Tag Archives: gender

Why I’m Proud of My Scrapbooking Son

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“Dad, I’m taking a scrapbooking class!”

Eight years ago, when I found out I was having a son, glad tidings of scrapbooking were not exactly at the forefront of my mind. Baseball? Football? Maybe track? Absolutely. I played three sports a year when I was a kid and I just assumed any boy of mine would follow suit. Not All-American level or anything, but a kid who’d live, eat, and breathe sports.

But you know what happens when people assume.

Will hates baseball. He’s already well aware of concussion problems in the NFL. And having inherited his mother’s balance and lack of grace, anything involving running seems far-fetched. He does swimming and he just started Taekwondo, but team sports and athletic glory are not in his future.

In their place are things I never imagined.

Where I went to basketball and baseball camp during the summer, do you know what Will did last year? He went to Farm-to-Table camp. An entire week of learning how to cook, visiting local farms, and mulling over recipes using food they picked themselves. And cooking — this kid loves to cook. Donning his pink apron, he’s obsessed with ingredients and how everything comes together to make a meal.

And now scrapbooking. He knew he’d be the only boy in the class going into it. Even at almost eight years old, it’s clear there are “boy things” and “girl things.” On the first day, his well-meaning teacher unintentionally drove that point home when she asked him if he was comfortable, or if he needed material in colors other than pink, yellow, and purple.

You know, boy colors. A masculine blue or powerhouse red.

But Will looked her right in the eye and didn’t hesitate to tell her he was fine and there are no girl colors or boy colors. He simply went about his business, comfortable in knowing he was doing something he really likes.

I wish I had that strength and self-confidence at 27, never mind 7 years old. Will isn’t perfect, but his self-assured nature and ability to do what he wants to do no matter the consequences is astounding. He does what feels right to him, which sounds simple but is actually a ridiculously amazing trait.

Before Will, the only way scrapbooking could’ve stirred emotion in me is crying tears of boredom from the mere thought of it. But now? My eyes well with tears because I’m proud of my son. He identifies what he likes and he does it, even though he knows it’s not the popular (or traditionally manly) choice. Doing what’s right for him even in the face adversity? That’s remarkable no matter your gender.

As usual, my son continues to teach me more than I ever thought possible.

 

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Yes, Obama Cried. No, He’s Not Less of a Man

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“He looked like he was sleeping. But the reality of it was under the cloth he had covering his mouth there was no mouth left. His jaw was blown away. I just want people to know the ugliness of it so we don’t talk about it abstractly, like these little angels just went to heaven. No. They were butchered. They were brutalized. And that is what haunts me at night.”
Veronique Pozner, mother of 6-year-old Noah, who was killed at Sandy Hook

President Barack Obama cried.

He did so while announcing a series of executive actions to make background checks mandatory for all gun sellers, pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the budget for increased mental health care access, and hire hundreds of additional agents to assist with background checks. The President was overcome with emotion while surrounded by parents, relatives, and friends of those lost to gun violence over the years. When forced to recall the 20 dead elementary school children in Newtown, CT, the President of the United States wept in public and on camera.

And for that display, this father of two girls earned a whole bunch of people mocking him. 

They called him a “pussy,” a “woman,” and a “fag.” President Sissypants, who needs to go home and cry to his mommy. They swore at him, derided him, and shouted from every rooftop that he’s weak. Soft. A crybaby ill-equipped to handle a job that clearly requires a “real man” at the helm.

But my concern isn’t with President Obama and his tears. It’s with anyone who thinks of the Sandy Hook shooting and doesn’t end up crying.

“As the pile got higher it appeared that there was a mad scramble to get into the bathroom, with people stepping on one another and climbing on top of each other. The teachers appeared to have been shepherding the children into the room and were then probably going to shut the door. They did not close and lock the door to the classroom for some reason and were interrupted by the shooter as they attempted to fill the bathroom with children. The shooter then opened fire on the mass of children and adults. As Sgt. Carrio got to the last bodies it was clear that no one had survived.” – incident report from the Newtown, CT Police Department

If you look at our tearful President — a father himself — and your first thought is to question his masculinity because he’s so upset, then I fear you’re broken. I worry you’re a shell of a human being, devoid of basic empathy and compassion. If a classroom of dead schoolchildren doesn’t move you to tears, I worry nothing will.

As the father of three boys, I’m also increasingly alarmed by how twisted the concept of masculinity has become in this country. Case in point:

First of all, calling someone a “woman” and using a pejorative term for female genitalia as an insult is ridiculous. And dumb. Women aren’t weak and using a colloquialism for vagina implies a lack of toughness, when nothing could be further from the truth. As a dad who has witnessed natural childbirth three times, I can personally attest to the power, wonder, toughness, and resiliency of said nether regions. It renders that particular misogynistic insult downright silly.

As for the crying, it’s a perfectly normal human response that in no way denotes a lack of strength.

I cried when I found out my wife was pregnant. I cried when my kids were born. I cried in uncertainty and fear when my middle child was in a Boston hospital at only 6 months old. I cried when my wife was in the throes of depression. Hell, I cry every time I watch the movie “Rudy.”

I damn sure cried when 20 children were viciously gunned down in their school. And you know what? I’ve cried every year since then. I tear up every single time I realize not even the most horrific thing imaginable — nearly two dozen innocent kids slaughtered in a classroom — was enough to spur action. I cry when it’s become apparent NRA rhetoric and guns are more important than children.

Forget for a second that no one is coming for anyone’s guns, and Obama’s executive actions are common sense restrictions that close loopholes and expand background checks — something a majority of Americans favor. Thinking this is a government conspiracy to confiscate guns is bad enough, but this crap about how men should truly act is just as damaging.

My three boys will damn sure know guns don’t make someone more of a man, and showing your feelings definitely doesn’t make you less of one. In fact, manhood has nothing to do with it. Expressing your feelings and showing empathy are signs of emotional intelligence and strength that know no gender. Being able to walk in someone else’s shoes is crucial, and when you’re the leader of the free world using your power to reduce the number of dead kids in classrooms even in the face of unadulterated hate? Well, that’s about the strongest thing I can think of.

Tears or no tears.

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Boys Play With Dolls, Too

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“Dad, we can’t get this doll. It says it’s for ‘mommies in training.'”

I love that my 7-year-old is such a voracious reader, but sometimes I worry about the messages he’s now capable of absorbing.

The mission was to head to the toy store and find a baby doll for my youngest, Sam. Unlike his older brother Will who was 5 when he became a brother, Sam will only be 26 months old when his new baby brother or sister is born in September. So the idea was to buy him a doll to get him used to having a little baby around.

We naively thought the difficult part would be getting a not-quite-2-year-old to gently handle the baby and keep it out of the microwave or from being thrown down the stairs. Little did we know our troubles would begin much sooner than that.

As veterans of the toy store, we’re prepared for and grit our teeth through the “boy” and “girl” aisles, as designated by the not so subtle blue and pink coloring. We’ve had many discussions with our oldest about how toys are toys and both girls and boys can play with whatever the heck they want, but as we came upon the baby doll aisle and tried to choose just the right one for Sam, we noticed a disturbing trend.

All of the messaging on all of the boxes was aimed at girls.

This doll helped “mommies in training” while that doll allowed young girls to “become the best mommy in the world.” And suddenly I realized I had stumbled on a far more troubling problem than all the dolls being girls clad in gender stereotypical pink.

Just think about the message this sends to our boys. By eliminating them completely from the messaging, the manufacturers are basically saying “dolls aren’t for boys.” After all, looking after a baby requires love, patience, great care, and compassion. You know, girl stuff.

Just as little girls are all too often left out of the equation when it comes to superheroes, trucks, and anything that might leave their knees scraped or their hands dirty, boys are taught from an early age that being caring, gentle, and kind is best left to the women. Sorry son, no dolls for you. But why don’t you hop on over to the blue aisle and grab a GI Joe or a toy gun from the plastic arsenal.

You might think this is me nitpicking and making a mountain out of molehill, but I believe you’re wrong.

All of this gender nonsense is destructive, harmful to our kids, and tied together. And as much as informed parents rail against it, so much of it is unavoidable because it strikes from all angles. Girls are pretty, boys are smart. Boys are strong and brave, girls are princesses in need of rescue. Girls are caretakers, boys will be boys.

We let boys go through life thinking things like involved parenting are a woman’s job, and then clutch our pearls and wonder why there are so many absentee fathers. And on the flip side, perhaps there are so few female CEOs because they’re too busy taking care of kids at home — a job men are hesitant to do because they’ve seldom been included in that discussion.

Let’s just stop. Stop the pink vs blue and let kids go naturally to where they’re comfortable. Stop the pigeonholing with stupid onesies like “Lock Up Your Daughters!” for boys and “Too Pretty for Homework” for girls. Stop pretending boys have an inherent interest in guns and trucks while girls automatically seek out Barbie. Sure it might hold true in some cases, but let’s stop putting the expectation there before they’re even old enough to walk.

What’s the worst that could happen if dolls are suddenly marketed to boys as well as girls? Heaven forbid a little boy with a doll might one day grow up to be — gasp — a devoted father!

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After putting this on Facebook, I was contacted by a GREAT new company in my home state of Massachusetts that is tackling this exact problem. I am not affiliated with Wonder Crew in any way, shape, or form, and I’m not being paid for this plug. I’m just a big fan and think it’s a great product, so I’m sharing it here.

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Letter to My Unborn Baby: What If You’re a Girl?

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Dear Baby,

Welcome to the halfway point of your womb incarceration. I know you’re growing just fine because your mom’s stomach suddenly decided to pop, which is nice because now people can see she’s pregnant instead of wondering if she’s had a few too many ice cream sundaes.

It’s odd to write to you and not know whether you’re a boy or a girl. As I’ve mentioned before, you have two wonderful older brothers. When I was growing up, I had a brother too. That means not only do I not know what it’s like to raise a daughter, I don’t even know what it’s like having a sister.

Which is all a long way of saying I’m a little worried about how to raise a girl.

First off, everyone is hoping you’re a girl. I think it’s mostly because we already have two boys, and people just naturally seek balance — which I think is odd. And a little annoying. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love a daughter. I think. But I also think it would be unassailably cool to have three boys as well. But in the end, as long as you’re healthy that’s all I really care about.

And yet I can’t help but let my mind wander.

If you’re a girl, will I baby you? Will you be the quintessential daddy’s little girl, compounded by the fact you’re the youngest? If I buy you pink princess things am I ruining you for life by buying into society’s harmful gender norms? If I deny you pink princess things that you ask for am I then trampling your independence and personal tastes?

Am I contractually obligated to enroll you in ballet at birth? At what point should I take out my loan at the American Girl Doll Store? If I point you in the direction of sports is that a good thing that will make you more well-rounded, or does it represent me pushing my interests on you unfairly while turning you into a tomboy?

I’m against guns, but do I need to invest in a shotgun when you start dating? Do I need to frighten your suitors with not-so-thinly-veiled threats of bodily harm, while handing them an asinine list of rules? And at what age do I even start letting you date? What if your brothers start dating at 12 but I don’t want you to date that early because I anoint myself protector of your virginity?

Will you watch The Three Stooges with me and the boys on Sunday mornings? Can I bring you to Patriots games with your grandfather? Will you enjoy trips to Fenway Park?

Yes, I’ve wondered these things. And yes, I immediately felt like an idiot afterward. Because when push comes to shove, if you’re a girl, I won’t be raising a daughter — I’ll be raising a person. A person who I need to get to know. A person who will develop tastes for many things all on her own. A person to whom I plan to teach compassion, kindness, and strength of character just as I’m doing with your brothers.

It’s the same game plan I’ll follow if you’re a boy. Hell, it’s the only game plan I know. So while I used to joke about freaking out with a daughter, I’ve come to realize it’s not the case. I just want you to be strong and smart and brave and kind — sex organs be damned.

So continue incubating, little one, and we’ll see you in another 20 weeks on or around Sept. 5. But the Patriots raise a championship banner against the Steelers on Sept. 10, so please try not to be late. That’d be just like a woman.

Yours in loving sarcasm,
Dad

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Female Teachers Sleeping with Male Students: Where’s the Outrage?

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There’s a seminal moment in the movie A Time to Kill, when Matthew McConaughey’s character is attempting to convince a jury to acquit his client, played by Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson, a black father in racially charged Mississippi, is on trial for killing the two white men who raped and tortured his young daughter. With the all-white jury champing at the bit to convict his client, McConaughey makes them close their eyes as he painstakingly details the unspeakable horrors visited upon the young girl. But because he knows the jury is inherently racist and unable to see her as human, the lawyer makes one final plea.

“Now imagine she’s white.”

I thought of this scene recently after reading about a string of incidents involving female teachers having sex with their underage, teen students. The trend seems to be similar in all the cases, with attractive teachers in their 20s and early 30s allegedly initiating sexual contact with children ranging in age from 13 to 17. In some cases the affairs last for years, even though some of the teachers are married and have families.

Here’s where I harness my inner Matthew McConaughey.

“Now imagine it’s a male teacher.”

When people close their eyes and imagine what a sexual predator looks like, it is almost always a man. People hear a teacher molested a student and they automatically think of a balding, older man – maybe a creepy science teacher – blackmailing some poor young girl to trade sexual favors for straight As. We label him a sicko, a pervert, and a child molester. Fathers talk about the beatings they would inflict on the monster who dared violate their little girls. And heads shake in negative uniformity at the horror inflicted on these poor kids by a disgusting criminal.

But here are some things I’ve seen people say when stories about attractive female teachers taking advantage of male students make headlines.

“Good for him!”
“Where were those teachers when I was in school?”
“Wow. That’s the luckiest kid in the world.”

It’s a nasty double standard to think the rape of a child or the taking of innocence is somehow mitigated because it’s a teenage boy being sexually assaulted instead of a girl. And even more insidious is the idea that these boys aren’t really victims.

The fathers who talk of pummeling the men who violate their little girls suddenly change their tone, and speak of high-fiving their sons should they ever bed a hot female teacher. The boys are praised for being taken advantage of, and some even condemn them for blabbing about it, because that means it had to end. It’s bad enough an immature teenage boy is now confused and possibly ashamed about sex after being assaulted by someone he’s supposed to trust, but that’s only the start. Because now he’s being told he should actually be thankful for what happened, and that he’s lucky.

That’s right, lucky. We’re telling male victims of sexual assault they’re lucky. Can you imagine the horror and general revulsion if we told teen female students they were lucky to score a fling with a hot male teacher? That they should be thankful for being taken advantage of and abused by a trusted adult figure?

Look, I used to make the same jokes. I’m not proud of that, but it’s true. But then I became a parent and now that I have two boys of my own, I can say without a shadow of a doubt I’d be horrified if my sons were victimized like that. These boys have been violated by an adult during their adolescence, and likely face serious and long-lasting repercussions down the road that will affect them and potentially their families, for years to come.

I don’t care how attractive the teacher is, because when a teacher uses the significant power differential to abuse a minor sexually, that is a real problem. That is horrible. That is sexual abuse.

And that is always unacceptable, regardless of gender.

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