So, we all know toxic masculinity is a problem. If you are unsure about that I’m not sure how you made it this far following me. For the sake of this post I am moving forward with the assumption that my lovely readers are all nodding their head in agreement.
I hate the way people talk about boys. I have been seeing this regularly, mainly around the disappointment people feel when they find out they will be having sons and raising them in our current culture that, let’s be honest, is a total and complete shit show. The latest one to push me over the edge was a woman saying that she is sad to find out they are having a boy because boys are aggressive and violent and all the other stereotypes you can think of. This woman is both queer and an educator so it hurt my heart triple.
I struggle with this because I also felt a bit like this before having a kid. I worried that a boy would be too much or that I couldn’t raise a good man. We didn’t know Gus’ sex until he was born but I have never felt a moment of disappointment. Raising him has made me realize how unique kids can be. Watching him with his peers really drives that home. There is no one way to be a boy or a girl and our kids are out there living their individual lives. I wish I better understood that ten years ago. I wish a woman working with children better understood that now.
Raising Gus is a fascinating process. Yes, I worry about toxic masculinity. I would imagine most parents of boys and girls have concerns about it at this point. We do our best to combat it at home. We do limit screen time and what type of shows he watches. We work hard to diversify our books. We talk about consent. A LOT. We read and research and put a lot of thought into our parenting and hope it will pay off.
I’ve been struggling a lot lately with watching how people react to boys who don’t fit stereotypical boy molds. I’ve seen a lot of talk in queer family forums about preparing for kids around Gus’ age or a bit older to transition because they are gender nonconforming. I support people supporting their children, yes. But I struggle so much with seeing people talk about how their babies can wear anything or it being cute when their toddler boy loves his older sister’s dressed and then it reaching a point, almost predictably around 3-4, where kids are labeled gender nonconforming and parents wonder how to help them moving forward.
Again, I am all for parents supporting their kids but I feel like there is a point where we are dropping the “You can be any kind of boy/girl you want” line and instead are trying to fit our kids into the right box. A bigger box is still a box. Gus is 3 years and 13 days old and has been asked by people what his pronouns are. I understand the desire to be accepting and loving towards our children but I worry that we are still equating a skirt and long hair with girlhood. I worry so much that we are reinforcing the very ideas that we want to move away from.
I can’t speak for every parent and goodness knows I can’t speak for any child. And again, to be clear, I want all kids to be loved and supported so they are happy and healthy. But I feel like in progressive circles the older Gus gets the less acceptable it is for him to be just a boy who is free to like what he likes. He is different from some other boys, yes. But we have spent the last three years working hard to support him being anything he wants. Why would we stop doing that now? Gus is very clear that he is a boy. He has no reason to believe he cannot be any kind of boy he wants. But I am feeling the side eyes and conversations danced around by well meaning people who think that because he is his own kind of boy he may not be a boy at all. And while I suppose time will tell on that one I am so alarmed by the contrast that comes around three when people stop being accepting of free spirited kids and start needing to see how the kids conform to their adult ideas of gender.
I worry about how growing up surrounded by toxic masculinity will affect him. I worry that by not forcing him to fall in line with societal gender norms it may him him harder, either internally in how he sees himself or externally and his treatment of other people. Like all of parenting I never know if we are doing the right thing.