Thursday, July 25, 2013

a consideration on equality

This is my boy.  He turns 4 today.  His favorite things are trampolines, kayaks and tools.  He loves trucks and lego and action figures.  But he also loves my little pony, princesses, baby dolls and baking.

A little while back I made a tutu for my daughter.  After finishing it, Bugaboo asked for one too.  I'd like to say I gave it to him right away, but I hesitated.  I could see no good reason for him to not have one, because there isn't one.  So I made him a tutu.

He loves it.  If something so simple could bring him so much happiness, how could I have not wanted him to have it?

The actual issue is on a different level entirely, because if I want to raise him to be a man who sees women as equals, how can I not let him play with 'girl things'.  If we start pointing out what is for girls and what is for boys at an early age, how can they not see themselves as suited for some things, but not others.

In school I wrote a paper on gender as a social construct.  Since having a little boy and a little girl, I know I was, to a degree, incorrect.  They really are different creatures.  They have different ways of thinking, and while all kids are unique (wildly so), there are noticeable and predictable trends of 'girl' vs 'boy'.  That doesn't mean they can't do the same things, just that they will probably find different ways to do them.

As a feminist who sometimes struggles with my decision to be a stay-at-home mother, I want my children to grow up to be happy with themselves for who they are, not because of which social gender stereotypes they are or are not conforming to.

So, while girls and boys are not the same, you can't teach them to think of each other as equals unless you treat them the same.

I was impressed by actor Dustin Hoffman's insights into inequality.  While preparing to film Tootsie, he started to ask himself how he would have been different if he had been a woman.  I ask that of myself when deciding something for my children; would my decision be different if he was a girl?  If so, than I am making a mistake.

Women, as a group, are not given equal rights as men, but at the same time, a girl who plays hockey, or builds with lego is praised, while a boy who wants to do ballet or play with baby dolls is at best tolerated.  There are scores of great children's books showing brilliant strong females, but where are the stories of sensitive, delicate boys?

My ramblings don't really have a finite point, I'm just circling around the thought that no man would think of a woman as equal when they're told they cannot do the same things as a child.

So, while the thought of nail polish on my little man goes against my grain, I'll not let that be a decision that leads him to be an adult who would hesitate letting a woman do a man's job.  Or vise versa.

Happy Birthday Bugaboo.

*This was originally meant to be a post about tutus entitled "a foray into frills", but this felt more important.  Also, please notice that I avoided saying "men treating women as equal" and instead put "thinking of women as equal".  Oh, and I highly recommend following the links.  Just a suggestion.

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