Saturday, May 9, 2015

"Misandry Misunderstood as Feminism in the 'Burbs is Going to Ruin Your Sons."

I need to first say that I AM NOT against feminism.

In fact, my first published poem was called "The Amorphous Hypocrisy of Being a Woman" in 2000. It, I believe, is still used in a Women's Studies course.

I love women, I believe in gender equality and a woman's right for equal pay as well as all kinds of other civil rights ideas, although I am a humanist. I think. I hate labels.

I bring this up now because I'm loving all the feministic dialogue, and the human dialogue about women and men. The  hashtag: #HowToSpotAFeminist dominated social media this week and that is an amazing thing.

Tiny Fey was hilarious last night stripping on David Letterman in Spanx making her points, as she does...with satire and smarts.

Some other interesting reads on the topic: Feminists Are Reclaiming the Sexist Hashtag ... and
"5 Reasons People Think Feminists Hate Men."

Ironically, this week I also witnessed a quiet unintentional (I hope) sociological mirco-happening that I don't think anyone is posting articles or speaking at forums for fairness about. I was watching two girls play at the kitchen table. Homework was done and they were on their separate computers playing MineCraft a game that rivals Atari-like graphics and focuses on building and creating worlds with cubic graphics and tools like stone, diamonds, glass...etc. 

Both girls are ignoring the boy who is present, and one year younger. I over hear a snicker and then the high-pitched squeal of him saying: "Thats not TRUE!?"  It was an exclamation that tailed off into a quiet inflection of question.

He is visibly upset and I step in to inquire. After much huffing, and actual finger pointing, I find out that the girls were saying that "Boys don't know anything. He's an idiot." and "Boys are dumb." and  the absolute gem:

"You think you're so important, you aren't. Girls are better, smarter and don't need you."I'll come back to that word..."need" and why it really troubles me.

He was fighting back tears, arms crossed with a lip-quiver saying: "Noooooooooooo?" and "That's not truuuuuuueeeee." His voice cracking as his mind raced to argue the point he is having trouble making because he's too busy pushing down human emotion.

This is where a few things become very clear to me:

1. This very smart, very kind girl sounds like a bitter and angry man-hating wench. (She is a child.)
2. Is this how we are teaching girls to be strong? By belittling others?
3. Is making a boy feel inadequate an entitlement women are embedding in their daughters?

I give the girls my most hardcore (albeit, contrived) look of confusion. "Did you just say that girls are 'better'?" My daughter's smile retreats into her own face immediately. She knows where this is going. She's seen this face.

Her friend answers me: "Wellll, (Smirking a bit, holding the word sarcastically.) It is kinda true....." 

She is "kinda" laughing while darting eyes between the three of us looking at her. My reaction comes from a deep-dwelling place. It is from a mother, a protector of my son (who is two) and against the kind of bitterness that feeds the facade I see women wear all around me.

"Let me let you guys in on something real simple to understand:" I say calmly. Holding their attention, the boy's face still in a frown and hurt.

"YOU, ( I point to my daughter) YOU (I point to the boy) YOU (to the girl) are ALL just as valuable as the other. Why? Because YOURE HUMAN FIRST. Not a boy or girl. What is it that makes you better? Either of you... I'm honestly curious?"

I ask. I am.

The standard answers come out: "Girls rule and are cool. Boys drool." and "Boys are gross."
From the boy, however, I hear: "Nuh-uh. Girls are mean." and "Girls are NOT nice."

I have a reality flash. I too, said and believed that boys were gross, or silly, or awkward. I also knew tons of boys that thought girls were strange, and prissy or mean, or not athletic or smart. It didn't ruin me. We eventually all started to see that actions speak louder than mean words. I knew girls WAY better than boys at sports, I saw girls in AP classes laugh at boys stumbling in algebra. Life and Darwinism did it's thing. I realized my issue here in my kitchen wasn't with that stuff. It was with a word: "Need."

I wanted to grab my handy soap-box, sit them down on the floor and begin a sermon about boys and girls and roles and life and strength and self belief. I didn't. They had already moved on, apologized and been forgiven and gotten back to being kids. I was about to misplace my anger, instead I decided to think on it.

I've thought about it: Fuck that noise!

Is this going to be the equivalent of the "Boomer-bomb" of the over-sensitive and "everybody wins" child-rearing that has left Millineals in a trench of stand-offs and impasse arguments with their superiors over the ribbon they deserve for SHOWING up on time, every day at work?

Are women who choose to take the "talking-points" about Feminism that suit them and grandstanding building little girls that believe they are intrinsically more necessary, have more utility and are more important than boys?

The word "need" is a concept far bigger than the standard gender wars even our great-grandparents had before the learned bigotry, or rules of society and roles as they were. The word need implies (to me) that this girl over-heard that idea. If so, is that ok? Do boys hear it to? 
I'm not blaming, I'm asking questions that I believe are worthy.

If some women bark about how men are NOT NEEDED and idiots, and little boys hear this, what and how are they shaping?

Will they grow to be misogynists to validate the point because they feel the leading women in their life don't value them because of gender, and speak of them as inferior? 

Will they have self-esteem issues and need constant consoling by our girls who, conversely are being taught that just by being born with a vagina they are superior? 

You see, those sentences piss you off. That's good. Why? Because they are not complete. They don't carry all the facts, they make huge assumptions about a thousand factors I'm not presenting. Strangely, it has the limp and lacking statement of "Girls are better, smarter and don't need you."

I'm not equipped nor interested in making huge sweeping statements about Feminism and Gender Bias. I haven't done all the due-diligence, debated both sides in my head, and I am not at all informed enough to take a public stance, or call myself anything other than a woman hearing little boys be told by girls that they are not needed,  that they are and dumb and unimportant.

I'm merely concerned that the women who are misunderstanding what a Feminist means are creating a few by-products that actually fall into the category of "Shaming." "Bullying" and "Gender Inequality." I don't think they are trying to do this, if they were, that's a much longer post.

My observations of the "I Am Woman Hear Me Roar" rah-rah rant is not quite qualified by some of the women I see in Middle-America suburbia. These are not bra-burning, gritty- fact dropping intellects or women with conviction for civil rights, vast knowledge of suffragettes, great literature and history about the women that fought tooth and nail to afford these very women her (I believe) natural right to work outside the home,vote, nurse in public, run for president...etc.

No, I see some imbalance. I am all for mothers who raise boys and girls aware of the issues and gender inequalities all over the place. I believe in explaining fairness, and perhaps re-training our youth how to EARN respect, how to WORK for something and fail, fail again, fail a lot and still push on without giving up.

I believe there is something so valuable in teaching our boys that girls ARE strong, valuable and have tons of traits that are superior to other....boys AND other girls. Just as all of us, born with the right to be who we are, be as smart as we aspire to be and develop the skills we have, regardless of gender.

Do not mistake my concern for something which is developing here as Anti-feminism. My concern is more about something both untrue and a bit disingenuous. I worry  that some mothers are more preoccupied with sounding strong, better and independent, than they are with nurturing the very kind of children (boys and girls)  who will live on respectfully.

I fear that women who spit ideas like "men are not needed" then call one up to fix the stopped-up toilet, or fight dirty to diminish and defeat their husbands, coworkers or some vaguely identified scope of "men" are very confusing. They aren't realizing the strange hypocrisy their children witness.

This group of parents are not teaching fairness, respect and love that will beget young men and women who are going to be OPEN, ACCEPTING and thereby way more capable of what the fundamental points of Feminism (as I understand it) are....fairness, respect, and to be treated equally.

I was raised by a man who said: "Never depend on a man... ever. You never know when he or his wallet will run out. Build your own empire." I get the sentiment. I respect it. I am strong, opinionated, annoyingly stubborn and independent.

BUT....I too,  am sensitive, enjoy being "feminine" and "girly" at times, and I have what could be considered human "weaknesses."

-I can't create sperm from my body.
-I know, without question, that I could provide for my family just as my husband does if someone else was handling  childcare and I worked the same amount of days that he does. Even he knows that.
-I get lost in a parking lot because I have no sense of direction.
-I'm terrible at math.
-My body bleeds every 4 weeks and I get super hormonally charged and can be unpredictable.
-I have, was born with, and love, my vagina.

-I feel blessed that I had the choice, and stayed home to raise my children, and will still be taken seriously as an ex-professional whose mind and functionality matter, even if I let a man be the "breadwinner."
-I love men (and women) that are strong, brave, ambitious and believe in themselves.

NONE of those things make me less valuable. Nor do they make me "such a woman." or "less needed" in society, right? They are just facts about me. They don't deeply hinder my specific capacity for contribution to the species of humanity. They don't solely define me.

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'm only a little right, maybe it's not about righteousness at all?

I ask you, as mothers and fathers, to look around.  Just be aware of the way you talk about the other gender.

Are you encouraging respect, understanding, and compassion? Are you encouraging your kids to listen to each other or to defend themselves? Are you teaching your girls to be brave, strong and independent? Your boys to do the same?

It's worth to consider at the very least. I believe we all matter. I believe we've made great strides in civil rights. My nine year old didn't know what Slavery was until I told her last year.

My daughters are living in a world (or at least a house) where bullying is not acceptable. My daughter reminded me to "watch what pronouns you use in that post so you don't exclude anyone who is gay." They are living in a nation where a black man is president and two women (so far) are running in 2016 to run the country. That's powerful. They don't  just see it, they see it as "normal."

It's also powerful to consider our children are LEARNING how to treat each other by being witness to how we speak, interact and engage with each other.

Just consider it.  I am. I think it's worth it.

Not all feminists hate men. Nor does one have to belittle, minimize or shame the other gender to require, deserve and believe in her right to equality. That's what I believe and will teach my kids......Both genders.
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