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How Dare You Teach Your Son To Be A Feminist!

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This is why we can’t have nice things!

Anonymous

Content Warning this post contains the sexist and anti-feminist rantings of horrid, horrid, people… here’s a recipe for Spicy Chickpea and Bulghur Soup instead.

I discovered a fun new “mum blog” today, Mummy Says…, the blog of a lovely young woman, Kiran Chug, all about her life with her husband and the adorable children they are raising in London.  Unfortunately the circumstances in which I found Mummy Says… are such that we may only be able to appreciate it in retrospect. I was clued into this story by the Dad Bloggers Facebook Group (great guys over there btw).  You see, the most recent posting at Mummy Says… is entitled Perhaps the Trolls Have Won. What have these “trolls” won you might ask? Well yet again anti-feminist assholes have (hopefully temporarily) driven another woman off the internet for daring to be apologetically feminist.

In this case the Kiran wrote a nifty little piece entitled When do I Teach My Son to be a Femninist? It’s a fairly mild exploration of her two year old son’s TV viewing habits. You see, her son is really into Disney’s Sofia the First. I’ll let her explain…

Picture of Sofia the First in her cute purple princess dress.
Aren’t I the cutest commercial property ever?

He felt under-the-weather this afternoon, so the TV was on more than usual. I’m not sure how the channel got switched, but I came back into the room to see him watching what I think was Transformers. Our conversation went like this:

Me: “Why are you watching this Milin?”

Milin: “Because I am.”

It was almost said with attitude and he made a fuss when I turned it off. It wasn’t going back on though – it was too violent and mature for our living room on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

Later, we found an episode of Sofia the First. It was the first time I’d sat down and watched a show about the Disney princess who is just a little girl (as opposed to the young women before her.) Milin absolutely adored it and watched it on repeat three times before going to bed. It was a world away from our earlier dalliance with a difference TV channel. Yet Milin had loved both shows.

And furthermore…

And I guess that’s the thing about two-year-old boys. They don’t know if they’re watching a gratuitously violent depiction of masculine strength. They don’t know if they’re watching a character in a beautiful dress created for the purpose of selling princess-culture to girls aged between two and seven. ( I know Sofia the First is a progressive Disney heroine as far as they go – but the fact remains that she’s still a beautiful, white, skinny little rich girl…)

Which, now that Milin has gone to bed, has left me thinking. When do I teach my son to be a feminist?

The rest is a fairly good feminism 101 look at the pros and cons of introducing feminism and equality to a youngster. At what age is it appropriate to start talking about gender disparities or racial and class differences. She seems to me to be a great Mum who is looking out for her son, hoping that he grows up to be a good person who treats his fellows; or in her words…

I want him to grow up speaking out for equality, I want him to do more than his fair share in quashing gender inequalities. I want him to grow up championing the rights of men and women, girls and boys, no matter who they are and where they are from.

 

To which I say “Rock On Awesome London Mom!” It’s a great little post and it resonates a lot with my own thoughts about raising The Grommet to be a good kid in a world that is still divided sharply into “Pink” and “Blue” camps when it comes to marketing to kids. I wrote something along the same lines last year at Raising Hellions.  Her piece was reblogged on HuffPost Lyfestyle UK, which is where things started to go downhill. The very first comment on Huffpo…

This article is a detailed statement of child abuse. Nothing more – nothing less.

and the next…

So you’ll be teaching him to put himself last.
More of the same ole same ole from a feminist.
Feminism is patriarchy on steroids.

and the next…

So feminism is now a religion? Teach them at a young age? Indoctrinate them into your worldview of victimhood? Might as well teach him to be a Scientologist while you’re at it

and so on…

Gender fascism has no place in the development of a child. This is ‘journalism’ at its most dangerous. Raw propaganda for socially destructive concepts. Despicable.

I could easily go on and on. Of the hundred or so comments I saw almost all of them were in this vein, anti-feminist drivel and MRA dog whistling.  According to Kiran this is where she stopped reading…

Please give your son up for adoption to a loving mother and have your tubes tied with barbed wire.

 

I’ve just excerpted the quotes here anonymously, however I think its important to point out that this isn’t even in the semi anonymous world of Twitter. These are people who logged into the Huffpo with their Facebook logins! You could click over and find out what the deeply shitty person who wrote that last bit had for breakfast I suppose. These are people who are completely unashamed to hold an opinion such as…

From what I am reading here my guess is you are abusing your child, I hope they throw you in jail.

All this from an innocuous blog post about kids and TV shows.

Animated GIF from "The 300" where Leonitas kicks a dude into the bottomless pit whilst screaming
THIS IS HUFFPO!!!!

Now I’m sure that there are some of you out there who are thinking along the lines of “don’t feed the trolls” or “that’s just the internet” and implying that some shitty comments on a post shouldn’t be enough to drive anyone away from their blog. My reply is two-fold. Firstly, these kind of comments go far beyond the realm of reasonable discourse into the realm of abuse and harassment. Barb wire dude above isn’t adding anything to anything resembling a reasonable debate over the merits of feminism. I’m frankly appalled that Huffpo UK has such a lax moderation policy. Secondly I don’t understand this notion that the Internet is somehow to be reserved for only those with a cast iron psyche. Some people are tough as nails and that is great. Evidently we need those people. But requiring that every person who writes on the Internet be tough as nails is filtering out a lot of thoughtful and intelligent people. The Internet needn’t be Sparta

As part of the Skepchick network (and as a long time reader and commenter there before the launch of GP,) I would be remiss if I did not point out that none of this is new to us here. Amy Davis Roth, Skepchick and managing editor of Mad Art Lab recently debuted her installation “A Woman’s Room Online”, featuring a room in which all of the surfaces have been plastered with printouts of the actual abusive messages sent to or publicly posted about women who write on the internet, bloggers and professional journalists alike. If you are in the LA area you can still check it out yourself until October 13th. Contributors to the project include Amy, our fearless leader Rebecca Watson, and many others who have had to deal with a kind of raging misogyny, brutal imagery and outright harassment in order to particpate in the online world.

Kiran Chug herself is a former newspaper and radio journalist (now a SAHM and free-lance writer) and hardly an innocent when it comes to the horrible  things people might say about something she has written or said, but this was the first time that her family had been brought into the mix and I can completely understand being unsettled by that. And I can also completely understand how (unfortunately) different it is for a woman to receive this kind of abuse. One of the Dad Bloggers in the group boasted a little that he had actually attracted the attention of a actual hate group with one of his posts and it didn’t scare him off from blogging. In fact he felt that it was a sign that he had “arrived”. Once again, if you feel strong enough to shrug off harsh commentary, more power to you. But I feel that this attitude towards internet comments elides over the very real differences between the way men and women are treated in these situations. It’s classic gaslighting. I might write something and have my ideas dismissed or my intelligence questioned. If you look over the walls at Amy’s installation or the comments on Kiran’s piece at Huffpo, you will see “people” making direct attacks on the writers in crude sexual fashion, attacking their appearance, sexuality and in Kiran’s case her fitness to be a mother. All of these things are something women already have to deal with, sometimes on a daily basis in their regular lives, that men almost never have to think about. And the internet creates an environment where that abuse is mingled in with everything else we try to do. When I sit down to tweet back and forth with my E-migo’s during a football game I don’t have to worry that my iPhone will notify me of some random asshole who thinks calling me the “c-word” is the height of wit. I can open my email without ever wondering if that person whose handle I don’t recognize is another dad blogger saying hi or someone who thinks I should give my kids up for adoption. So I don’t begrudge this Mummy taking a step back to catch her breath at all.

I hope that this is only a temporary hiatus for Mummy Says… because I don’t think that there can be too many great parents out there writing on the Internet. And I don’t want the trolls to win.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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