Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

29 December 2008

BOY am I tired of sexist boy stories


Why yes, I am still wrestling with my review of "The Trouble with Boys" and it doesn't help that I feel like each week there is a story that makes me hurl with its gendered way of looking at the world, its demeaning look at boys, and its patronizing stance on girls. A few days before Christmas TIME & Yahoo! gave me a real treat:

So why no modern manlings in the east wing? I have a theory, born of careful historical analysis and solipsism: It's impossible to be elected to the White House if you have young sons, because that would mean you have to campaign with them.

Campaigning and raising sons are mutually exclusive. Campaigning requires lots of travel, enormous amounts of time in the public eye and months and months of sitting down quietly listening to the same guy talking while wearing your good clothes. It's like 11 straight months of being in church when you're the preacher's kid - with long car rides in between. It's torture on adults, let alone children. But it's worse for boys. Try this experiment: next month ask your son to be on his best behavior in front of other people, from now until November 2009. See how far you get.

"Boys are generally more competitive, risk-taking and defiant, which makes them less manageable," says Meg Meeker M.D., author of Boys Should be Boys and Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters.

Are you serious? The fact that two adorable and smart young girls are moving into the White House isn't good enough for some people? Why don't the Obamas have a son? Are boys a liability because, again, the theory is that they can't sit still.

I guess that it is lucky for George HW Bush that lil George was grown and didn't embarrass his papa at conventions with his drinking, drugging & potty mouth. And heaven forbid if the Bush Twins acted like 12-year-olds towards the press like sticking their tongue out or something childish like that.

During the past Presidential race, John Edwards campaigned with both of his young children, a son and a daughter. According to the NYTimes, both were less than happy to be listening to stump speech after stump speech. Did dear Emma Claire fall victim of her scampy brother? Or did she have her own feelings of boredom? And of course we'd never see the precious & well-behaved Obama daughters interrupt Daddy's work in public right?

Sure, I'm not an elected official and I'm not campaigning for an office, but I do appear at my fair share of public events and being the feminist mom I am, I bring my daughter to them as well. She was about 2 when I gave a speech to a group of veterans on Memorial Day. As I stood at the podium staring out at men who had gone to war to defend our country only to be ignored once they returned home, my daughter was pulling at my leg. At an end of the year dinner a few years ago, my daughter brought her camera and made sure people knew she was taking photos. She also kept saying, "Shhh...mommy's talking!" Even as I type this, she's not sitting nicely & patiently even thou a trip somewhere is her reward for letting me work.

Yes, boys have a repuation for being louder and girls have a similiar repuation for being quiet, but the reality is that both can be victims of "ants-in-the-pants-itis" when the cameras are rolling or a parent is in the spotlight. So please, can we stop this "boys can't sit still" crap? They can...I married one of 'em.

4 comments:

Veronica- DH and I are hoping for another child-free trip next year. Perhaps you'd like to watch my boys for a week? Or maybe a month? I'm not the first of the MOB (Moms of Boys) to testify that there is more to this "boys will be boys" thing than I ever would have admitted prior to having a couple of my own. Of course, I lack a daughter to compare and contrast to my guys. In the nature vs. nurture debate, nature gets a bigger hat tip than I care to admit.

Kim - I know boys are active, but this overwhelming message that girls sit still and boys don't is harmful to both boys and girls. It's just part of the "boys will be boys" myth that is destructive to everyone. I've seen your boys once and they were quite polite for their age.

I just think that kids are kids, they all have their moments. Maybe I just have the one girl (Amy has the other) who is more boy than girl thus skewing my ability to see the truth in the gender lines. Not to mention that I also broke the gender lines as a kid.

Oh. my. god. - Thank you for this post! I was starting to think that nobody else on earth got it. I'm only 21 and I've been saying this since the single digits- girls can be "like boys" (dominant, aggressive, active) and boys can be "like girls"(submissive, caring, calm) and it does not mean they're not "right" and if they naturally fit more into traditional gender roles, that's okay too. They are probably JUST right for their age and personality and everybody can use age-appropriate discipline. No first grader wants to sit still for a long time (I'm a girl - I remember whining and fidgeting)- until they are, as boys, excused from it, or as, girls, coerced into it with withdrawal of approval. Even boys get some form of approval in their bad behavior-" I know boys will be boys, Johnny, so go ahead and run around all willynilly, but if I catch Sally doing it, that little heifer has it coming."
I'm writing a paper on this next week (assigned topic! By a man who feels in the traditional way. I wanted to tell him "ixnay" because I could already see a few female eyes glazing over and jaws clenching in paper-thin tolerance. I just don't think he *knows*, so I'm going to go about it diplomatically. Can't speak for the others, though- LOL.

Again- great post. Such lucidity is rare.

Thanks so much for your comment.