“Our #StopSexism call tonight will have tons of fodder for writing ideas. Big picture, we’re talking about “Raising children to be non-sexist”. That includes all sorts of ideas like:
— Raising kids to be ‘gender-neutral’?
— Letting boys play with dolls?
— What would you do if your boy wants to wear a dress?
Join us for what is always a riveting discussion. Talk about the issues, write about them, and help change the world. If you stick around [the Good Men Project community] a while, you’ll see how it works! the #StopSexism group meets by phone every Monday night at 7:30 Eastern/4:30 Pacific. RSVP here to get dial in information.
I have a son with autism and while he is higher functioning than some, he doesn’t appear to have the expectations of what was formerly known as Asperger’s.
He is a clever and loving individual but his linguistic skills lag behind his mathematical aptitude. Even with these challenges, I have never had any issue or expectation of him doing anything exclusively male. I never thought about it.
If he wanted a doll (action figure) it wasn’t a problem to get him what he wanted. He has more stuffed animals than the San Diego Zoo’s consignment store and always willing to add another to the fold. While he has never asked to wear a skirt, if he wanted one, I am certain we would find one to accommodate him.
He plays lots of sports, soccer, baseball, basketball but he also attended yoga, dance, cooking and art classes which were routinely considered to be things more girls did than boys. We let him participate in anything we think he’s interested in.
Emotionally, he as always been a sensitive child and I never tried to stop him from crying if that was what he felt he needed to do. Letting him cry it out always seemed like the best road for dealing with his emotional moments; they are intense but brief. No one has ever felt the urge to say, boys don’t cry, because sometimes they do. I don’t make it a habit of weeping uncontrollably, but I have wept. Shouted. Cheered. Sulked. Occasionally I’ve pouted. He has seen a wide range of emotions in our household, from everyone, so there are no uniquely female emotions or specifically male ones.
Perhaps the difference lies in the idea I believe everyone should have access to the full range of emotional capacity. People who are repressed, act out, in my experience, doing things to compensate for their hidden nature. These challenges only grow larger the longer they are held in.
Learning how to handle and channel the range of emotional expression may be difficult for people who have never felt they could, but I feel we encourage feelings in everyone in our family, good and bad, with the idea, we talk about it rather than stew on it.
The conversation of teaching our kids to be sexist feels strange to me because sexism isn’t how we live or what we promote. But if you are a card-carrying member of the Man of the Month Club, you may endow sexist ideals to your kids even without realizing you’re doing it.
I was raised in a house with my mother and two sisters. I think my mother being self-aware, wanted her kids to be able to handle any task, regardless of gender. I suspect this is the underlying reason for my ignorance of gender norms because I was raised to be as capable as any woman in what are considered traditionally women’s tasks.
My mother used to say: “I don’t want you to have to marry someone to take care of you. You should be adult enough to want to clean your house because you live there and be able to do it well enough to have discriminating company of the opposite sex want to visit again.”
In light of this way of thinking, and the many happy years of bachelorhood where I didn’t live like many of my friends did, in filth, strange smells, and wondering where stuff went once it slid under the bed, I appreciated the gift of household skills.
This meant I could make my own food, saving money on eating out. Clean my house, so I didn’t live like a disgusting slob, unable to have visitors because they couldn’t stand the smell of my home. I enjoyed the magic of clean laundry and pressed clothing every time I went to work. Social niceties like these made the difference in the corporate workspace.
When you think about it, I suspect my mother’s training prepared me to exist in a world where gender norms should be heading directly into the trash bin of the Old World. Now excuse me, my wife has been promising to teach me to knit for some time. It’s time I take her up on the offer. I enjoyed doing embroidery as a teen and it’s been years since I did any arts and crafts.
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