JULY 5, 2012 5:21PM

Mommas, Don’t Let Your Boys Grow Up To Be Creeps

Rate: 15 Flag

While watching a Harry Potter movie with my boys, I patted myself on the back for recent compliments on their good behavior at events, until….. “Yeah, like, pipe down, woman,” my older son said to the television in response to a condescending Hermione quote. Woman? Pipe down… woman? Shit.                                                                          

Calling him on the comment, I instructed him not to identify gender at the end of an insult; it makes one sound like a creep. It’s especially offensive when men or boys are derogatory towards women due to thousands of years of misogyny in mainstream culture. Since women are gaining in economic and political power now, it’s becoming uncool to indulge in man-hating, too.

Bad habits are difficult to break, and it’ll take time for the war of the sexes to end completely. It’s easiest to stop spats with children, because they don’t have broken hearts and workplace harassment to forgive. They are (hopefully) less injured, and so easier to convince respect of the opposite gender is a good thing. Stopping the insanity before it starts is best, of course.

But then there is that silly thing we call “reality.” The reality is my sons were raised in a home where femininity wasn’t always respected, and words exchanged between the parents weren’t always mindful. Honestly, I felt disrespected for years in innumerable subtle expressions in my marriage; and now I’m hearing my older son speak aloud what he learned.

What I am writing of is not severe, like domestic violence or verbal abuse. The attitudes, interactions, and half spoken beliefs were subtle communicators of a lack of respect towards women, and specifically mothers; but were expressed so passively they seemed invisible. They were invisible until my older son said, “Pipe down, woman.”

Our children show us who we really are, and sometimes it’s so painful to witness I can barely believe it. What I endured for years for “the good of the family” has had a fall-out like radiation after a nuclear explosion: invisible, silent, yet sickening. What my pride told me was the right thing to do; my children are showing me was a flawed bargain.

I am recreating my family now, from a place of love and healing. The new found confidence I have in my soul, like a peony blooming, will give me the strength and energy to undo the unhealthy attitudes my children learned. There is still time to teach them better. So grateful am I to have the opportunity to instruct my boys to be respectful to women…and conversely, respectful to the feminine part of their own spirits; which will help them to navigate their lives with gentleness.

Thank God for endings that allow beginnings, and repair.

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"Respectful to the feminine part of their own spirits." Awesome.
You have everything in your own spirit to teach and lead your beautiful boys. It's the time for creation.
"What I endured for years for “the good of the family” has had a fall out like radiation after a nuclear explosion: invisible, silent, yet sickening. What my pride told me was the right thing to do; my children are showing me was a flawed bargain."

It takes a strong person to put their ego/pride aside. I didn't have that strength when I was young and my daughters were growing up, what you're doing with your sons is a gift to them.

My last husband treated me like an equal and he was the only husband I had that I respected and admired as well as loved. It's hard to have those feelings for a dictator, no matter how magnanimous or benevolent they pretend to be.

What you're doing isn't easy and you have my admiration and gratitude. Like my mother, I never wanted my daughters to marry but their lives are theirs to live and I support whatever they do. I have a granddaughter, hopefully it will be a different world for her and she will be treated like an equal.
Good for you! As another mother of sons, now grown, I know how important it is to instill respect for all, but most especially, women.
I was never given that chance and evil won.
I am glad you are able to do this as if you nip it in the bud quickly I know they will always be as loving as their mother.
A friend had a talk with her daughter's friend and his good, Christian family because he seriously disrespected her daughter. She's 14 and he behaved very inappropriately then told another girl that the daughter was actually the ex of a friend and he didn't really know her.

I am so proud of my friend and the boy's parents. They all agreed he had done wrong and he is learning the error of his ways.

We need more parents like you, M, and my friend.
You are a good Mom. I have two daughters. We are all three pretty strong. Men and Women. Eternal. I have been thinking of the mind set of ....Madonna/Slut.....lately. Seems there is lots of that going round too.
And of course, it is not just avoiding hte comments, but getting to a point where they don't even enter the mind.
It'll take time, but it is time well spent.
A thoughtful write!
thebalanceline- thanks sweetie! It is time for creation...of a certain sort.

l'Heure- I hope your grand-daughter has no idea what we're talking about!

Lea- congrats on getting good men raised. I'm on my way.

Linda- nipping in the bud...for sure. I think about the advice you've given me often. Thank you friend.

just phyllis- good for them for stepping up! That's usually all it takes.

zanelle- I've been listening to Madonna lately!

JD- thanks and exactly!
Good for you for speaking up Maureen. When it comes to bad habits it always seems easier picking them up then shedding them.
It is definitely an upbringing issue. Learning to respect women, let alone your mother, is crucial, and not only for boys. Excellent post, Maureen. R
Boy, can I relate to this post! My husband and son "tease" me relentlessly, and I've heard my son utter some zingers, including the "woman" thing. My husband is progressive, but sometimes he has to battle his own learned chauvinism, and our son picks up on those subtleties, too. Like you, I'm working on solving the issue.
You can tell a lot about a man by his relationship with his mother....

with men commenting if you want to know what your wife will look like in 30 years, look at her mother.
Awwww, Mo. This is so damn cool. Yes, the comment was a shocker, but -- just like you, Peony - the very fragrance wafting through this piece - it is bein' 'nipped in the bud,' and your astute bringing of the femme nature in us all to the boys - just - perfect. It is a real. Not enough men have it, either. Love to you, sweet Pie. R, SB. Keep goin!!!!
I didn't like this post.

The single comment and your reaction ..... I dunno. It will probably round to zero in the grand scheme.

But your personal sense of gender issues .... well .... its a long way from his comment to your view of sexism, gender inequality, &c.

All I can think of is --- lighten up. In fact, based on your description -- less nuclear family conflict, etc. things are probably already a lot lighter for everyone. Which is good. Especially for a kid.

Just a thought.

A big decision, and a big life change.

If it works out well, it is very easy to retrospectively frame the past as some sort of big mistake.

But a change for the better doesn't condemn the past as a huge mistake. Among other reasons -- there is a huge element of randomness, chance, and luck in everything about life.

But it is hard enough to make sense of things without developing a simplifying narrative. I think there can be big advantages in being a little less judgmental about the past. Especially if you tend to be hard on yourself.


Think light.