Thursday, November 14, 2013

Gender Roles and Parenting

So because my wife is pregnant and I live in Ontario, I just recently got a "New Father Care Package" in the male.  I suspected it would contain a pair of ear plugs and a bottle of vodka, but in fact it actually came with a few books, one of which is The New Father : A Dad's Guide to the First Year. Great.  Thanks.  I appreciate any help or advice I can get. The main problem is that much of the book assumes that I am essentially a cross between John McClane and Fix-it Felix.

Now that Mel Gibson is a racist and Danny Glover really is too old for this shit,
this is our best shot at Lethal Weapon 5.

I am not that guy.   I have no aspirations of being that guy.  Now that my wife is pregnant, though, there seems to be a lot more external pressure on me concerning gender roles.  I'm not really sure how to handle that.

There are plenty of things I enjoy that are stereotypically masculine:  Football, action movies, red meat, stuff like that.   But there are plenty of stereotypically masculine things I dislike, as well:  getting dirty, building anything or doing anything with my hands really, being stern with people, and plenty more I'm sure.

There are also plenty of things I like that are designated "feminine:"  Cooking, going to plays and art galleries, pop music.  

I come from a pretty blue collar family and a really conservative town, so there have been (and still are) plenty of people in my life that really believe that if I don't teach my "boys to be boys, and girls to be girls," then I'm a bad parent.  If my son decides he likes wearing pink or listening to Lady Gaga and I don't discourage him, I'm a bad parent.  If my daughter wants to play hockey or take wood shop and I don't discourage her, I'm a bad parent.   If my son or daughter sees me making brownies and and listening to Ace of Base, they're going to turn out bad, like a cake missing a key ingredient, because they didn't see me "being a man."

Now, I think that's bullshit, and I can brush it off.  It's just kind of a bummer to see that most of the (unsolicited) advice about raising a kid that I've received is essentially "You've gotta be the manliest man you can be, man" as if having Dirty Harry for a father is going to make a a kid more well adjusted. 

I don't get on the gender role soapbox very often, but it makes me sad that before my kid is even born, as soon as the gender is known, it will come with a long list of activities that are "right" or "wrong" that would instantly flip if the gender was different.   I don't know how to minimize that pressure on my child, but I hope I can.   When I tell my kid they should follow whatever dream and goal they have, I don't want it constrained by strangers who are judging them based on genitals. 

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