Monday, April 19, 2010

It's a boy!

A few months ago when we saw the little penis (or were told there was a little penis) on the ultrasound monitor, I exhaled with relief. It may impolitic to admit that I was afraid of having a daughter; it is true.  I am a feminist and a lover of all things female (except many of the superficial society-imposed things like body hair waxing, baby showers, and Twilight fan-dom), but I did not want to be in charge of raising a female in this world.  First of all, I'm not what people call a girly-girl,but I do have a few girly tendencies like retreating to the bathroom for a good cry and loving Madonna.  I was a tomboy's tomboy and still am in some ways, although now I happily wear a dress and like a nice pair of shoes as much as the next girl.

I was afraid of all the things mothers and daughters have to discuss and fight about and bond over.  I didn't want to have to describe the double-standard that still exists in this world, and would possibly exist in my house, despite my own best intentions.  I didn't want to be the model for anyone else, barely understanding what it means to be a woman myself.  I didn't want to worry about mean girls or  mean boys telling my daughter she was ugly or fat or not good enough.  Somehow I don't worry about this for my boys.  (double-standard, I know).  I didn't want to worry about her getting pregnant before her time, or sexually assaulted or any of those gender-power sexual situations that just feel uncomfortable (at best) or downright threatening and violating (at worst).  I just didn't want to deal with all that stuff.  Not with body image or pink princess crap or all the 'lady-like' stuff I sometimes forget to do myself.  I don't want to be a model for what it means to be a woman, a partner, a mother, a daughter, a girl friend.  (Although I fully realize that I will model those things for my sons and may someday hate the younger version of me they bring home.)

With boys I get to worry about them being a bully or bullying, driving too fast or stupidly, finding innumerable ways to risk their lives and the lives of others, being picked on for being 'gay' or not tough enough, being the jerky guy who breaks the girls' hearts or get the idea.  You have worries with boys but somehow they seem more manageable to me as a mother.

And so why do I bring this up now?  Well, I read a great essay by Peggy Orenstein in the New York Times Magazine about her fears of raising a daughter who would inherit all of her food and body image issues.  And I thought, I am so glad I don't have to deal with all of that.

People always say that boys are easier to raise than girls.  But I wonder, are they really easier or do we just let them get away with more, worry a little less about them, encourage more independence from them, and expect different behaviors from our sons and daughters?  I think its a real mess of cultural norms, gender roles, real preferences and fear of sexuality in general, but with extra fear and loathing for female sexuality. I can't puzzle it out.  I just know that I bought into that cultural cliche enough to be relieved at the sign of a tiny little phallus.


  1. Thanks for sharing this! I am also having a boy and can relate to many of the things you've said in this post. Sometimes I do wonder whether it will be an even bigger challenge trying to raise a feminist boy...

  2. I'm sorry I'm stumbling and commenting to late!

    With my first child, we choose to be surprised. I was so thrilled when I heard the words, "It's a...girl!"

    But you know what? I would have been just as thrilled and excited if I heard "it's a boy!" I'm currently 4 months pregnant, and will be excited and delighted by the challenges and delights parenting a child of whatever sex it may be.

    To say "raising a child of this sex" is easier or harder is to overlook so much about children as individuals. Society is quick to attribute any discontent I feel as "being bitchy", simply due to my femaleness. I see this "boys are easier to raise" as the birth of the "women are hysterical/uncontrollable/without reason" thought.

    No child is "easy" to raise. They are pleasures, delights, sources of worry, loss of sleep, stress, and so much love.

    Wonderful, thought-provoking post!

  3. I'm sorry I'm even later to comment..

    Funny that I've had the opposite reaction. I have 2 amazing, splendid girls and just found out the third is a boy.

    My reaction shocked me. I feel horrified at the possibility of raising another man in an already overpowering male world! I've been struggling to find a man to even hope that my child could use as a role model - my father, no..., my brother, uncle, neighbour, friends, even my dear husband, NO! They all benefit from an imbalanced social system, either knowingly or not.

    I'm terrified of raising another destructive, selfish, privileged man, and I wonder if I have the energy to fight for his release from this system and possibly from his pre-disposition given my family history. I think of having a little boy destroying my house, home and sanity and memories come back of my fathers rage or my brothers machismo. I know I'll deal with it and perhaps this boy will be different, somehow I fear the worst and believe it's almost impossible.. Something which I didn't do with my daughters because there are so many powerful, amazing woman in their lives and because I've lived and understand their struggle.

    1. Mothering sons is frought with challenges, adn I don't think we give it enough thought/introspection. Feminsit mothers of sons have hard work ahead of us, if we are going to raise thoughtful, caring feminists. We have to check our own baggage and traumas and parent the child we have in the their own context. That's near impossible without bringing in our own stuff.

  4. Sounds like you shouldn't have kids...Girl or boy.. It's in the raising... Now your the mom that has to teach your son not to rape and beat the crap out of women...

    1. I hope to teach my sons more than just not to 'rape and beat the crap out of women'. I am raising them to be kind and compassionate to everyone. We model respect for boundaries, love and enjoyment of our bodies, and the idea that all people are equal. We are raising feminists who just happen to have penises. Or at least that's the aim.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts.