls” argument is that I am denying boys’ nature; that, left to their own devices, boys will naturally prefer “boy things.” To this I say, “By all means, let nature take its course.” In other words, get out of the way. Keep your opinions about what a boy should do or should play with to yourself and see what happens. Yes, many boys will choose trucks and light sabers, but some will choose trucks and a doll, light sabers and a toy kitchen, or—gasp—pink and purple LEGO. And that is okay. There is no reason to think that a boy who doesn't act "typical" of his gender is some kind of shameful aberration. He's just a kid being a kid.
The discussion of kids and gender stereotypes is not about pushing children into gender-atypical roles just to prove a point. Nor is it about establishing female dominance over men. (As if!) Rather, it is about letting kids explore the world on their own terms without feeling that they are limited to certain activities, attitudes, and behaviours because of their sex.
We feminists have no hidden agenda. We just want to give our kids the freedom to be themselves.
*Nathanson, Paul and Katherine K. Young.Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular Culture. Montréal: McGill University Press, 2001.
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