If Only She Could Get Over Her Vagina
Tidings (10)

An Eighteen-Year Project

In the Sydney Morning Herald, proud feminist and former educator Polly Dunning shares her experience of motherhood:

I’ve always been a feminist. I’m lucky. My mother, Jane Caro, is a feminist, as is my grandmother, and both always have been. It’s something I’ve never questioned and always felt confident and strident about. Just ask me about it at a dinner party (if you dare...)

Setting aside the prospect of some horrendous dinner parties, note Ms Dunning’s satisfaction with a set of assumptions that are stridently voiced and “never questioned.”

Motherhood has been quite a confronting experience for my feminism so far, and I'm sure it will continue to be. Ever since discovering I was pregnant it’s been a process of adjusting and reconciling my biology with my ideology, particularly when I discovered that my baby, my most-beloved Alfred, would be a boy.

That little red light is a warning sign.

I had never wanted a son. In fact, I had decidedly not wanted one. I wanted daughters, probably because I am one of two daughters and six granddaughters, no sons or grandsons. This seemed altogether to fit in with my feminism better… There were dark moments in the middle of the night (when all those dark thoughts come), when I felt sick at the thought of something male growing inside me.

Yes, I know. The little red light is flashing now. Best cover it with a towel.

In this patriarchal world, this world where even the best men (and women, for that matter) engage in casual and ingrained sexism, how will I raise a son who respects me the way a daughter would?

Oh sweet naïveté. But thank goodness that Ms Dunning, who “felt sick” at even the thought of “something male” growing inside her, is totally opposed to all that “casual and ingrained sexism.”

How do you raise a white, middle-class boy not to think his own experience is the default experience of the world? How do you counter a society that makes things easier for him than for others, and make him see it? See how it is for women, for people of colour?

At this point, readers may wonder if the boy, and later, a young man, will be spending quite a lot of time as grist to the feminist mill, being dutifully reconstructed as a tool with which to “counter” a “patriarchal” society. Which possibly casts doubt on the assumption that his life will be made particularly easy.

Raising a boy who maintains the status quo sure would be easy, but I refuse to be satisfied with that. I will raise a feminist boy. Just like his father and grandfathers before him, but even better. I will point sexism out to him at every turn, and he will never get away with it without being called out.

At every turn. The time will just fly.

I will show him that… products and art targeted at [girls] are no less valuable or enjoyable.

“But mom, I wanted Lego for Christmas.”

He will be immersed in feminism by a family who models it in their everyday life.

Despite the term family, Ms Dunning’s article makes scant mention of any male influence on her son’s life. Just the one sentence quoted above. An oversight, I’m sure. And I suppose it’s good to know that, despite not wanting a son, decidedly not wanting one, because such a disappointment wouldn’t “fit in” with her feminism - and despite being nauseated by the thought of a male baby - Ms Dunning will now have a new political project. One lasting the better part of two decades, with endless opportunities to “call out” any sexism or heresy the boy might display, any incorrect inclination, any untoward maleness. Perhaps mother and son will bond via the medium of dogmatic scolding.

Via Ben Sixsmith.

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