First, I must say this: Guitar Hero Rocks! I discovered Guitar Hero at the arcade over Spring Break and spent an embarrassingly large number of tokens rockin’ out to “Hit me with your best shot!” Since I barely tolerate arcades as a hideous waste of time and money, I think I stunned my husband and kids.
Good. Need to keep them on their toes.
As we waited to sign up for the Star Wars Light Saber Duel at the cabana-like activities station of the local waterpark, the cruise-director-type activity leader corralled a half dozen pint-sized girls who had signed up for Mini Manicures. I’m not terribly fond of the idea of nail polish for little girls, but having none, I remain agnostic on whether this is harmless fun or insidious priming for future image issues.
But then the activity director started leading these little girls in a cheer. She put on her best Diva attitude and chanted, “Look at Me! I’m so pretty! Look at Me! I’m so fine!” Of course, the girls followed her lead.
I stood watching, aghast, and literally speechless. Then I noticed all three of my boys had similar looks of astonishment. I bent down and whispered to my six year old, hoping to counteract some of the damage, “They’re being pretty silly, aren’t they?”
Mighty Mite replied, “I think they’ve lost their minds!”
The chanting soon ended, we signed up for our future bloodless battle, and quickly left. On the way out, my 11 year old, obviously still reeling from the display of rampant femininity, said, “Well, that was disturbing.”
I completely agreed.
But I had to wonder: Am I raising boys who are intolerant of the fact that some girls like to be girly-girls? Was my household too testosterone riddled?
Or did they sense, even at their tender ages, the inappropriateness of idolizing appearance?
I’m not sure. I like to think that having a strong mother as a role model inoculates my boys against the kind of sexism that thinks less of girls and women – that portrays them as fragile flowers that need protecting, rather than empowered people that can go out and conquer the world, if they have a mind to. But at the same time, I hope they see the importance of soft, feminine values – attitudes that say that it’s just as manly to care for others as it is to go out and fight the dragons.
I think the experiences and stories that inundate our children’s lives have an impact on shaping their values, on top of those we transmit everyday through our words and actions. Books play an integral part of this. I’m cognizant of the books they read, beyond protecting them from the innocence-robbing gratuitous violence or sexual messages that I try to highlight here on Ink Spells.
The worlds portrayed within books expand the realm of possibilities that our children see as acceptable, possible, and perhaps superior to our own. This is why I’m glad to see my boys read books like Little House on the Prairie, as well as Ranger’s Apprentice. This is why I’m writing a book that features a strong female main character, as well as caring male characters. And why I will encourage them to read Leviathan (to be reviewed tomorrow), which features a girl who disguises herself as a boy in order to join the Air Force of the time.
The books of my youth shaped my thinking about the world in many ways. Ursula K. LeGuin’s Lathe of Heaven made me careful what I wished for. Larry Niven and Steven Barnes’ Achilles’ Choice made me question the sacrifices necessary for ultimate achievement.
The more I ponder it, the less I worry. Worm Burner is known in our family as the Cat Whisperer, for his gentle ways with the kittens – they preferentially come sleep in his bed at night, whereas they primarily use me for a trampoline. Dark Omen can’t wait until he turns thirteen, so he can take the local babysitting course from the Park District – he has been fond of babies since he was practically one himself. Mighty Mite is my most boyish boy, and yet the caring and devotion he lavishes upon anything with fur or feathers makes me think he’ll be a future member of PETA, a veterinarian, or both.
So far, they are doing well, and all those stories of strong female (and male) protagonists may have something to do with it.
As well as having a mom that rocks out to Guitar Hero.