My 11 year old son (#2) and 6 year old daughter (#4) were playing the Wii yesterday when the inevitable fight broke out.
"But why do you get to be the girl? There's only one girl and a bajillion boys. Be one of them." My sweet daughter whined for the thousandth time at her brother.
"I was playing first. I already picked a character. Pick someone else." Her adoring brother sneered.
"But you're always the girls." #4 replied. "I'm tired of having to be the yucky boys. You are one, so be one."
I'd had enough of bickering, video games, and Christmas vacation when I called him up into the kitchen to figure out what the heck was going on.
"What's the deal?" I asked him. "Are you just torturing your sister, or do you actually want to be the girl?"
"I was that character first. I want to be the girl."
I took a deep breath and let it out. Where did we go from here? Why would my son want to be the girl? I have brothers, you couldn't have paid them money to be the girl.
"You want to be the girl?" I asked again.
"Well, no." He answered me. "I'd rather be a guy, but I want to win. The only character that can win this game is the girl. The only characters that can easily win most of my games are the girls. I don't want to be the girl, but I don't really have a choice."
I've spent the last day or so thinking about this conversation. My son is right. The guys are wimps. If you want to win, you have to be the girl.
When I was a young girl in the 1970s, there were no strong girl characters other than Wonder Woman, and even her stuff was girly....magic bracelets? Please. (I know about Charlie's Angels. I just wasn't allowed to watch it then, and it was a pretty transformative show as far as gender roles went.) As I got older and we moved into the 80s, there was a shift in our culture. We moved away from the doe-eyed helpless girl and onto the empowered I-can-take-care-of-myself woman. It was a welcome change and girls everywhere were shown that they could be strong, courageous, and brave.
When our eldest child was born in the mid-90s, I had only a fleeting thought of the kind of role models I would like to find for her and was pleased to see that strong independent women seemed to be all around us. When our son was born 3 years later, it never even occurred to me that his role models were the ones I'd have to search to find.
Where are the heroes? Where are the strong, smart, capable men? The guys on television are crass, rude, and very often too dumb to actually be married to their TV spouses. The dad on any sitcom is an idiot and his poor wife and children are made to put up with his bumbling buffoonery. The movies are no better. The male characters start off looking strong, but have to be rescued by the girls they pick up along the way. Even the books he reads perpetuate this smart girl/dumb guy stereotype. The boys may be the main character, but his female sidekick is the brains and cleverness of the whole operation. We often are left with the impression that without the girls, the boys would fail, but without the boys.....the girl would figure it out.
Are these really the type of men that we want to raise in this society? Why do we want boys who are as clingy, helpless and doe-eyed as girls supposedly once were? Who benefits from the feminization and wussification of modern boys? It's not us.
There were many good things which came from "liberating" women. I'm happy that women can roar. I just don't understand why having roaring women means that our boys have to be scared lambs. Why is it that the only way my son can win is to be the girl?