Boy Culture: On Masks and Eye Patches

I know we're all kind of burnt out on Kickstarter but this one is something I'm incredibly passionate about. Whether you want to support the project or not, I ask that you watch, listen, acknowledge that there is indeed a need for a stronger support system for ALL of our boys.

In the filmmakers' words:

Feminism is as much about advocating for our sons as it is our daughters. A more secure, more emotionally able, less repressed generation of boys means a more emotionally stable generation of everyone. But it's up to us, as parents, teachers, caregivers, uncles, aunts, friends, artists, writers, filmmakers, journalists, human beings to redefine or at the very least, reevaluate masculinity and how our often archaic perception of masculinity is affecting our sons and in turn, their relationships with themselves and others...

And yes. I just quoted myself which is totally lame but I will broken record that action until the end of time because I am very much at my breaking point when it comes to "let's empower and support our daughters" talk and absolute SILENCE when it comes to our sons.

You want to talk about protecting our girls from sexual assault? Then we must also talk about what we're doing to raise our boys so that they don't grow up to be the assailants. 

The truth is, the vast majority of violent crimes are carried out by men. The vast majority of violent crimes WILL be carried out by men. Men who are now boys. Men who are now boys that we are raising. And by "we" I mean ALL OF US. 

You want to talk about pinkwashing and how hard it sucks?  Great! I'm in. But can we agree to also discuss the ramifications of warwashing? I don't understand how we can discourage our daughters from princess culture and then completely disregard "pirate" culture which we glorify to and for our sons. (We used to dress Archer up as a pirate all the time when he was little. We had a pirate themed  birthday party for him when he was four. Hell, even A's nickname as a toddler was "pirate of the snails." PIRATE. As in piracy. As in raping, pillaging, murdering, robbing, burning cities to the ground, you know, just your garden variety WORST SHIT EVER!)

Why don't we see any of that when we look at this? Why don't we see it even slightly? I certainly didn't.

And yet, with princesses, oooh boy. With Barbies and Bratz dolls and anything the color pink, our feminist radars go BAM WTF NOOOOOOO. 

I had an epiphany recently when I took Archer and Fable on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland and realized that  the scene with the pirate selling women into sex slavery marriage was still on display. In 2013. Oh, you know, because NBD, it's just a ride. Never mind that the ride (and franchise) glorifies getting drunk, looting, shooting, torturing and burning cities to the ground (because yo ho, yo ho that's what pirates do, yo) but TODAY, I can take my kids on a ride FOR families and watch women being sold into slavery like its NBD and then go shopping for Pirate stuff at the gift shop at the end of the ride, order a soft drink and get back in line to do it again. 

And btw, I LOVED the Pirates of the Caribbean ride growing up. I loved it so much I didn't care who was torturing who and trying to rape what. 

Because it was a ride. And yet, I remember ALL of it. It was engrained in my childhood pysche and it's still there. For better, for worse. And perhaps that doesn't matter in the scheme of life but maybe it does. What if it does?

From Ms. Magazine, who wrote about the ride in 2010:  What makes this all the more alarming is that the Disney folks altered the ride to be less sexist during a major renovation in 2007. It originally included a scene with male pirates chasing unwilling (but giggling) townswomen and another in which an overweight male pirate, exhausted from his pursuit of a teenage girl, holds a piece of her dress and says, “It’s sore I be to hoist me colors upon the likes of that shy little wench” and, “Keep a weather eye open, Mateys. I be willing to share, I be” 

Cough, rape culture, ahem?

So, yes, a less "sexist" Pirates of the Caribbean ride. With women for sale. And men selling them.

I have seen so many petitions, read so many essays (hell, I've even written them) about princess culture and pinkwashing and how to help our daughters navigate princessland and body image and all of these things that we allllll seem to be on the same page with.

And yet. In all my google frenzy I found ONE post that questioned pirate culture and it's effect on our sons. (When I found this post  I wondered if I should even bother posting about this. Clearly I'm in the minority in thinking this is even an issue because, yes! kids dressed up like pirates are totally adorable. Even my DAD celebrates Talk Like a Pirate Day! My favorite song is Tiny Dancer and prettyyy eyyyyesss pirrraattteee smileeee you married a music maaaahhaaaaan.)

P.S. This is what happens when I google pirate culture and boys. This is what happens when I google princess culture and girlsHell, HuffPo has a whole section devoted to princess culture!

The double standard is real. Or rather, the LACK of standards when it comes to our boys is real.

Do we not see our sons as impressionable as we do our daughters? Why not? Is it not feminist to look into what is ailing our boys in the same way we look into what is ailing our girls? And therein lies the issue, perhaps. Boys struggling with their masculinity isn't as personal to us as mothers. We cannot begin to understand it without projecting our own experience. So we do. We ALL do. I recognized this when the most favored comment in my Brony post was relating male sexism back to women. (No disrespect to Tara who commented. I just found that particularly telling.)

The double standard is real. Or rather, the LACK of standards when it comes to our boys is real. It's real and it's scary and we need talk about it.

Because while we're reposting how AWESOME the "real barbie" is for our daughters, our sons are trying to decide between Batman (vigilante!) and Pirate (criminal!) pajamas and it's like, eh, no big. Boys will be boys. It's all just make believe for fun. 

And for some, absolutely. For some it's just boys being boys. But for those of us with highly sensitive children, highly impressionable selves, we have to recognize that maybe, just maybe these messages we don't think we're sending have actual influence.

And, yes, I'm totally on board with the real-looking barbie. High five to her creator. But where's the KIND doll for boys? Who's going to turn GI Joe into a caring dad who no longer blows shit up? 

And sure, all of this may mean nothing in the scheme of things. Pirate birthday parties and sex slavery LOL on Disneyland rides may affect our boys zero. In the same way princess culture doesn't necessarily affect our daughters. In the same way pinkwashing and happily ever after and "I'm a princess" t-shirts and barbies and Bratz and Merida getting a makeover isn't affecting our girls.

But maybe it will. Maybe it already has. Personally, I have a hard time seeing how it couldn't. 

Which is why I'm grateful for Jennifer Siebel Newsom and anyone who chooses to dig deeper into this issue on behalf of our sons, their peace and ours.  



Simplifiedesign* | 2:58 PM

Loved this post. I don't have a son but I've often think about how our culture is shaping our kids, male and female. One thing that I've always thought was strange is the difference in men and women's bathrooms or showers. Why are the bathrooms available for men and women in public so diffierent. Privacy is such a big deal when it comes to women but boys/men are expected to be ok with using bathroom or showering in front of other people. I don't know if it's just me, but I've always thought that was so strange. I know plenty of boys/men who won't use public restroom due to lack of privacy.

Feministy | 5:47 PM

I'm a Feminist. For real. The militant kind. The kind that gives Feminists a bad name. I will destroy a dude when he's being a misogynist like it's my job. But it's my hobby.

I have a six-year-old daughter and I have had very clear ideas about how to raise her as a Feminist, help her grown into a Feminist , but when I found out I was having twins and one of them would be a boy, I felt totally stunned. ALL the rapey misogynists in the world are men, and I would raise a boy who would one day become a man. I freaked the hell out.

I used to roll my eyes when men I'd date would contend that boys were being undeserved by the U.S. educational system, or were victims of sexual violence, or or or. Because, sure, those things were true, but I was all about the numbers, and the truth is girls and women get screwed more and worse as a group then boys and men. Men have power and privilege and penises and they use the hell out of them, often to dominate women in one way or another, subtley and overtly.

But now my sweet son is one. He and his twin sister. And he is the dearest, gentlest, funniest little boy ever and I pretty much think my former self was an idiot. Not because all the stuff about privilege and power and penises isn't true, but because it doesn't have to be. I see my parenting project with him as pretty much the same as with his sisters: to help him become himself, be self-assured, fill his own needs and desires while being kind to others, be safe and strong in a world that can be dangerous, have a good tim! And, of course, never use the privilege he will have as a white man against others.

Boys are awesome. Especially him!

Amy3 | 10:22 AM

You're exactly right. We can't possibly envision, hope and work for a different and better world, a more just world for our girls, if we don't do the same for boys. We need to be about equality, understanding, and respect for everyone.

My husband, myself, and our 11-yr-old daughter watched Miss Representation and it sparked some great conversations. I'm sure this film is just as good.