Are feminists raising their sons to be misogynists?
- Published: 12 June 2010
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Only when men participate equally in the care of young children will sexism be modified. Otherwise, men tend to see all women as the all-powerful mother of infancy, writes Mary Koch.
When I was preparing for my First Communion at age seven, I noticed that the boys went up to the altar first. I asked Sister Paula Anne why. "Because they can be priests; they are closer to God," she replied complacently.
From that day in 1952, I have been a feminist. Betty Friedan's The Feminist Mystique was published when I was a freshman in college. I agreed with most of Friedan's arguments; I did not need to have my consciousness raised.
My mother was the oldest of five children and the only girl; her four youngest brothers are closer to me in age than to her. I am the oldest of five children and the only girl. I have four daughters, three granddaughters, and one grandson.
Sister Paula Anne was a misogynist. But I too struggle greatly with my own misogyny. I was much more comfortable being the only woman in my political science classes at Fordham (1964 to 1967) than attending all-women Catholic Nazareth College of Rochester in my freshman year (1963).
I convinced my parents to let me transfer after the dean told me Nazareth didn't have a debate club, "because the nature of women makes it inappropriate to debate with men."
At Nazareth, I felt like a stranger in a strange land. My friends and I stayed up all night having a heated political debate; many of the girls on the floor were furious at us for gossiping about them all night. I loved being told, "you think like a man."
I credit my younger brothers and four young uncles for my comfort with men. I am far more confident that men will like me than women will.
I don't do tact. If I see a group of five men at a party, I know they need me. I don't do shoes, don't want to talk about fashion, diet, and makeup. I am not fighting gray hair or wrinkles, probably because my husband (who is 16 years younger than me) and I have a wonderful sex life. I haven't yet found out if I could be close friends with a woman who had been botoxed. Women's fashion magazines appall me.
Misandry and misogyny
Misandry – hatred and disdain for men in general – is probably the most underused word in political debate.
What reception would a man get if he accused women of being misandrists? I have always loathed knee-jerk male-bashing and defended men against stereotyping. So many TV programs portray men as bumbling idiots and clueless dads.
Misogyny and misandry are equally sexist. Women can be just as guilty of sexism as men. When people complained during the election that Obama isn't tough enough, or nasty enough, they were being sexist.
The glorification of the macho man is sexist. The idea that little boys can't cry or wear pink or play with dolls is sexist. The denial that fathers are just as loving, nurturing parents as women is sexist.
Depriving devoted dads of joint custody and visitation rights is sexist. Questioning the masculinity of a man who stays home and cares for his children is sexist. Expectations that daughters are better qualified to care for ageing parents are sexist.
Spending two years with my grandson Michael, I have recaptured many memories of my youngest brothers, 11 and 13 years younger, as little boys. I remember their tenderness, sensitivity, gentleness.
Yet, five years ago, even when we were all keeping watch at my mother's deathbed at home for a week, only one of my brothers cried openly. His brothers in another room assumed it was me.
I could count on two hands the number of times I have seen my dad, my adult brothers, or my two husbands cry. Yet, until tears are shamed out of them, little boys cry as much as little girls.
Sexism underpins our whole glorification of war and violence. It cannot possibly be defeated in one generation. All of human history is not changed quite so quickly.
Taking care of Michael, I am conscious that little boys possibly suffer more from sexism than little girls. When a girl shows interest in traditionally masculine activities, it is often seen as upward mobility. When a boy shows interest in girlie things, people start wondering if he is gay. Older men in the elevator were grumbling about his hair length before he was 18 months old.
Even I hesitated to buy Michael this pink doll stroller, even though it was the only one I could find. His dad's feminism overcame his guy knee-jerk reaction. About 12 kids, mostly boys, borrowed it in the playground the first day.
All of us are crippled by sexist attitudes. Preschools and elementary schools are a better match for most girls. Boys too often wind up on medication so they can conform to classroom rules and expectations.
The idea that boys can't be babysitters or men can't be daycare, kindergarten, and grade school teachers is disgustingly sexist. Home health agencies find it unimaginable that a client might want a guy to care for their ageing mother.
The idea that every man is a potential rapist or sexual predator is hideously sexist.
Admittedly Michael will probably be a much better babysitter than my brother, 18 months younger, who led his charges out on the roof the only time my parents trusted him to babysit.
My brother is a grade school teacher in Maine. Male teachers of young children feel like everyone regards them as potential child molesters.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, men comprise:
- 5.4 % of Child Care Workers
- 8.5 % of Teacher Assistants
- 2.7 % of Preschool and Kindergarten Teachers
What are we teaching our children about sex roles? Have you used male babysitters? When did your child first have a male teacher? Has your child ever asked you why there are no male teachers in his day care center or grade school? Would your brother or son consider a career in early childhood education?
I believe that only when men participate equally in the care of young children will sexism be modified. Otherwise, men tend to see all women as the all-powerful mother of infancy.
In the 70s we dreamed of a society where men and women would share equally in childrearing, not of a society where poorer women would take care of more affluent parent's children.
The second feminist movement began in the late 60s. Why are men in their teens and 20s misogynists? Are feminists raising their sons to be misogynists?
Non-sexist childrearing was an obsession with me and my friends in the 70s. Now I can't find any books about it; my favorite books are all out of print. If I step into Buy, Buy Baby, I chance drowning in a sea of pink and blue.
Mary Koch is the matriarch of a huge extended family. She has been an editor, a childbirth educator, a breastfeeding counselor, a public librarian, an internet tutor, and a social worker. A lifelong feminist, she has nonetheless chosen family over career. She is committed to a revolution for a child-friendly, family-friendly America at peace, where we have time to love, work, care for our kids, our sick, our elders, play and create. She is a lifetime member of the War Resister's League and blogs as Red Stocking Grandma here.