I never meant to become a mother of three boys. A lifelong feminist, I planned to raise an army of Amazons to take on the world .
Alas, it was not to be. My head said “smash the patriarchy” but my uterus said “must make replacements”. To be fair, it’s not all been bad. My sons are utterly brilliant people. I just wish someone had warned me about the books.
I suspect many of my fellow feminists have no idea just how truly awful the literature aimed at mothers raising sons has been. Think “misogynistic and essentialist” – Piers Morgan, perhaps – then times that by 1,000.
Of course, it doesn’t mean to be that way. Such literature is, we are told in that sad, regretful tone adopted by neurosexists and evolutionary misogynists everywhere, merely presenting the facts. No one wants to believe boys are naturally aggressive, girls naturally submissive, but you can’t argue with bullshit science. Just don’t blame the messenger, okay?
In 1997’s Raising Boys – a bestseller, still in print today – godfather of raising boys bullshit Steve Biddulph complains that “for thirty years it has been trendy to deny masculinity and say boys and girls are just the same”. And yes, if I’m honest, that was totally my experience of being a child of the seventies and eighties, providing you exclude the “reality” bits:
The fashionable theory for the last thirty years has been that boys and girls have no differences other than those we give them through conditioning. According to this thinking, all differences in gender arise from the clothes and toys we give them, and so on. Well-meaning parents and lots of pre-schools and schools got quite fanatical about this: working hard to get the boys to play with dolls and the girls into the Lego. It was felt that if we raised all children the same then gender differences and problems would disappear.
Steve, mate. What planet were you on? The one in which it was legal for husbands to rape wives, in which the nagging and shagging defence could excuse a man for killing his partner, in which judges could claim rape victims were guilty of “contributory negligence”? On such a planet, do you seriously believe scores of people were particularly arsed about getting their sons to play with Barbie? (Spoiler: they weren’t.)