My Fine Feathered Feminist Friend

My Fine Feathered Feminist Friend

I have a friend who is some brand of feminist. I don’t know how they classify themselves anymore, but I think she calls herself a feminist of some sort. When we were friends I don’t think she was, but of course we were children then. Thanks to Facebook I was able to find her and discover that this was her brand, her identity. It was funny to me, to know someone before they become what they are, you know, like later in life. She has a blog called ReelGirl, and I am always baited by her wall posts to her blog. She seems all into this idea that women are in need of someone to defend their rights against the culture at large, and she has this fixation with what she (or someone notable, notably feminist I am sure) coins Princess Culture. The basic premise I gather is that the myth of the princess as portrayed in our culture by the likes of Disney is quite damaging to the girls who will be raised (and marketed to) with such books, film and merchandising. To value a young girl for her beauty is the gravest infraction of neo-feminist ethic, and you have to watch out when you compliment a young girl on her appearance for fear she will develop a misplaced sense of identity.

When Halloween came she was there to post about how offensive it is that women dress up as sluts, and she even used a photograph of a schoolgirl who looked really sad that her identity was inextricably linked with some male fetish. It had a caption in case I missed the visual itself. Well, now, I really don’t want to come out as being anti-feminist (although when I flame the author’s wall I position myself as such, because I knew her when she was 14), but I was somehow riled about this whole orientation that there is this massive exploitation of women going on, and if you would have the ReelGirl inform you it is a conspiracy of massive depth and proportion. The question she posed—at some guy bold enough to say that he loved Halloween because all women went as a slutty something, and how wonderful it was that women took one day a year to embrace the fact that they could express their sexuality in the folds of a tawdry nurse outfit with fishnets and stilettos, and for godsake ReelGirl, don’t you read Savage Love—was did he have daughters. That helped to put me in the frame of mind to consider the problem from a different angle, certainly. Thank god I don’t have daughters. But I do have a son, and in all of this pontificating about the dangers to young girls that our culture presents, what about the dangers to my son. He won’t have the benefit of being able to claim sexism, and he may grow up just as confused if not more so than the post bra-burning generations before him.

I am sure this is not revelation to people who follow feminism and gender studies, but men have seemingly suffered incredible emasculation since women claimed their liberation. We seem to be confused as to how to assert our natural masculinity without offending some dame who is vigilant about policing for who didn’t learn total sensitivity to the plight of women. Maybe I am the only one who feels that way. Maybe I am the only one confused. Maybe I am the only one who wants to essentially be a man—hunter, protector, provider, sexual aggressor, dominant by virtue and character, and leader. Head of household. Yes, call me a chauvinist pig, go ahead. But I don’t want my son to grow up confused about who he is and what will empower him.

I took my son to the park one day. Of course I am a stay-at-home-dad because my wife has the good job (thank you Gloria Steinem). I had just read the cover article in Newsweek about how the extinction of the middle aged white man was immanent, so I was grateful for the distraction. I came upon a group of girls under the jungle gym who had fashioned a make-believe kitchen, and they were making dinner under the tyrannical rule of the eldest girl there. All my weird gender sensitivity training/conditioning came flooding forth and I worried first about whether I should encourage or discourage my son from playing with these girls. They are girls after all, and I was quite concerned that he would come into contact with one of them and be scarred for life should one of them attempt to do anything unseemly to him. I looked at their mothers, all seated in a circle of power in the grass many yards away. I wondered if I should say that it is not very contemporary for girls to be pretending to cook, but I decided to take the wave. My son went under the jungle gym into the kitchen where he was served cake after cake after cake made of sand. I was watching their leader, the eldest, the despot—barking orders to the other girls. I was stunned that there was an alpha, and I wanted to see how my son would fare. I was engrossed in this scene, really taking it in as a first in fatherhood for me. I was struck by the challenge that faced me in rearing him. How will I teach him to deal with girls? How can I impart to him the wisdom of my own mistakes and lessons? How can I protect him from the world? I watched him. He was scared of the alpha, but another one kept giving him these sand cakes, so I felt he was safe.

Then the mothers started barking orders. It was time to disband this play group. They did it like they were former military. Every mother, barking at their daughters, every command having to do with some physical object or task these children were to perform in order to leave the playground. It was a strange thing for me, this moment. These women scared me.

Maybe they all have a collection of princess tales at home, I don’t know. For all I disagree with my old friend, I really hope not.

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