Monday, January 28, 2008

Making Misogynists/Misandrists

The question raised by the wonderful Izzie earlier has had me thinking all day, even while writing about an entirely different topic on Student Mum!

I wish Izzie had time to write a blog, so I could share her with you properly, she's amazing. Very astute and insightful, and very knowledgeable about the history of feminism. Am looking forward to sharing the interesting comments on my earlier post with her, and hearing what she has to say about it too.

This post is partly a continuation of the last one, and partly inspired by a post about engendering, on (un)relaxeddad's excellent blog (there's a link to it on Student Mum), which has also made me think a lot.

Do we teach our children to follow the social expectations for a particular gender, even if we don't mean to? Should we encourage boys to wear pink and play with dolls? If we dress our young daughters in cute dresses are we reinforcing gender stereotypes? (Un)relaxeddad has done better justice to the question of engendering our children than I can, but it made me wonder ...

When adults say to children, 'You can't do/wear that because you're a girl (or a boy)' are they, besides reinforcing gender stereotypes, actually encouraging the child to grow up thinking that the opposite sex must be something to be feared, resented, or at the very least, viewed with disdain? By trying to raise a girl, even if we try to avoid stereotypes, are we inadvertently making a boy 'the Other'? And as we are all some sort of combination of both genders, will that not then foster such feelings with regard to themselves as well?

By expressing any negative view about the opposite sex, are we nurturing seeds of misogyny or misandry?

I wonder what effect my daughters hearing passionate outbursts from myself and other girlfriends, about how rotten 'all' men are, might have on their own opinions.

Thankfully, passionate outbursts in this vein (blush) are fairly rare, and balanced by lots of discussion with the girls about stereotypes and gender constructions. Eldest daughter says: 'Look Mum, I know already! I am girl. I can do/go/experience/be anything I want to. We are all unique. We are all special. We should always treat others as individuals ... blah! blah! blah!'

Oh well, perhaps I have overdone the gender thing a bit, but at least she is neither a misogynist nor a misandrist!


Thinking about it, I would say we're all humanists in this house.

(But I am definitely a feminist!)


Annieye said...

I couldn't agree with you more.

I do think boys and girls are different though as toddlers. I used to be very conscious with my daughter and two sons to try and make sure they weren't stereotyped too much when very young.

But.... Girls WILL play with dolls and boys WILL take things apart to see how they work and play with cars etc. As parents, though the only thing you can do is to set a good example. My children grew up with their dad doing things like the mowing the lawns, washing the car, decorating, diy, etc. and me doing the housework, baking, cleaning, ironing etc. We were a very traditional family when the kids were very young and I didn't go out to work.

Do you know something? I loved it. They were the happiest days of my life. Rob went out and earned the money and I stayed at home and looked after the house and kids. I didn't mind in the slightest that I was a very traditional type of woman.

Rob always taught our boys respect for their sister and me. Swearing of any kind was banned when we were around (and still is to this day.) Every Sunday morning would see all the children make me tea and breakfast in bed because he told them I deserved a rest because I worked hard looking after everyone all week. He would set a good example by cooking tea now and again and doing the ironing etc. In turn I'd go and wash the car, or mow the lawns to help him out.

I went back to work full-time when my youngest went to school. Then things changed. We explained to them that now we were both working full-time everyone would have to help out and we'd all have to pull together or else it wouldn't work. We explained that more money would mean they could have holidays and extra things, but that we all had to earn them.

I don't think you'll ever get away from stereotyping. That's not the answer though. Respect for your family, friends and colleagues, coupled with good manners and an appreciation of diversity goes an awful long way, no matter what a person's gender.

Moondreamer said...

Wow! Annieye, this is fab! On so many levels ... thank you so much!

I love what you've written in your last paragraph. That's so true, I hope one day the human race will learn to tolerate, respect and even cherish differences! (A lot of Meghan's bullying was due to her being very 'different'.)

It's obvious that you and your husband have an amazing relationship, with real balance and mutual respect ... perhaps this is why your daughter has such a lovely husband too!

Thank you for sharing that with us, it was lovely to read :o)