The BoogieMeister is not a feminist. In many, many things, he’s not even a feminist sympathiser – he gets the basic principles of feminism, but the problems addressed by radical feminism are like UFOs for him. They don’t exist and even if they did who’d want to be one of the nutjobs who believed they did? This, needless to say, has caused some problems within our relationship.
However, we had a daughter, a daughter the BoogieMeister adores and wants everything for. The thought of somebody doing her down in any way infuriates him. So, feminist or not, he is keen to raise her to believe that she can be anything, do anything, think anything her little heart desires. As a result, my commitment to feminist parenting has had his full, if occasionally misguided, occasionally useless, support.
Foolishly, I thought no more about it. Or at least no more than I had to. Until this. Following something very innocuous I said about L’il Boo which didn’t, as far as I can recall, even mention his length of hair, the BoogieMeister rose up and said, ‘No! He’s not having long, girly hair; I draw the line at that!’
Presumably the line he’s referring to is his ‘indulgence’ of my ‘feminism’. Seems (and how could I not have guessed this?? Idiot!) that whilst trying to raise a girl to reject gender stereotypes is acceptable, nay, even desirable, all bets are off when it comes to raising a manchild. Because whilst raising a girl to ‘be herself’ may mean she takes on some traditional ‘masculine’ traits, that’s OK – because, hey, tomboys are cute! – doing the same for a boy may – gadzooks! – lead him to take on some tradionally ‘feminine’ traits and, as we all know, that’s akin to feeding him to wolves. Because ‘feminine’ stuff is for girls and girls suck, right?
I fear that, indeed, there may be trouble ahead.
It would be wrong of me, though, to not accept that, whilst I don’t sympathise with the BoogieMeister’s concerns, I do understand them. Having now been forced to think about it, I realise that even for me, it will be more difficult to ‘walk the walk’ with L’il Boo than with Boogie. It’s to do with that whole dilemna of trying to raise your kids to be themselves whilst at the same time trying to teach them how to live in the world and all the sexism, racism, and other -isms that it’s chock-full of. If I do it right with Boogie, she will develop into a strong, forceful woman who takes shit from noone and believes whole-heartedly in her own self-worth. Sure, she’ll get shit for it, for being too ‘pushy’, for being a ‘bitch’, for not being ‘feminine’ enough in any number of ways but she will nonetheless be understood by the ruling members of the patriarchy as desiring to enter ‘the elite’, for desiring to be ‘like a man’. That’ll be shit, of course, but they’ll think they at least understand her motivation. Poor L’il Boo on the other hand risks being denigrated by all for opting out of the elite – something which nobody in this power-hungry world will understand or sympathise with. To put it another way: I have never been approached by strangers berating me for dressing Boogie in ‘boy’ clothes; when L’il Boo is dressed in his sister’s cast-offs (nothing too obviously ‘girly’ you understand, given that I never bought that sort of stuff for Boogie anyway), I’m often castigated by people when they discover that he is, in fact, a boy. The underlying outrage (if these people could actually put together a coherent thought) is actually ‘How can you want to take away his privilege?’
And the answer is that I do: I do want to take away his privilege. Privilege always comes at somebody else’s expense and his comes at the expense of my daughter. So the question really becomes: How can I not want to take away his privilege?