I wanted a girl. I wanted a girl SO BAD I convinced myself that I had one inside of me instead of the boy I knew was in there before I even had that damn ultrasound because I like to pretend I have a sixth sense (I don’t). But I grew up with 2 older half sisters, one younger, uh, full? sister, and a plethora of female friends. My plan was to raise her to be a little badass. Play guitar, read Steinem, fight against the patriarchy, listen to 7 Year Bitch. (Some might have suggested “SPORTS!” but we, as a clan, are not athletically inclined at all.) So when I got that ultrasound, and saw my kid poking at his wiener in utero, I thought: What am I gonna do with a boy? Was he gonna grow up to be like his irresponsible father, unable to grasp the concept of accountability? Could I teach him to respect women, despite what his “boys” might dictate later on? That catcalling WON’T win him any points with the ladies (or with me)? Would he follow in the footsteps of way too many dudes in my family, dudes who enjoyed making comments about other women (for better or for worse) in front of their wives and daughters? Worse yet, would he grow up to be an entitled fucktard who was mean to girls? Or, my worst nightmare, a boy who thinks that what happened in Steubenville was okay because girls who are labeled as “sluts” are asking for it? Cue panic attack.
During my pregnancy, I had already resigned myself to the notion that I would mostly be in charge of the kid’s upbringing. His father is…much like a child himself, a statistic of a broken home that I did NOT want to translate to our son (look at me, being diplomatic). So, when our son was 3, I did what any smart feminist would do and gave his father the boot. He sucked up my money, time, and soul and I knew our son was not being brought up in a happy home, nor one that was teaching him how to accept responsibility for himself. In true feminist fashion, my already amazing friends (both male AND female) stepped up to help me out with childcare, advice, and wine.
My family was also more than willing to offer assistance, even though their two and a half hour distance made it difficult to see them often. Growing up, my parents did their best to let me grow into my own person (to their ultimate dismay when they realized I was a libby-lib-liberal). But they, being people, also had their shortcomings. One of the major ones at home was their uncanny ability to make me feel like shit about my weight or appearance. Very rarely (and only from my mom) did I hear anything directly about my own not-size-4 self, but I was subjected to commentary on just about every. single. woman. who was in our line of vision. Talk about a detriment to self-esteem! I mean, why would it matter that Madeline Albright was Secretary of State when she was “ugly?” Amirite?? I made a vow to not ever make such comments in front of my son, because if I was busy reducing women to their outward appearance, then that would make it okay for him, too.
I make an effort every day to engage my son in discussions about gender. He enjoys listening to Joan Jett, he thinks Wonder Woman is cool (not as cool as Batman, but hey), and his pediatrician’s office employs 3 female doctors (and a male nurse!). My Little Pony? Yeah, he’s into it. When he was younger, he wanted his toenails painted, and I made it so. One of his friends at school called someone a “bitch” once, and we had a long talk as to why that isn’t okay. We live in house of 4 adults, 2 of whom are wonderful, capable men who clean their messes and, goddammit, do their own laundry (which we’ve started teaching my son! He’s still a little short to reach the knobs, but we’re getting there).
I’m blessed to have so many wonderful people in our lives, helping to shape my son into not-a-douche. Men (and women) alike who through their words and actions teach E that it’s okay to cry sometimes, and contrary to what shit might be on television, men have feelings. And can express them like rational people. Are there some stereotypical tropes sometimes? Well, yeah. It’s not a fucking hippie commune Utopia. But everyone around him takes responsibility, and teach him it’s okay to like what you like, whether it’s “girl toys” or “boy toys.” Raising a feminist son isn’t as difficult as I thought it might be, nor is it different than raising a not-douche. All you have to do in order to lessen the douchiness is raise your child to know that people are people, and deserve to be treated as such.