Sunday, September 7, 2008

Gender Identity in Children

Kat at A mom's struggle with identity posted this "rant" a couple of weeks ago -- I have been meaning to mention it here, but moving got in the way. I think she has some valid concerns that pertain to how we define masculinity.

Gender Issues ~ Boys with painted nails

This is somewhat of a rant, so if you don't want to hear a rant you can close this down now :) I just have been debating this class in my mind, and with a few other students, and I felt the need to get it down and put it out there. This seemed like a good place to do that.

I just took my last class to get my bachelors degree. It was called "gender:anger and empowerment". My degree was in sociology but my emphasis was in gender studies, so I assumed that this class would be similar to the others. Primarily the basis that gender is socially constructed, and that there aren't innate differences between males and females. I assumed that the teacher would be similar to my other teachers, very open, empowering and supportive of all genders/people/lifestyles etc.

Boy was I wrong. The whole class centered around "women do this _____" and "men do this ______". I was a bit surprised but I chose to not openly debate her, because I do think its good to remember how the bulk of americans think, and to remember the concepts that are so woven into the tapestry of our culture, that we no longer critically think about them.

At one point, though, the conversation shifted. She began to talk about single parents, and how hard of a job that it is. Now, personally I love being a single mother, and I think I have much more flexibility and freedom then most of my friends have, because I am able to choose to parent my children however I wish, to take them away for vacation or stay up late at night or whatever. . . . Its really up to me. Anyway. . . she then began talking about how women could NOT raise a son into adulthood, it simply doesn't work. Ever.

Excuse me?
Go read the rest.

I believe that young children need a male figure in their lives, especially boys. But a single parent is much better than a lame and/or negative male presence. And there is no reason a lesbian mother cannot raise a healthy child, as long the boy does get some healthy male socialization.

The male examples in the post are not healthy -- they were patriarchal rather than masculine. We need to move beyond this as men, while recognizing that boys who do not fit the "traditional" male model will face challenges among their peers. We need to prepare for them that, not stifle their emerging sense of self.

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