Monday, July 03, 2006


So boys get this stuff. They begin to be trained--early.

I mean it starts at birth! Or whenever someone says, "It's a boy". Could be in utero, depending on the stage of pregnancy--the developing young one can begin to hear what is going on.

The tone of voice. The loaded words dripping, "It's a boy" ... all the implications--get in there--The young one hears it. Begins to understand there is something crucial being expected of him.

And it would be ridiculous if it weren't so fucking tragic.

We isolate the shit out of our males. Cut off their humanity as mothers, as women we do this--Then we turn around and say men are assholes.

Hello! Women--whether self-identified as feminist or not--create and at the very least perpetuate sexism. Similar to how we, as moms can prevent racist conditioning, we can prevent the oppressive sexist patterns from being installed on our young boys' minds. We have incredible power here.

Yes, I know. We've been hurt by sexism. White men in particular. And we have to heal from it in order to see our way, in order to be powerful enough to stop it. The way we've been hurt makes it difficult to think clearly about boys ...

So, we have to heal inside from the hurts of sexism and we can do this by listening to each other, staying close and also learning to think critically about each other. That way as we listen we are also thinking. I've written more about this process elsewhere and so have others like Patty Wipfler of Hand in Hand.

So we have to heal INSIDE from what men are doing/have done to us.

We also have to heal the fucking problem.

Look, guys didn't start oppressing women because they had such a big life with plenty of support as young boys ... (Hmm, maybe if I cut off part of his penis he won't feel a thing.)

We also have to heal our own perpetuating behavior. Not so much to "help" the adult men who are already chronically confused and so locked-in to their oppressor role.

But to stop training our baby boys to go be just like that!

No boy, no human is born wanting to humiliate anyone. Sexism is not men's "nature".

How do we, as feminist women, perpetuate sexism in our own environment?

We do! So let's start looking at how we do.

And it is insidious and it is vicious and it is saturated in our society and even within the feminist culture itself.

Our beliefs about men have been twisted to where we actually lay this shit on our little boys.

Here's a small and incomplete example but one which infuriates me with the simplicity of the oppression of baby boys and how it sets them up to turn around and act it out later.

I was coaching a teenage gal a few years ago who chose to have this baby. It was a boy. At the hospital within minutes of being born, a (female) nurse jokingly said to him (one of the first things he heard after being born) "You're a little troublemaker."

I was absolutely furious! I didn't want a fist fight to be in his first few moments on top of that so I lightly said, "No he's not!" and smiled at him.


This is huge and look around it goes on and on. Boys don't cry. Boys can't be mama's boys. Boys need to dress like boys. Boys can't be lovey with other boys. Boys need to be good soldiers. Boys this boys that. WTF. Come on.

We get to be tender with our boys. We get to be delighted when they need to cry and hold them as much as possible for-effing-ever! There is no age when it becomes "unmanly" to be close to us as moms and allies. That's just for starters.

I'm still trying to sort out what I think our role as women is in supporting grown men in healing from their oppressor patterns. When we leave them there and designate them as assholes, we do the same thing that has been done to them since birth. It's tricky because we already have been saddled with the caretaker role, the "soothing" women who just perpetuate sexism from that end. That's not what I mean. We need to have gatherings where we listen to each other think and release the rage while discussing how we as women can interrupt sexism without abandoning men to further isolation and confusion.

For now, let's spend some quality time with our good baby boys out there--and inject a little reality-speak to the moms around us who are bringing up baby boys. They are good. They are NOT little soldiers.

Sea Ganschow is a Parenting by Connection facilitator and director of Listening For Change in Portland, Oregon, USA. Crossposted at Carnival of Feminists XVIII


Blogger Kate said...

Hooray! Another co-counselor in the blogosphere! I saw in your comments at blac(k)ademic that you do co-counseling. Nice to read another person thinking about eliminating racism, sexism and classism :).

Lovely post -- keep putting your perspective out there!

8:24 PM PDT  
Anonymous Jax said...

That's a fantastic post, and is something I've been wondering about for a while. I have a girl and a boy and it's already driving me up the wall hearing the things my parents and sisters say to him that is so different to how they talk to her. But I'm not quite sure how to compensate for everything around him.

3:52 PM PDT  
Anonymous Ampersand said...

Great post! (And nice to see another Portland poster!)

Have you read An Unconventional Family, by Sandra Bem? You might find it interesting. It's her first-person account of how she tried to raise her daughter and son in a nonsexist way, and includes chapters written by the daughter and son (now in their early 20s).

By the way, a cross-post isn't when you post something here and it's referred to in another post (such as the carnival of feminists post). It's when you post the same post on two different blogs. Not that it really matters in any way, of course, I just thought you might like to know.

12:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Sage said...

This is one of my pet peeves too. My neighbours with little kids often ask about my older daughter babysitting. I reply, "You really want my son - he's amazing with kids." They think that's just so cool and different. I tell them he's a typical boy raised in a non-sexist home.

But I'm also a crazy woman who let her son wear a dress to school!

6:14 AM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You wrote: "Yes, I know. We've been hurt by sexism. White men in particular."
I don't quite understand, what do you mean that white men in particular hurt you by sexism? I mean that sexism is actually much more rampant in third world countries and among the men of color, than white males, who have learned to respect womens rights in modern civilization, and are the most enlightened in general sense, if you look at the whole world population.

12:35 AM PDT  
Blogger Sea's Blog said...

First of all, sexism is sexism. By saying it's so much worse in third world countries you set up an acceptance of sexism right here in the US. Young girls and women easily go along with turning over our power, our minds and our agendas because "Oh our men are so much better ..." It might look different there but it's the same stuff. Underneath it all it's every bit as demeaning and mis-informed and hurtful. Plus then you've got the "Oh I should be fine because everything is so much better here. I mean I'm not getting a clitorectomy or anything, geez!"

That's like saying the racism in the south is worse than racism in the west (US) No. It's racism . It's the same stuff. It looks different there but it's killing the same amount of people. "Killing me softly." You've heard the song.

I didn't say men of color don't have sexist patterns and it can combine with internalized racism for some especially hurtful pattenrns towards women. It's just the combination of being white and male that brings its own double-whammy on women.

Need I say more?

10:26 AM PDT  
Blogger Lost pic said...

This is so refreshing. After spending the last hour or so looking for clothes for my newborn (sex still undetermined) I felt wretched. WHY is it so inappropriate for boys to wear pink? Why must they always concentrate on fire trucks and trains? And why can't girls be interested in that stuff?

Thank you for speaking out on such an important matter.

5:36 PM PDT  
Blogger NIN said...

I found this post while doing a Google search for the key words :

end sexism no more baby boys

it occured to me that if we simply aborted our sons in utro - not only can we afford to use technology to start a pregnancy, we can also determin sex before it is too late to abort . . .

world domination in one generation

they forget we have the power to give life, and the right to take it away
and ladies would finally get thier piece of the pie

11:29 PM PST  

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