Tuesday, May 29, 2007

True Feminism

I don't actually think of myself as a feminist or a non-feminist. I think women should have equal opportunities to men. I think men should have similar opportunities to women. This is evidenced, at least in small part, by our family goal to have Jason become a full-time-stay-at-home-dad, while I go off to be our family wage-earner. Fortunately for me, this is one place where Jason and I see eye to eye. And I know you're thinking it-- but I do recognize that complete equality is neither physically possible, nor is it likely desirable. I'm thinking a bunch of pregnant men running around would give me (and many other women) a gigantic headache!

Like many strong-willed, independently-minded women, I hope to raise my daughter to be equally independent. I hope to teacher her self-reliance. I hope she becomes confident and trusts herself above all others. And along with that comes my complete (well, almost complete) lack of concern over gender-specific attire and such. Don't get me wrong, I like dressing her in pink now and again. I want her to grow her hair out. I am not anti-femininity by any stretch of the imagination. But if Marcie wants to wear her brother's hand-me-down Car clothes-- even his (gasp!) underwear (seeing as how they don't make it in girl version), I'm not gonna get in her way.

And when she picks up the Thomas trains, or she climbs in the giant dump truck, or she points out trucks and buses on the road, I feel no concern that she is not appropriately girly. I just don't think it should-- or does-- matter.

But I think the true measure of feminism has nothing to do with how a mother raises her daughter. I think for true signs of equality, we need look no further than a mother-- or father's-- attitude toward their son's attire. Choice of toys. And such. And last week I got an ever-so-brief lesson in what that really means when we were at a local park. Casey saw a scooter laying on the ground, and he decided he wanted to test it out. So he did. Mind you, he was completely unconcerned by its appearance. Here he is riding it at the park:

Now, I have no concerns that because Casey selected the pink princess scooter it's an indication of his sexuality. He's four, for crying out loud. And I wouldn't even really mind if it were. He is who he is. But something inside me screamed out in alarm-- I mean, if he picked this out for himself, would I purchase it? Or would I direct him toward a "more appropriate" Spiderman version? And if Marcie were his older sister instead of his younger one and she had a scooter like this, would I be content with Casey riding it as a hand-me-down toy? Or would I feel compelled to purchase him a more "masculine" scooter? I'd like to think the notion of my son riding around on a pink, frilly scooter evokes no reaction in me at all-- just as it clearly evoked no reaction in him. Maybe I should be taking a lesson from Casey in what it really means to be a feminist!


Anonymous said...

try having your son take dance lessons and see what the reaction is. i have heard comments from "oh how cute. wink wink nudge nudge" to "so are you trying to make your son gay?"

my son digs dancing and shows real talent at it. i always tell him "girls love boys who can dance." when he's older and can score the winning goal at a game, he will be better at it because he has grace, poise and lots of body awareness. many pro sports players take dance lessons and no one questions their masculinity.

no one ever comments that, when a girl wants to play soccer, basketball, karate, or some other "boy" sport, her parents are trying to make them butch or too much of a boy.

my son loves it and that's all that matters.

alison frm dallas.

Danielle said...

Well put! I've been thinking about this lately as well, and not because of Emma's lack of choice in the underwear department. Rather, her brother has taken to carrying her purses and wearing her pink sunglasses. And I too had knee-jerk reaction which I reigned in. Nevertheless, my own reaction to my son's playing with more "feminine" toys made me question my own understanding of equality between the genders. Why is it ok for a girl to be a tomboy, but not ok for a boy to wear pink or play with Princess dolls?

R... said...

Great post! It made me think and it made me laugh. It's never easy, is it?