Sunday, September 30, 2012

It's not easy raising boys...

Sometimes I feel I'm on the frontline of a war.

I have four boys to raise in a world when boys and men are often viewed as 'the enemy' and if not the enemy then certainly, 'persons of questionable repute'.

Almost every single time I tell anyone I have four boys for the first time, the response is one of feigned shock or concerned. 'Four boys?!'

I laugh it off. I say, 'Yes, four boys!' and look excited.

To me, they're not 'boys' per se. They're children.

I don't know what it is like to have girls, I imagine it's just as full-on, just as noisy, just as much fun, and just as challenging in many ways.

I am the first to agree that there are undeniable difference between boys and girls, and I will openly laugh at anyone who tries to tell me boys and girls are exactly the same. Their very make-up on a biological level means there has to be difference. Hormones affect all of us. Testosterone and Progesterone are not the same hormone (or they would have the same name).

Yep, you can have effeminate boys and masculine girls, I'm not saying that doesn't happen. Girls can choose to play with trucks and boys can choose to play with baby dolls and I'm all for it!

Despite their differences and their similarities, all-in-all I don't think boys are harder work than girls. It's all swings and round-abouts from all accounts.

And yet, I feel there is an element of raising only boys which does not stem from the boys themselves, but causes me to feel that I'm working just that little bit harder as a parent.


This week we had the tragic reporting of the rape and death of Jill Meagher. In the wake of this there was a heartwarming peace walk. I hear there will also be a 'Reclaim the Night' walk in March. I hope the night is being reclaimed for everyone - not only women.

You see, I've seen a lot more 'We need to teach men not to rape' posters this week, and lot more talk about 'Women feeling safe on the streets at night' talk. As if men are not randomly attacked and injured or killed on the streets of Melbourne every week.

One man is accused of committing a heinous crime and all men are on trial - at least it feels that way.

This week we've also had Alan Jones running off at the mouth again. It is no secret he has cross-hairs set on Julia Gillard. He has been vulgar and crass and stomach turning again, and once again the words and actions of one moron with a penis is a launching pad for the argument that misogyny is rife.

When rumours swirled that Bob Hawke's daughter had struggled with drugs because he was an absentee father, were there cries of misandry? And Steve Bracks' son's trouble were also related back to him in his position. The integrity of politicians has been questionably questioned for a long while and although doing so constitutes having a 'cheap shot' at a pollies and crossing a line by commenting on their private troubles, these cheap shots have never been used in the 'war of the sexes' as they seem to be since Gillard became Prime Minister.

I believe women and men are equal. Women don't even need men to acknowledge that fact - we don't need their permission to be equal. We are equal, whether or not men like Alan Jones and Tony Abbott think we are, and they do not represent all men, not even all Australian men. Just ask the Grumpy Old Man, he'll tell you until your ears bleed!

However, as long as women employ negative stereotypes to men in an attempt to 'gain ground' against them, we will all lose out by degrading ourselves. There are some awful men out there. There are some very stupid men out there. They are the minority. Please believe me on that one. If you don't know any respectful, kind, non-sexist men - you need a new social circle!

There are also awful and stupid women out there.

Women are not pure or innocent or weak or victims. Women rape. Women molest. Women perpetrate domestic violence. The numbers are not so small as many would like to think. I had the unfortunate opportunity to read - as part of an argument against juries not being exposed to the true nature of the footage the accused downloaded should it biased them against him - the court ruling (warning: graphic and disturbing material) from a court case about child pornography subscribers which described the video clips found on the accused's computer and the acts described there were perpetrated by men and women to boys and girls. It was awful and disturbing and might change some people's ideas about whether or not women are capable of rape and pedophilia and abuse. A lot of domestic violence against children is perpetrated by women. Yes, this is commonly known as child abuse, but child abuse is a form of domestic violence. I don't not write about these things to cast women in a negative light or to minimise the acts of men who perpetrate rape and violence, I merely wish to point out this is not someone only men do, and it is not as uncommon amongst women as many would have you believe. Women being violent is not rare, nor is it excusable. So we need to stopping pointing the finger at men alone - or worse, suggesting women are only violent because they are coerced by men to be violent. Women are not Madonnas, men are not the Devil.

As a mother of four sons, I do not intend to bring my sons up to mistrust girls and women - of course I won't, I am a woman, I love being a woman, I think women are amazing. I really hope my motherly counterpart of girls do the same in respect of men.

Our only hope of equality is through recognising we are not defined by our sex - either in a positive or negative sense. We are defined by how we, as individuals, interact with the world and one another.

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Good Job!