Regular readers know that I am the mother of two darling boys, who I have nicknamed Mayhem and Destruction (nicknames more apt than you know) At any rate, Destruction my 7 year old is incredibly arts centered. He paints, draws, sings, dances, and has recently taken up photography. He is fluent in French and English, and is never shy at expressing himself in either language. So I am thinking to myself I have this wonderfully gifted, fun loving kid, I must be doing something right. Over this past winter I have really begun to pay attention to his singing, and noticed that he actually has a good singing voice. Those are his fathers genes by the way, Simon Cowell would not give me even two seconds to audition.
Every morning Destruction can be heard singing I’m a Barbie Girl in the shower at the top of his little lungs with a Broadway flair that is unbelievable. This kid loves to sing, and can even be heard downstairs singing on the throne as he has his morning constitutional. So supportive mother that I am, I get the brilliant idea to sign him up for voice lessons. I thought, he loves to sing so much and he actually has a talent, why not support him in what he loves. His father and I discussed the idea and we both agree, great now I am excited. Dinner comes along and I announce to little Destruction my big plan for him, and he looks at me and almost cries. He doesn’t want to go to singing lessons it seems, because the kids at school tease him for singing like a girl, and can he do karate instead.
As a feminist mom I have over, and over again, stressed the idea that boys and girls are the same. I have corrected him every time he has used the feminine in a pejorative sense. His father (also a devoted feminist) has encouraged gender neutrality, and we have done our best to not model typical gender roles in our home. So I sat there quite baffled when he was upset, because someone told him he sang like a girl. We are not going to force him to do something that he does not want to do, but it occurred to me that this is a perfect example of the ways in which sexism hurts boys too. If he could completely understand that the feminine is not a pejorative, or a threat to his masculinity, the taunt you sing like a girl would hold no power to hurt him.
In our modernist binary view of gender we have assigned each a role. These roles are limiting too us as individuals, and in the case of little destruction, stopping him from pursuing something that he loves. We often stop and think about the impact that gender has on women because it manifests itself in ways that are violent, or that lead to poverty. When it comes to males few feminists will devote a large deal of time discussing the ways in which it encourages boys to shield their emotions, or present a sense of bravado when what they actually feel is fear. Sexism is an insidious beast and it acts upon us in many ways. What this experience has taught me, is that no matter how good my intentions are, we are all a product of the social world, and we cannot escape the messages that have become ingrained in our society. I will continue to do my part and challenge sexism when I see it, but I fear until it becomes part of our social discourse to eradicate sexism, my efforts will be as invisible as a single grain of sand upon beach.