on boyhood

A few weeks ago ago, my friends and I were having a discussion about children. More specifically, about the prospect of having them. It’s normally a topic I steer clear of, largely because the presumption of a “ticking clock” has always insulted me more than intrigued me. (i.e., shouldn’t people just either want to have children or not, irregardless of gender? alas, I digress.] In any case, interestingly, my friend (a guy) immediately said, “I’d be SO protective of a girl and worried for her, I’d probably rather have a boy.”

Though the statement didn’t shock me, it saddened me. Sure, women are most often the victims of sexual abuse and violent crime in the world, but isn’t it sad that to avoid this problem, you have to hope you don’t have a girl? I realize my friend wasn’t trying to solve world problems with his very casual statement, but he was making an observation about what he’d feel more comfortable doing. And it saddened me.

Nowadays, we tend to approach the problems of violent crime (specifically rape, sexual abuse, etc) in a particularly girl-centric way. How can we protect our daughters, how can we talk to our daughters, how can we make sure they steer clear of x situation. It’s a continuation of a long history of victim-blaming, where the would-be victims carry the burden of awareness and prevention. And for many people, including my friend, that’s a burden that’s daunting when it comes to child-rearing. But the thing that many activists are trying to change — and what I feel people need to question — is how we approach these topics. Instead of wondering how to talk to our girls, shouldn’t we be wondering how do we raise our boys?

This exact topic is broached by one of the most kickass slam poets out there — Andrea Gibson — in an incredibly powerful piece called “Blue Blanket”. You can watch the performance here (and I STRONGLY urge you to), and I’ve also included an excerpt below. As a young feminist, I have opinions about many, many things, but what perhaps riles me the most is boyhood — and how little we focus on it. Here’s hoping that changes.

“Blue Blanket” excerpt 

…tonight she’s not asking

you what you would tell your daughter

she’s life deep in the hell—the slaughter

has already died a thousand deaths with every unsteady breath

a thousand graves in every pore of her flesh

and she knows the war’s not over

knows there’s bleeding to come

knows she’s far from the only woman or girl

trusting this world no more than the hands

trust rusted barbed wire

she was whole before that night

believed in heaven before that night

and she’s not the only one

she knows she won’t be the only one

she’s not asking what you’re gonna tell your daughter

she asking what you’re gonna teach

your son.

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