Sunday, August 17, 2008

Open Book Answers PART VIII (by H and B)

Q: My name is Stella, and I'm 15. I love love LOVE your blog! Your boys are such a joy to read about, and I love their spirit and the way your family does everything! Something that struck me awhile ago was when Kyle and Owen were wearing tutus. You have no idea how cool that is to me! I know so many people who would gasp in horror at the idea of letting their boys wear tutus, but you guys are so open, and you just let your boys [and now GIRL] do their own thing! I love your way of parenting! I often babysit kids, and cringe at the way some people treat their little ones. You guys rock! I don't have a question yet, but I wanted to say hi anyway, and I'll keep thinking about a good question for you!
H’s Answer: Thank you for reading Stella! And thank you for the compliment about our parenting. Just the other day K & O were running around with nothing on but those pink tutus (because they were absolutely naked except for the tutus I won’t be posting photos of that here on the blog!). I thought of you while I was watching them.
B’s Answer: -
I think it's really cool that the boys love doing this, and we make a very strong effort to not discourage them from exploring things that are typically considered "girly." Some would say that for black boys, that anything other than creating a strong sense of masculinity will just make it harder for them, but in my experience I have found that the strongest men are the ones who are most comfortable with gender.

Q: Hi Heather and Fam-It's Marsha Bowersox, a former student of Heather's (MA, 2002) and a big fan of your blog for many reasons. I love the living, thinking, moving sociology incorporated into your daily lives. I love that you take the time to tell others about how you're parenting. And most of all, I love that you're phenomenal role models for someone like me-- kids are definitely in the long-term plan, but how? when? where?why?!?I started reading during some long, lonely days in the place I currently call home- Transylvania, Romania. Email, blogs, and really any link to friends & family really brighten my days.My question: Is it truly possible in 2008 to raise kids without gender biases?
H’s Answer: Hi Marsha!!!! I love that you’re reading our blog from Transylvania! And you know that I love you and am so proud of you! (To all of you reading out there—this is one of my best grad students of all time—look for her name in the future… she’s going to do something great with her sociology!!!!!!)… So… thanks for the yes/no question Marsha (see! You *are* a good student – doing exactly what is asked of you by the prof!)… So, the answer to your question is NO. It is not truly possible in 2008 to raise kids without gender biases. Here is a good sociology book you can read on this subject if you haven’t read it already: Gender Vertigo: American Families in Transition, by Barbara Risman.
B’s Answer: I don't think it's possible to raise any child in this society without a gender, race or class bias. Nor do I think you would want to really; I believe that to be color (or gender or class) blind is to ignore the difficulties of disadvantaged people. I believe that the best you can do is raise them with a sense of awareness, empathy and justice. I hope we can do that, we work very hard on it.

Q: Hi! I'm a grad student at Stanford and have been reading pretty much every day now for a little over a year now. I read mostly because I find daily inspiration here to keep going as an ambitious female in academe. Thank you for giving living color to the POTENTIAL to have a strong family and a powerful career as a woman. You are literally the only proof I have that it might actually be possible for me. And believe me, there are many days when I really need that to keep going (I'm sure you get it). One thing I love about your blog is that it gives me so much food for thought in regards to gender (both in terms of partner/relationship and parenting). So my question is this: Now that Meera is in the picture do you think you will raise her any differently than you raise the boys in regards to gender? Do you think it is more important to be aware of gender in your parenting now that you have a girl, or is it no different than before? Do you and Braydon talk about this stuff? And if you're willing to answer an open ended question: how do you think about gender/parenting differently now that you have boys AND a girl??? Would love to hear your thoughts. Again, I really appreciate your blog. Thanks for not being afraid to put it all out there. And thanks for being a real life example that it can work as a HIGH-ACHIEVING MOTHER!!!!
H’s Answer: Oh, hello to you – whoever you are – pushing hard at Stanford. I feel for you, I totally do. I know how hard it is. Keep going and don’t stop. Thanks so much for your comment—it makes me feel good to know that you’re reading. The thing is, if you were one of my students you’d get a lot more than this blog re: this subject. I try to be really honest with my students – both male and female – both undergrad and grad – about the challenges, pitfalls, and sheer pain of trying to do this whole career-and-family-thing. I also try to be honest with them about the beauty and joy and gratification of it. I think academics are in a particular situation, too, so if you plan to go on to stay in the academy, you’ll be presented with a whole series of challenges and privileges that are pretty unique to our realm (I'm sure you know a lot about this already). Be sure to be in touch with me via email anytime and I’ll do what I can for moral support. My basic answer to your question is that no, I don’t think of parenting differently now that we have a girl. I am thinking now about things like eating disorders (which I wasn’t thinking too much about before) but other than that, it is not much different for me. But- I am going to let Braydon answer this question because it is too huge for me and if I get started I’ll write an entire book on this blog about it. Again, Stanford gal, thanks for writing and keep up your good work!

B’s Answer:
Hi thank you for your sweet comment, that means so much to us! I believe that too much responsibility for changing gender inequality has been put on women and that men have largely escaped any kind of accountability for fixing gender problems. And I am not talking superficial things like that it's ok for women to wear pants, but not ok for men to wear dresses. I am talking about more structural things like that our country is setup in almost all its institutions to benefit a patriarchial setting. For example, schools let out around 2 PM - um, hello?!?! Who do they expect to pick up the kinds - mom. If mom picks up the kids at 2, then how will she work? If she's not working, how does she have anything other than dependence on her husband. If she has no independence, how can she make a case for equality? She can't. It's totally not fair.

And the problem with this, is that it's just sooooo much easier to go along with it than to fight it. But when women and men go along with it, then it puts them both at a disadvantage to make any change; the women is disempowered for change and the man is empowered to keep things status quo.

So, we put a lot of focus on gender in our family, in terms of justice. All three are so young now, that we don't have discussions about gender specifically, but I am very sure we will over time. We just come at it from a foundational belief in equality. You can see how that effects what we do with the boys, what we encourage, what we don't discourage. Does that mean we will have Meera wear pants only in boy colors? Of course not, that debases the entire framework and adds no value to the notion of equality. Does that mean we will not have difficulties with gender in our lives? Ha!

What it means is that at least we're aware and doing what we can to make it better. And I think that's really all you can do.

But before I get off my soapbox, I just want to say, that I am no perfect guy when it comes to gender. I work on it, I am aware of it, but we still really struggle with who is on the hook to get the boys when the school calls and they are sick and need to be picked up. Most of the time it falls to Heather. But we're working on it.


Heza Hekele said...

That picture made me laugh out loud. Very funny.

Heather said...

I'm going to make a late introduction, as this post specifically resonated with me!

I'm also Heather, and I may have commented once or twice in the past. I've been reading for a little over a year and I so enjoy this blog!

I'm also a full-time working mom (attorney) and an adoptive mother of a 2.5 year old boy. Our son is African-American and we adopted him domestically at birth (we are white). I love your blog (and have come to love your family, as strange as that sounds!) because you touch on so many issues near to my heart -- working parents, transracial adoption, raising boys & gender issues, parenting in general, etc. etc., etc.!!!!!

Anyway, while reading Braydon's response, my thought is that if Heather is anything like me, she WANTS to be the one to pick the boys up from school, take them to the doctor, etc. For me, I try to make it work whenever I can despite the fact that my wonderful husband (who shares in parenting at LEAST 50%) would be willing or able to do the pick up, etc. I, too, struggle with the 2 pm end of the school day (don't even mention preschool schedules!) and that almost all music, gym, etc. classes are at 9:30 on Tuesday morning! It's great to be able to read how other parents navigate the madness and find the thrills and rewards in balancing (ha!) it all.

Thanks so much for writing!

Anonymous said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this picture of the boys!! It's sooooo cute!