Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How do I raise Bubbie not to be a boob?

That question has been on my mind lately. Not b/c he has been exhibiting any boob-like behavior. (Aside from a re-enchantment with my breasts, which I reminded him were how he nursed for the whole first year of his life, not that that fact seemed to mean much to him. However, that is a story for another time.)

In fact, a number of Bubbie's favorite friends are, and have been, girls. StraightMan and I have tended to attribute this to the fact that he has an older sister who adores him and whom he adores, and has been around her friends, who are typically considerate of him. It also seems like little girls are a bit more verbal and show more interest in playing together, which I think makes it easy for Bubbie to play with them.

Within the last two months or so, I have noticed that Bubbie now names boys among his favorite friends. They apparently share his passion for Pixar ("Cars" and "Toy Story") characters and, lamentably, merchandise.

I hope that Bubbie always finds friends among girls and boys alike.

Not long ago, as I was driving home, listening to "Fresh Air," I heard an interview with Dan Savage about the "It Gets Better" project. He and his husband described their life together as parents of a straight male. The off-hand remark they made was that they knew their son was straight b/c as a small child, "he hated girls." In contrast, Savage and his partner described their boyhood friendships with girls.

I have been turning that remark over in my head for weeks now. Why is boys hating girls as children taken as a "healthy" and "natural" sign that the boys will grow up to be men who want to have sex with women? Why is little boys liking little girls taken as a sign that the boys must be gay? Must misogyny be the foundation of heterosexuality? Is that not grotesque? Is it no wonder that violence, in fact, colors sexuality in its human variation?

It seems to me that there are subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways in which we teach and learn misogyny in our everyday lives - and that misogyny itself lies at the heart of other forms of fear and loathing that surround men and masculinity.

For me, the concern is not really about teaching Bubbie that it is OK for boys to like pink.* More important is that Bubbie learns it is OK for boys to like girls.


* Which, for the record, I say it is. As an aside, Bubbie's favorite colors seem to be green and "Dinoco blue", which for the record I also will say that I find far more problematic.

Also, not that you asked me, but I did not view that JCrew spread as "gender bending" or a celebration of "transgender childhood." Beanie once slathered her father's shaving cream on her chin - to see what it felt like - but this does not make her butch. This is called playing. We all should do much more of it b/c as Beanie will tell you, "it helps us learn and grow."


  1. I heard that interview with Dan Savage, too, and I kind of cracked up about that anecdote regarding Terry's birthday party (having only girl friends in attendance).

    My interpretation is not "boys hating girls is 'healthy' and 'natural,'" so much as a recognition of the fact that an awkwardness starts to creep into interaction between boys and girls as they mature and realize that they have different and complicated and unsettling feelings toward their former playmates. (Isn't it something of a cliche that the boy who teases/torments you the most is the one who has a crush on you? Now, if the tormenting verges on abuse, that's no good obviously.) That awkwardness -- and the desire to avoid it -- is played out in Terry wanting to have only girls at his party, right? His feelings toward girls were less complicated than his feelings toward boys. But I think it's pretty clear that he didn't hate men.

    Just my thought at the moment ...

  2. parenthropologistApril 19, 2011 at 9:57 PM

    Kate, thanks for commenting! I hear what you are saying about awkwardness that can develop between boys and girls. My comments were not so much responding to Dan and Terry particularly, but to the cultural script in which their off-hand remarks fit so neatly - the one that tells us that little boys hate little girls, but then they grow up to "love" them.

    I guess what concerns me is the way in which little-boys-hating-little-girls becomes (1) normalized as "just a phase" that they will outgrow, and (2) regarded even as reassuring (i.e., what a relief to know my girl-hating-boy is in fact straight).

    The problem with (1) is that the "next" phase is bigger-boys-desiring-bigger-girls, but when you think about the sexting and the slut-shaming that occurs in middle school and high school (which I have blogged about previously), I think it is clear that boys do not necessarily outgrow hating girls. (Also that girls participate in hating girls, but that I am saving that for another post.) This is not just "immaturity," but a connection that has been forged between hating girls / women and heterosexuality (which is purported to be about men "loving" women, and which is why it is supposed to be "so ironic" that little boys who hate little girls grow up to be straight).

    The problem with (2) is that it seems like there is an assumption that it is better that little boys hate little girls than for that little boy to grow up and be gay. Also, (2) suggests that only little boys are supposed to hate little girls. Grown men are not supposed to - giving rise to the range of ideas that homosexuality is not normal, just a phase, immature, and so on (i.e., a problem of "development").

    This has been on my mind b/c I feel like lately, the misogyny has been turned up to 11. Read the news, watch a movie (like "The Social Network"), grade a paper from a student analyzing slang (in particular, the use of "grenade" from the reality show "Jersey Shore"). It not just about the damage that I think is being done to women, but also to men themselves. Bubbie needs to not grow up to be a boob not only b/c the boob makes life hard for other people, but b/c life is hard for the boob.

    So, this all just has to stop.