Saturday, June 28, 2008

I Sing Like A Girl

Regular readers know that I am the mother of two darling boys, who I have nicknamed Mayhem and Destruction (nicknames more apt than you know) At any rate, Destruction my 7 year old is incredibly arts centered. He paints, draws, sings, dances, and has recently taken up photography. He is fluent in French and English, and is never shy at expressing himself in either language. So I am thinking to myself I have this wonderfully gifted, fun loving kid, I must be doing something right.  Over this past winter I have really begun to pay attention to his singing, and noticed that he actually has a good singing voice. Those are his fathers genes by the way, Simon Cowell would not give me even two seconds to audition. 

Every morning Destruction can be heard singing I'm a Barbie Girl in the shower at the top of his little lungs with a Broadway flair that is unbelievable. This kid loves to sing, and can even be heard downstairs singing on the throne as he has his morning constitutional. So supportive mother that I am, I get the brilliant idea to sign him up for voice lessons.  I thought, he loves to sing so much and he actually has a talent, why not support him in what he loves.  His father and I discussed the idea and we both agree, great now I am excited.  Dinner comes along and I announce to little Destruction my big plan for him, and he looks at me and almost cries.  He doesn't want to go to singing lessons it seems, because the kids at school tease him for singing like a girl, and can he do karate instead. 

As a feminist mom I have over, and over again, stressed the idea that boys and girls are the same. I have corrected him every time he has used the feminine in a pejorative sense. His father (also a devoted feminist) has encouraged gender neutrality, and we have done our best to not model typical gender roles in our home. So I sat there quite baffled when he was upset, because someone told him he sang like a girl. We are not going to force him to do something that he does not want to do, but it occurred to me that this is a perfect example of the ways in which sexism hurts boys too.  If he could completely understand that the feminine is not a pejorative, or a threat to his masculinity, the taunt you sing like a girl would hold no power to hurt him.

In our modernist binary view of gender we have assigned each a role. These roles are limiting too us as individuals, and in the case of little destruction, stopping him from pursuing something that he loves.  We often stop and think about the impact that gender has on women because it manifests itself in ways that are violent, or that lead to poverty.  When it comes to males few feminists will devote a large deal of time discussing the ways in which it encourages boys to shield their emotions, or present a sense of bravado when what they actually feel is fear.  Sexism is an insidious beast and it acts upon us in many ways. What this experience has taught me, is that no matter how good my intentions are, we are all a product of the social world, and we cannot escape the messages that have become ingrained in our society. I will continue to do my part and challenge sexism when I see it, but I fear until it becomes part of our social discourse to eradicate sexism, my efforts will be as invisible as a single grain of sand upon beach.

12 comments:

Ebony Intuition said...

Very good example..of sexism at a young age that your son faced at school.

Danny said...

When it comes to males few feminists will devote a large deal of time discussing the ways in which it encourages boys to shield their emotions, or present a sense of bravado when what they actually feel is fear.

That would be because feminists only mention that sexism hurts boys as a sidenote when they talk about how it hurts girls more. More than likely if this had been a mainstream feminists telling the story you just told instead of focusing on the son and his hurt feelings they would have talked about how it is offensive to girls to that singing is considered girly.

Renee said...

That would be because feminists only mention that sexism hurts boys as a sidenote when they talk about how it hurts girls more.

You need to be careful when you lump people into a group. Remember that there are many different kinds of feminism.

professor what if said...

Renee,
Thanks for a great post. I too have a son and struggle as a feminist mom when all the feminism he learns at home is countered out there in the big bad racist, sexist, classist world.
Please don't feel that because your son internalizes some 'anti-girl' messages that your "efforts will be as invisible as a single grain of sand upon beach." Far from it! Raising feminist, socially conscious kids is HUGE and so important. So, don't let the little stuff get you down -- your are doing LOTS right in my opinion and your son is so damn lucky to have feminist parents.

Danny said...

You need to be careful when you lump people into a group. Remember that there are many different kinds of feminism.

And that is why I said mainstream feminists. Yes I should have gone back and changed that first mention but if you look at the entire comment you see I'm not trying to say all feminists do that.

And after that "revealing look into the black male psyche" comment you made I'd would practice what I preach if I were you.

Renee said...

And after that "revealing look into the black male psyche" comment you made I'd would practice what I preach if I were you.

Actually I am not preaching anything it is you that is making an assumption. As for the revealing look at the black male psyche comment, Since womanist musings has started I have continually presented examples of the black male patriarchy so that "comment" was only reinforcing many examples that have already been offered.

Danny said...

Since womanist musings has started I have continually presented examples of the black male patriarchy so that "comment" was only reinforcing many examples that have already been offered.

You're right on the assumption I made about feminists. Yet you have no problem making blanket assumptions about black men...

Renee said...

It is hardly an assumption to use the term black male patriarchy when every western person exists with a form of privilege.

Danny said...

It is hardly an assumption to use the term black male patriarchy when every western person exists with a form of privilege.

The assumption you make is that every black male is exercising his black male privilege. That "revealing look" you mentioned does not appply to all black men.

cyn said...

I agree with that person from feministe who said he should take singing AND karate. The karate would help him against those who attack him for singing like a kid his age.

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