I don’t claim to be the perfect mother, or the perfect feminist. If I had the opportunity to become absolutely perfect in one aspect of my life, I would choose this. It’s the number one thing that I desperately don’t want to fail at, but its a daily struggle.
My kid has been living with his dad for 4 years, where I had him every other weekend. It’s just been changed to every other week, which I am really happy about, though mostly terrified, and after the first week I’ve already noticed a few things.
He said to me that when he grows up, he wants to be like me, but stronger, like a real man. He refers to his lunch-box as “the boy one” – its blue and has something from Cars on it. He didn’t want to read this book, because it was “gay”.
He also shoved his best friend off a chair, because she said that the best cartoon ever made, was My Little Pony. Now, this one I’m not very worried about, of course he shouldn’t shove people off their chairs, but somehow this is one of those weird kid things, that they both think is the funniest thing in the world.
My ex-husband is not a bad man. He is, in fact, one of the best people I’ve ever known, and I hold him in very high regard. He is not a feminist, though. He doesn’t really understand that there are things in this world that are completely unfair, and even dangerous, to the people who are not male, and I know that he didn’t think to explain to my son that it’s not only men that are strong. And that the definition of a “real man” is either highly toxic or impossible to define. Sometimes both. He didn’t explain that girls like Cars and blue too, so calling it a boy-lunchbox is just plain incorrect. He didn’t explain how damaging it can be to use gay as a negative description, as an insult, to those people who are gay.
He probably told him that you shouldn’t shove or hit girls, in regards to the direct punishment that the youngling gave out, since My Little Pony is, obviously, not the best cartoon ever. That’s a half-way progress, now he just has to learn to say people instead.
When the Spawn said that he wanted to be strong, like a real man, I showed him pictures of females and non-binary people, who were very strong. Way stronger than me, way stronger than his dad, way stronger than most people. When I showed him a picture of a woman lifting a car, he thought it was the coolest thing ever! He was also a bit scared of her, I get that, I am too.
I reminded him that I like Star Wars, Batman, even Cars to some extent, I also had a thing for football for a while. My goddamn hair is blue, and I’m really not a boy. I tried to explain that all the things he thinks are boy things, can’t be just for boys. It’s just things, everyone can like them, and I told him of women being in the army, driving race-cars, shooting guns, and fighting with swords.
(Apparently I didn’t count in that one, because I only larped and thus used fake swords. I didn’t tell him how much those motherfuckers can hurt and that there is little-to-no gender on a battlefield.)
I tried to have the gender and sexuality talk with him. That being gay is in no way a bad thing, because it’s all about two people liking each other, and that’s a good thing. It’s warm and nice, and make people happy. Being born a certain way should never be an insult. It can make those people really sad, scared, and feel terrible about themselves.
I got through to him, as much as you can expect to get through to an 8-year-old with the attention span of, well, an 8-year-old. I taught him a little bit about something very important, but today he’s in school. In school they don’t teach him these things, in school they teach him the opposite. Because that’s the way things are in the playground and in the classes, and until all the other parents tries to teach their kids the same thing, I’m slightly screwed. When he’s at his dads place, he’s not taught these things. Not because of any ill-will, but because they simply don’t see it as an issue, and the struggle of teaching him this, gets drowned out in the horror that is everyday life with soon-to-be 4 kids.
It’s such a struggle and sometimes I just want to give up. I’m fighting against all other aspects of his life, and that’s a lot harder than you think. Teaching your kid to be different, that’s an uphill battle that I sometimes don’t feel like I’m strong enough to handle. I’m so scared that I’m making him an easy target for bullying, that I’m setting him up for a lot of hardships. I feel completely alone in it, and that only makes it worse.
But I’m not going to stop. I will raise my son to be respectful, instead of silently raising others to be scared of him. Even if it kills me, I will do it, because that’s what’s needed.