(Part 1 here)
Since writing part 1 the overwhelming comments I’ve gotten from the women I know, as well as on the blog is that they don’t really think about “embracing their woman-ness”‘ these are usually paired with comments about lipstick and lace. Personally I agree with the internal feeling of being a person first rather than a woman. The men I know have an even harder time with this notion. None of them are ‘typical me’ they are artists, academics and activists, all people who have never fit the stereotypical male model.
My husband, the only person I’ve talked with who has been part of a Men’s group could only tell me that they spent their time talking about issues that were uniquely male. [I’m not sure what that means] Still this brings me no closer to identifying what it means to be a boy that doesn’t reflects traditional roles of men “the provider” “the aggressor” “the leader” the sports man” and “violent and uncontrollable” (or hyper for younger boys). Some of these are positive some negative, but they still are limiting. Well behaved boys fall into two categories sports players and geek. Artistic pursuits and other forms of non sports or leadership interests are usually seen as somehow subversive and suspect to drugs and activism (often seen as equally bad).
So maybe the question I am able to answer; as a woman who doesn’t focus on her own “femaleness” is what environment can we create for boys to explore who they are as individuals without biases around them, or other pressures. Maybe we aren’t looking for something new, but what we need to do is give the boys a chance to experience the positive environments that we have spent 40 years creating for girls. Not to take away from the girls but to strengthening the boys to feel comfortable being themselves.
By allowing boys to find their individualness we give them a chance to figure out for themselves who they are rather than falling into the traditional roles. This would be a place that legitimize other roles.
Until recently the response by women’s groups has been, that girls need these programs and boys don’t. Except now we’re seeing that boys need it just as much as girls. Bringing us back to the idea that we can’t really change things for girls without changing the framework in which they live. In other words changing the girls where the boys remain the same makes for new conflicts.
But as a mother of a boy I want to make these changes for him, not only for his role in reaction to the women around him. I want to give him an environment where he can continue to explore the world, and himself unaffected by prejudice. The nature of unschooling supports this, as we follow his interests. The situation would be different if he was at a traditional school. Still supporting him in one on one situation is only part of the solution. What has to happen is that there needs to be group situations where boys are supported, and on a greater scale how do we create a larger change so that we can create the world where both girls and boys can feel comfortable being themselves.
Final note, in a conversation with my father he mentioned that I may not be giving society enough of a chance, that the roles I list are limited and that boys are much more than that. I have two different thoughts on this comment. One is that he is probably right boys are not looked at so negatively, that there is more room for them to grow as unique individuals. The other is that while this may be true in the world that we come from; an admittedly progressive and liberal environment where many of the women were breaking gender work barriers in the late 1950s, and their husbands were helping them and supporting their goals, there are other parts to this country where things haven’t changed so much for the boys (though progress for girls is happening).