Be your best feminazi mother from hell

Glosswitch in the Staggers on bullshit about how to raise boys:

I suspect many of my fellow feminists have no idea just how truly awful the literature aimed at mothers raising sons has been. Think “misogynistic and essentialist” – Piers Morgan, perhaps – then times that by 1,000.

Of course, it doesn’t mean to be that way. Such literature is, we are told in that sad, regretful tone adopted by neurosexists and evolutionary misogynists everywhere, merely presenting the facts. No one wants to believe boys are naturally aggressive, girls naturally submissive, but you can’t argue with bullshit science. Just don’t blame the messenger, OK?

In 1997’s Raising Boys – a bestseller, still in print today – godfather of raising boys bullshit Steve Biddulph complains that “for 30 years it has been trendy to deny masculinity and say boys and girls are just the same”. And yes, if I’m honest, that was totally my experience of being a child of the Seventies and Eighties, providing you exclude the “reality” bits…

In other words, like hell it was. It was when

it was legal for husbands to rape wives, in which the nagging and shagging defence could excuse a man for killing his partner, in which judges could claim rape victims were guilty of “contributory negligence”? On such a planet, do you seriously believe scores of people were particularly arsed about getting their sons to play with Barbie? (Spoiler: they weren’t.)

And the boy-raising manuals still haven’t improved.

One constant throughout the traditional raising boys literature is the idea that boys have an innate, manly aggression that must find an outlet somewhere. There’s disagreement on whether it comes from their Stone Age past or their testosterone-fuelled present, but who cares, it’s there and if you don’t let boys engage in enough low-level violence, they’re bound to get embroiled in the big league version. “If there is a natural urge in little boys to fight,” writes Palmer, “banning it is rather like trying to crush something deep in their soul.” Indeed, banning it makes you a mean feminazi who will have only herself to blame – and not a massive violence-apologist, porn-soaked culture – when her soul-crushed sons have got a taste for causing pain.

Jordan Peterson territory, in short.

Gender is not simply a matter of who gets to play with cars and who with dolls; it’s about grooming those playing with cars to be dominant, those playing with dolls to be subordinate. You can take away the cars and replace them with dolls without questioning deeper assumptions about the player. If we want our children to be their true selves – whatever that means – we need to think hard about the relationship between what is believed about boys and girls and what is desired of them.

As Grayson Perry writes in The Descent of Man, with reference to global statistics for male violence against women, “gender may be a performance but it is not playing pretend”. While I can ridicule the books I’ve collected over the years, their basic, if incoherent, message – that we continue to condition our sons to be aggressive in order to make them less aggressive – is dangerous. The babies that were handed to me did not come with a hidden, seething cauldron of hate in their bellies.

Hence my advice to any fellow feminist mother of boys: ignore the books. Be your best feminazi mother from hell and treat your sons like the unique human beings they are.

It just might work.

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