Man hating and fatherless kids

I recently had a falling out with a good friend of mine (I know, I’m on a roll!). I don’t really want to get into it much here so the short version (my take on things) is that logistically it is hard if not impossible for us to maintain a friendship as she has allergies to some of our living things so struggles to spend time in our house and doesn’t feel comfortable inviting me to hers. She doesn’t feel comfortable inviting me to hers because, in her opinion, I hate men.

I don’t hate men. I hate patriarchy. I hate mansplaining. I hate manspreading. I struggle a lot with men’s complete unawareness about these things. I actually like said friend’s boyfriend a lot. I don’t know him well but have always had what I thought to be pleasant interactions with him. In talking to Lesley about this conversation with the friend she pointed out that she is positive I have said the words, “I hate men” to my friend. And you know what? She’s right. I can’t tell you when or in what context I did but I am sure I have said it. This friend is my closest talk to about anything friend. I know I have talked to her about a particular guy friend of mine. A big time mansplainer who, in my opinion, is sometimes kind of crappy to his wife (not abusive necessarily but the kind of guy who says, “No, I won’t help with that. That’s your job.”). I’m sure in those conversations I have let out an exasperated sigh and said, “Ugh, I hate men.”

I have been thinking a lot about this and what it means to have a child, particularly a boy one although some of these themes are present no matter what your child’s gender is. The biggest lesson here is to be aware of my language. While I know I don’t hate all men, and Lesley knows that, and many of your know that, would my child? If I said I hate men in front of my four year old son in the future how would he feel about that? I have no issue saying “The patriarchy is so screwed up” in front of him though which is really the point of my statement. This whole thing serves as a great reminder to choose my words carefully.

The other thing it has me thinking a lot about is the men in our lives. (I think I have talked about this before but if I don’t remember I doubt you do so here it is again!) I want Gus to have good examples of men in his life. Often times when I meet men I subconsciously size them up. Am I a harsher judge of them than I am of women? I wonder sometimes if I really only like men with quiet and submissive personalities – if I find fault in loud, outgoing and outspoken men when I value these attributes in women. I feel as though I am constantly combing through people to find 3 or 4 good examples of men to keep in Gus’ life.

I hung out with men at three different points this weekend. We had another game night with the craigslist folks. (It was all fine and then, at the very end of the night where it was after midnight and I just wanted them to leave, he talked about a new sushi place they went to and how to service was terrible. He said, “We were in a room where everyone else was oriental and they all got better service than me did.” I thought calling folks “oriental” was something we all knew wasn’t okay by now? Maybe not?) While the man of this couple is nice they have a weird relationship dynamic. She mentioned at some point that she had not drank since last time we were together except a few glasses of wine with a friend one night. He was upset because he did not know she had had wine with a friend and they are working on having more open communication. I am sure there was more to the story than I gathered but it was weird. I never expected to have him around Gus a lot but it has really made me wonder if I am too harsh on men – to quick to dismiss them for minor flaws.

The next place we hung out with men was at a friend’s kid’s birthday party. It’s interesting to watching moms and dads together with kids. In this scenario many of the moms chatted while the dads watched kids play outside. There are a few dads who I have met before who I think are awesome dads. I have a bit of a friend crush on one of the dads. But in this scenario am I doing something I really hate – giving huge props to dads for being awesome for interacting with their kids? When looking at men am I less harsh of a judger when they have kids and appear to be good dads? Am I looking for examples of good dads for Gus or good men? Are all good dads good men? Will all good men be good dads?

The third man was a dinner/playdate at our house with a couple we’ve done one on one stuff with a few times before. They are newer friends but we really like them. Our boys are a month apart and play well together. The adults are nice and fun and we have similar interests (beer). And the dad is a great dad. He’s great with his son and read Gus book after book as Gus crawled in his lap. He’s a good husband and they have a nice dynamic together. He’s a good dad and appears to be a good man. But what are the criteria I use to decide this?

Ultimately one of the most important things for me is that Gus has stable people in his life. I want to develop friendships with people that he knows like he would know extended family. I want that circle of people to include men. To build that maybe it doesn’t matter if I think they are good men because they are good dads. Maybe it doesn’t matter if I am a harsher critic of men then of women. All that matters is if folks, men and women alike, don’t annoy me so much that I want to hang out with them regularly for years. While my language does matter the root of my preferences does not – I want stable men in Gus’ life and I am sure as hell not going to hang out with ones that annoy me.

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Posted on April 11, 2016, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. This is a tricky subject in our house, as well. Two women raising a daughter means that Charlotte doesn’t have a ton of interaction with men besides her grandfathers–neither of whom are what I consider to be exemplary men. We have my father, the deadbeat dad with addiction issues–and Catch’s father, the racist who almost divorced Catch’s mother after she had recurrent miscarriages because she was “doing it on purpose.” Sigh. It’s fine while she’s young because they both worship her and it’s all happy playtime when the grandpas are around, but someday when she’s older, we’re going to have some explaining to do. In the meantime, I had hoped my brother would step up and be an exemplary uncle to her, but he has disappeared from the face of the earth and I haven’t heard from him in 5 months. I have no idea where that leaves us in terms of male role models. Probably in the negatives, I suppose. To your last point though, I agree. There’s no need for us to have people in our lives who don’t fit. I do think it’s important to frame our feelings appropriately because it’s so easy for children to take things literally. (Especially those of us who have a tendency toward sarcasm!) That’s something I’m really going to have to work on in the coming months and years as Charlotte starts to understand more and more.
    Side note to all of this: Have I ever mentioned that our nanny is an exceptionally outspoken and very well read feminist? I love it. She has all kinds of (one-sided) conversations with Charlotte about feminism.

  2. I think this is a legit thing. To this day, men are “looked at” as more superior than woman in society, any one that tells you differently is full of shit – the same person will probably say that black people don’t experience racism anymore. I see people praise their husbands for working all day and then coming home and feeding the baby, or waking up at night and I have the same response as you. It is bullshit. A relationship is about MUTUAL trust, and mutual respect for one another. No one gets a medal for taking care of their kid. I don’t care if you just pulled a 12 hour shift, its your kid. That is where mutual respect comes into play, if Devan worked a 12 hour shift and needed to be back at work 12 hours later, you betch your ass I’d take the night shift to let her rest if I had the following day off. Feminism exists for a reason, if women were treated fairly there would be no reason for feminism.

  3. I don’t have any advice but I’m raising a fist in solidarity. It’s hard to be aware of the discrimination in this world towards women, POC, QPOC, and everyone in between and not look at my white, male son and think…oh goodness.

    My personal goal for my children has always been they are well-spoken, well-educated, free-thinking, respectable, kind, inclusive people. If you’re in my life and can teach these qualities, I consider this invaluable. I don’t consider anything else: race, religion, orientation, gender identity, etc.

    There are many people Thatcher will interact with on a daily basis that will shape him, both positively and negatively, and I cannot always control who that is, what they are teaching him in those brief moments, or how much of an impact their interactions may have. But I can continue to surround him with quality people who give him the knowledge he needs to understand and acknowledge his privilege and use it for good, to keep his ears open and his mouth shut when appropriate, and to be a better version of the people who came before him so he can teach those who come after him.

    • “My personal goal for my children has always been they are well-spoken, well-educated, free-thinking, respectable, kind, inclusive people. If you’re in my life and can teach these qualities, I consider this invaluable. I don’t consider anything else: race, religion, orientation, gender identity, etc.”

      Yes! This is what my wife & I keep coming back to when we discuss who we want in our kids’ lives. Well, with one exception – we seek out professionals (in typically male professions) who are female, so doctors, dentists, mechanics, etc. It’s hard to say to a female child, “you can be whatever you want” if there’s no proof in the pudding, so to speak. They’ll see plenty of examples of males in those professions – through friends’ parents, school, books/media, etc, so I’m not one bit worried about us being too one-sided.

      There was a time, I think when our male child was still in utero, when we had grandiose plans of expanding our circle to ensure there were plenty of “good male” role models. But we’ve come to a point.. a realization? that the “male” part of it just isn’t important for us. We aren’t raising him to be a man, we’re raising him to be a person, and he’ll be better served if we focus on the bigger picture. Anyways, he’ll have plenty of exposure to male role models, and we’ll deal with their admirable qualities and shortcomings as they arise.

      My bigger worry is that when he’s in school, he’ll absorb the gross parts of his white male privilege. I’m not sure I could ever forgive myself if we wind up having raised a bro.

  4. You bring up a lot of really important, but confounding, questions. Unfortunately, I think, because misogyny (and ergo, male privilege) is “in the water” so to speak, it’s basically impossible for us to ever know what is informing our opinions when it comes to men and women. So, we muddle through. I think your ability to have a meaningful relationship with the men will translate to a meaningful influence on Gus, and we all have different parameters for that. So, if “good dad” ranks high, that’s ok (even if it ranks high for some combination of things you don’t fully understand) At least, that’s what I’m sticking with. For us, this means getting a variety of guys (and others) around, knowing they will each bring a different set of qualities and values we appreciate, and probably also have a few we dislike.

    But OMG, I am totally guilty of saying things like “I hate men” or, in my past, “do men even have feelings?!” I feel a bit differently now that we have Ansel and I want to be thoughtful about that kind of stuff, but it slips out so easily. A friend of mine (former collegue) posted something on FB yesterday about how “all the comments about straight white guys being shitty DOES hurt my feelings” and I wanted to chastise him for being kind of whiny when, you know, sexism/homophobia/racism/transphobia are kind of more significant than white guy tears AND I also thought about how hard it would be to hear that kind of stuff constantly if you weren’t super involved in activism or whatever. So, I don’t know, I guess my man hating dyke exterior is getting softer?

  5. THANK YOU for writing this. It resonates with me so much, and I have really appreciated reading everyone’s comments thus far. I have said “I hate men”, and I have worried that my disliking of men is actually more than my disliking of the patriarchy, and rather a problem within myself that stems from some past negative experience like trying to force myself to be in a romantic relationship with men while I was still discovering my sexual orientation. I make comments like “I hate how hairy men are” and “penises are so gross”. These comments are probably common on a middle school playground, and if I end up raising a boy, I CANNOT say these things, and probably should try not to think them, either. I too want my kid to have positive male role models, where it’s a girl or a boy, and I have to be able to do my part to model positivity around bodies and genders, and not attach a prejudice or stigma to one gender. But it is not going to come easily – like you are doing, I will have to work through my feelings about men, about the patriarchy, and about how I want to raise a boy or girl to feel about men.

  6. What lesbian couldn’t relate to this? I think your hitting so many key points I don’t even know where to begin. Mad props for engaging with men so often and frequently. Wish I could say the same.
    I personally think there are a few solid men out there that are all around good guys, sadly that’s the extent of it…..a few. Luckily for all the rainbow boys that are being raised by lesbian mothers will fall into that “few good men” category.

  7. For what it’s worth, I totally judge the males in our lives more harshly than the females. I think at its heart is that I know there will be so many males in both of my kids’ lives whose presence I have no control over, many of whom will likely be tools of the p in one way or another, so the ones I allow/invite into our lives need to be exemplary. Although probably I judge the females plenty too, now that I’m reflecting upon it.

    Mansplainin’, manspreading, man-unawareness… patriarchy… ain’t got no time for that.

  8. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with judging men more harshly. They get away with a lot in the wider world and it’s important that someone holds them accountable. I also agree with pretty much all the comments. It’s not easy being a lesbian feminist mama, and I can only imagine it’s harder when parenting a boy. As far as I can tell though, you’re doing a good job. 🙂

  9. We think about these things a lot too, especially now that we (probably) have a son. I don’t have the man hater thing going on, my best friend and roommate of many many years is a man, but my wife totally does. Our couple friends have some pretty awesome husbands, but no one is a BFFs that we hang out with weekly or anything, and I worry that Ali might have trouble connecting with men as an adult.

  10. As another mother of a boy, that brings up some good points. In our patriarchy there are bad people, but also a lot of bad MEN. I can’t think of comparably bad groups of women, and we really do live in a world where MEN are an issue. I’m guilty of judging men too and upholding them to my feminist standards, and I know sometimes I make even David feel like he doesn’t live up to them, or that he really “can’t win” just because he’s not a woman. So yeah, I guess the language issue is going to require some thought. But I think just having good parents, as you and Lesley are, will go a very long way in teaching Gus how to be a good person, regardless of what happens in the teen years.

  11. I wrote a whole long, drawn out reply, and then hit the back button and lost it, so the abridged version…”I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin (or what’s in their pants), but by the content of their character.” A little MLK for ya! The whole good dad/good man vs. bad man/bad dad things valid, but who cares if you are being judgey. I think you just want the best for your son, despite the “I hate men!” comment. So long as you surround yourself and (by proximity) Gus with good kinds humans, he will learn goodness and kindness…

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