The beginnings of men

Ann Friedman at the The American Prospect is not buying the arguments of Hanna Rosin and others that US men are in crisis-mode because of their inability to deal with changing US culture:

“It’s disappointing that, despite a history of sharp observations about gender and 5,000 words to work with, Rosin makes the same oversight as all of the other hand-wringing articles about the state of the American male. She thinks the problem is men; really, it’s traditional gender stereotypes. The narrow, toxic definition of masculinity perpetuated by Rosin and others — that men are brawn not brains, doers not feelers, earners not nurturers — is actually to blame for the crisis.”

I think we feminist moms of goodwill need to start looking at the ways we participate in compacting our sons into the “tiny little box of possibilities for boys” even as we’re diligently teaching them to express their emotions, to use their words, and to be caring and compassionate. When I talk to moms about buying clothes for their preschool sons, I often hear things like, “I wish he could just wear leggings — they’re so comfortable and easy, and would actually stay on — but of course boys can’t wear those.” Or “I just don’t want him to be teased,” or “It’s not worth arguing with my partner about it.”

Even parents who are thoughtful and critical about the messages encoded in their children’s dress struggle with this one (see the comments on this post for examples) . . . and with good reason. There is a very real sense of danger to violating those social norms. On the other hand, the vast majority of kids younger than 5 are oblivious to such violations (it’s their parents’ reactions you’ll have to plan for), so why not push a little?

BTW, I know that many of you out there are pushing, whether making your own clothes, altering existing clothes, dressing kids in a mix of gender codes, etc. And I’d love to hear from you!

And PS, if you can’t tell, Blue Milk is one of my favorite blogs: check it out.

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