To Our Village: Please Don’t Gender Our Children

I dread the day when my little boy realizes he isn't supposed to play with Minnie and will be mocked for his exuberant cries that "Minnie have a bow!"

This post is the email I sent friends and family asking them to assist Seth and I in creating a gender-flexible, non-hetero-normative environment for our twins. 

It truly does take a village to raise a child.  All of you are part of ours, and we are grateful beyond words to have each and every one of you.

I have been thinking about this email since before my children were born, and the time has come for me to sit down and write it.  When I thought about what I most wanted to communicate here I think what it boils down to is that we need your help.  Beyond Seth and I, you form the closest circle around O and J – a circle that has the power to build the kind of world in which they grow up.  We can’t necessarily change the realities of the outside world, but we can create a buffer, an alternative, a safe place to fall, a refuge, a place where they can be who they truly are.  It is with that in mind that I ask you to open your hearts and minds and consider how you can wield the great power you have in J and O’s lives in order to help us create that safe space.

When I went into my kids’ room this morning, my sweet J was standing up in his crib, exuberant, clutching his stuffed Minnie Mouse as he does every morning.  He shouted gleefully, “Hello Minnie!  I kiss Minnie!  Minnie have a bow!”

“Hello Minnie!”  I responded.

Across the room, my precious O was clutching the matching Mickey with a sly smile on her face.  She did a little shoulder shimmie when she saw me.  The night before as we headed up to bed, she had said softly, “Minnie?” making sure her companion would be in her crib with her.

No, my son doesn’t prefer Minnie to Mickey.  The fact is, my kids don’t know the difference between Minnie and Mickey.  They call them both Minnie.  Either doll will suffice at night when they can’t go to sleep without “Minnie.”  Why?  My kids don’t know what gender is.  Yes, they are too young, but also, we haven’t taught them.

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I DO Want to “Have it All,” Starting with What Women in 178 Other Countries Have

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Iceland, Germany, Japan, Malta, New Zealand, Latvia, Belarus, Moldova, Romania, Czhech Republic, Macedonia, Bosnia, Croatia, Ecuador, and a total of 178 countries have federally mandated paid maternity leave.  Fifty of these countries offer leave to fathers.  (Yes, they all should!).  The United States has no federally mandated paid parental leave.  ZERO.  See here for specific parental leave policies.

I have read so many reactions this week to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic article Why Women Still Can’t Have it All (which discussed societal barriers to women achieving the work-life balance the feminist movement has been striving for).  So many of these responses have disregarded and negated an important feminist policy agenda by blaming women and feminists for the inability to “have-it-all,” and drumming up in-fighting among groups who should be banding together to advocate for the policies Slaughter calls for.  They have crticized the idea of wanting to “have it all” as a privileged, selfish pursuit, bemoaned women expecting too much and having too high expectations, and discussed the fact that men, too, struggle to “have it all.”  They painted an overall picture of neurotic, perfectionistic modern mothers driving themselves crazy and needing to take it down a notch.

Ok, maybe no one “has it all,” as this Jezebel article argues, but women in Malta have 14 weeks of 100% paid maternity leave. Women in Sweden enjoy 16 months of 100% paid parental leave which they can use or share with the child’s father until age 8.  In France, every child has access to free daycare, early childhood education, and healthcare.  Clearly the women in these countries need to stop buying into some fantastical feminist line about a work-life balance no human being can attain!

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“10 Things a Guy Should Do on a First Date” and Other Stupidness

This is my response to this post entitled 10 Things Guys Should do on a 1st Date that my brother brought to my attention.  I want to publicly say that this post and the millions of posts like it on the internet, written by both men and women, are stupid.

By “stupid,” in this case I mean stereotypical, sexist, heterosexist, cis-gender biased, minimizing of individual differences among those of the “same gender,” diversity squelching, and generally ignorant.  Let’s forget for a minute those folks who don’t even neatly fit into a male/female category, for whom the rules of how to act on a date based on gender are probably most dramatically absurd.

Let’s just think about the number of men and women there are from all different races, classes, ethnic backgrounds, educational levels, with differing political persuasions, from different professions, some who grew up on farms or suburbs, others in cities, some who were born on other continents or studied overseas, who belong to as many religions as you can imagine.  REALLY?  You are going to make a list of rules of how people should act on dates with one of the 150 million females (and that’s just the U.S.) as if there is ANY one thing these women would have in common.

Admittedly, lists like this for women are equally absurd, but I think there are less of those these days as people are somewhat aware of the political incorrectness.  As my brother points out, it’s still okay to make absurd generalizations about women to “help” men, but not as okay to tell women how to please men.  So for all the straight men who have argued to me that there are now “rules” men have to follow that women don’t “because of feminism,” I am here to tell you that if these are the rules you are referring to, they are stupid.

Let’s start here.

Take Charge. We do not want to decide where to go. We will never tell you this, but it is true. Ask us what kind of place and/or food we like; then, pick a place like that. Do not leave it up to us to choose. You are the man. Act like one.

Brilliance!!  Guys, if you want to date someone who’s been in some kind of coma and missed second wave feminism, go ahead and take this advice.  Who wants to date someone who would state they don’t want to have to make decisions?  If “acting like a man” means telling women what to do because it takes too much exertion for us to figure out what we want, that is offensive to everyone.  Seriously??

Mind Your Body Language. If your legs are crossed and your hand is over your mouth, we will unconsciously think you are hiding something. If you are sprawled out all over with your legs spread wide and your hands behind your head, we will think you are a slob or generally loose. Sit up straight, lean in closer, and keep your hands where we can see them.

This makes men sounds like monkeys in a cage under observation by some very suspicious observer.  I don’t know about other women, but I would never be observant enough to notice and or take the time to read that much into a man’s gestures.  “Keep your hands where we can see them?”  Really?  Because all men are predatory and not to be trusted to even move their hands out of sight?  I don’t think so.

No Pawing Allowed. If you’re going to score with us at some point, we will let you know. Trust. Occasional physical contact is OK — a hand to the small of the back, a touch of the thigh, a brief holding of the arm while making a point. Do not grab anywhere in the red light zones. If we want your hands there, we will put them there.

Pawing?  Now the men have been demoted from monkeys to dogs.  Sensational!  I know some readers may be stunned by this, but some women like things to move quickly in the physical department… yes, I’m talking about S.E.X.  There are also men who want to wait… long… take it from me.  We all need to be aware of others’ boundaries.  I have had many female friends complain that a man is never making a move, and others complain that one is too forward.  If you want someone to know your boundaries you have to tell them.  This is true for persons of all genders.

Pay. Feminism, shmeminism. Take care of the bill without comment. That is what we want. Wave off any offer to go dutch. We lied. We don’t want to pay half.

UHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.  Ladies, are you as pained by this as I am??  WTF.  SERIOUSLY??  I would like to state for the record that while I am biologically female and also identify with a female gender identity, I do not consider myself part of any “we” that wants to put up a sham of wanting equality only to have a man refuse to treat me as an equal.  THAT is NOT sexy.  Women should pay half!  If you don’t agree, date women like the one who wrote this post.  If you do, date women who will pay half.  Please do not read shit like this and then go around whining about how women are only interested in money, dating is “so expensive.”  BUNK.

When I hear my single male and female heterosexual friends complaining that “all men… ” or “all women…” I want to say where are you looking, and how hard?  What would you be willing to compromise to meet someone who doesn’t expect you to follow a gendered script?  Would you be willing to accept someone who doesn’t follow other culturally prescribed scripts?  Someone who doesn’t have money?  Someone short (mostly for women)?  Someone of a different race or religion?  Someone who identifies as GLBTQIAPK?  Someone who doesn’t meet your friends and families expectations?  Someone divorced?  Someone who demands equality in other areas in addition to splitting the bill?

Most of the rest of these are not so bad, but I  can be put under the category of good advice for ANYONE:

Listen…  Ask Questions…

Everyone needs to ask questions and listen.  EVERYONE.  People who ask questions and listen are more successful in most aspects of life, including dating.  These social skills predict success better than IQ, education, etc.

We really do not care if you are secretly neurotic, deeply insecure, or mildly nuts. We are interested in how you portray yourself. Act confident, interested, engaged, self-assured, ambitious, and happy. We like that. Thanks.

We’ve all been on those dates where people reveal way too much too fast.  If you’re a shrink like me, you are probably married to that person.  Yes, there are those of us who are impressed by someone who will speak openly about his/her emotional life and past struggles.  Of course that depends on the way it is presented.  Everyone has a different level of tolerance for airing one’s baggage.  But in general, it’s probably best to be yourself, without talking like you would in my office.  That goes for men and women.

Bottom line… if you don’t like “the rules” don’t follow them, and demand partners who don’t either.  I often here from men and women that they get better results with internet dating when they present themselves in a very gendered way, or in ways that don’t suit them.  Remember high school?  I probably would have been more popular if I had done a lot of things that didn’t suit me too, but I didn’t do all those things.  Hell, I’d probably have more people reading my blog if it was called “Naked and Horny in the Suburbs” and included photos of me in in compromising positions.  Quantity is not everything.  You are better off with 10 dates with quality people you might actually like than 100 sheep who are blindly following cultural norms.  Quantity is for conformists.

If you don’t follow “the rules” that will make it more likely your peers and future generations will not have to either.  If you don’t like the expectations of the people you are dating, date other people.  Here’s a tip – TALK to people.  When the bill comes, start a conversation.  Even if it turns out you’re totally incompatible, that’s good information that could save you a lot of hassle. You get to have a genuine exchange instead of being fake and following some script that’s going to lead you nowhere anyway.  And who knows… somebody might just learn something.

 Copyright 2012,  All Rights Reserved.

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My Husband Does Do That Part 2 (Not My Mom Part 3)

In the early 1900s, pink was considered a color for boys.  Wikipedia quotes an article from a 1918 trade publication as saying; “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”

Imagine seeing a boy baby dressed in pink?  Imagine dressing your baby boy in pink?  How can these things feel so wrong down to the fiber of our souls and yet be so completely and utterly culturally constructed and random?  But they are.

Despite my belief that gender roles are largely socially constructed, I do not practice what I preach.  I don’t live my life as an androgynous being.  Anyone who saw me would know I was a woman.  Not a girly girl, but also not a woman who is trying to make a statement about gender.  Just your average woman.

I don’t wear make-up or much jewelry, don’t do nail polish, refuse to spend more than five minutes doing my hair.  That said, I enjoy looking nice, and let’s be honest, part of that is looking my gender.  Unless I can somehow magically extract my own mind from its cultural context, I’m never going to look in the mirror at the long dark hair on my legs and think –  I look so beautifully natural, time to go out for a night on the town. 

I try to strike a balance in which I can feel good about myself in the real world, but don’t allow myself to be convinced that I have to mutilate myself, go through painful procedures, put chemicals on my face, take drugs or pills, or buy expensive hair and skin products (again filled with chemicals) to feel like a woman.

I guess you could say that balance is also reflected in my choice of mate.  While Seth also looks like a man, his gender role is quite flexible.

Seth doesn’t have a macho bone in his body.  I know more about sports than he does, and that’s not saying much.

He doesn’t talk shit about women or make nasty jokes or brag about sexual conquests (no really, I’m certain).

He is 100% comfortable with homosexuality.

He is wonderfully domestic.  He is a better cook than I am, does more housework than I do, and he is every bit as competent with our infants as I.

I’ll never forget the first time my husband and I had my Dad and step-mom over for dinner.  Seth cooked so I could talk to my family.  My Dad was utterly perplexed.  He just sat there stupefied, unable to understand what was going on.

I had arrived… I was not my mom!

I often hear women complaining that their male partners don’t “help” enough with children, do housework, etc., but these same women don’t seem willing to be flexible in their own gender roles.  As long as we have the attitude that we can do it better, men probably won’t step up, because what man enjoys feeling incompetent?

We have to believe men can care for children and manage homes, just as we believe we can run companies and lead nations, rather than expect them to “help” while we maintain control over the domains of children and home.  How would we react to that kind of attitude toward our entering the public sphere?

If you want a truly egalitarian life, don’t accept a partner who doesn’t, and don’t be fooled by the belief that there are no men out there with flexible gender roles.  You don’t have to swear off gender all together, but be willing to practice flexibility yourself.  Be the kind of person you want to find.

Copyright 2011-2012  All Rights Reserved.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Lyla Cicero