Dear Radical Feminist,
I have the honour and privilege of being the father of a wonderful seven-year-old. It is not his fault he was born a boy and has white skin and is statistically more likely to grow up hetero-sexual.
He is strong-minded, intelligent, and independent, with a growing sense of who he is and confidence in who he is. I will not stand by and allow you to label him as a proto-rapist before he has committed any crime. I will not stand mutely by and watch while he is burdened with the unnecessary guilt of having to ‘check his privilege’. Instead, I will give him space to grow and mature into a well-rounded human being free from judgements and chastisements that would sap his self-confidence and lead him to question his own worth because you spew an ideology espousing value judgements based on his sex and skin colour and those of his parents. You don’t know him, you’ve never met him: if you allow your ideology to shape your opinions of who he is and who he will become, then you are prejudiced—as defined by any mainstream English dictionary.
I will not teach him he has to defer to someone else in the world or in thought just because they are of a different sex, sexuality, gender or ethnicity. I will not teach him he has to subvert or suppress his developing sense of self (‘masculine’ as well as ‘feminine’ aspects) in case it offends anyone. He will grow up knowing the value of who he is. He has already demonstrated empathy and compassion, the ability to see things from another’s viewpoint and give others opinions and well-being due consideration. He already has the ability to relate to others of differing sex and colour in a respectful and open-minded way. He has friendships with both boys and girls of colour (and not), ones he cultivates himself because he is capable, aged seven, of recognising the differences and unique qualities of other human beings without value considerations. When judging another individual’s value, he is gender-, sex- and colour-blind. I will fight for him to remain this way for as long as possible.
You may define yourself largely by your gender and/or sex and/or sexuality—that is your choice and your right—but he shall be free to incorporate his growing sense of these aspects of his personhood into the greater whole of who he is as he grows. He should not have his outlook and perceptions of his sexuality or those of others distorted by an ideological lens, at least hopefully not until he is old enough to process the ramifications of experiencing the world through someone else’s social constructs and biases.
He has a lively imagination and an enquiring mind, already capable of independently evaluating what he encounters. Other than in an age appropriate way, I will not censor what he reads, watches or plays, or attempt to dictate what he thinks. As he comes across more challenging situations, personalities and issues, I will try to discuss the differing aspects, effects and implications of each, likely learning new things myself as I share in his exploration of the world. I will not allow anyone to censor him or foist a pre-defined life-map upon him, restricting his available learning opportunities and thereby affecting his future growth and choices, in order to satisfy their personal agendas or conform to some politically correct manifesto. When mature enough, I want him to encounter challenging art and music and film, offensive writing, ‘wicked’ games, and un-sanitised accounts of historical events and personal experiences.
My hopes are: he will remain as he is, his own person, not anyone’s automaton or puppet; and there will be sufficient creative and intellectual freedom left that he can fully explore what it means to be human.
I will try to teach him the value of working hard and the value of advancement through merit. I will teach him to reach for success (as he defines it) and praise others for theirs. I will encourage him not to give up at school just because the girls seem to be doing better. I will not give up on the ideal that he can contribute to society when he grows, that he can find a place and a role—that he can be a gift to anyone who knows him—without conforming to such an extent he is defined by external socialisation/expectation or must be of a certain orientation to be ‘valid’.
To the best of my ability, I will not allow him to grow up thinking that women are his enemies. Many women and feminists do not think as you do and would not hate/label/judge/limit him simply for having a penis. Eventually, and sadly, I may warn him that there are those that do not wish the best for him because they believe him the product, even the embodiment, of an oppressive sociopolitical system. After he is dehumanised and demonised, they may not accept his right to live a fulfilled life or even to exist unless he conforms to their world-view. If he chooses another, they will expect him to spend every day apologising for who he is.
Then I will tell him I am proud of who he has become, and not to betray or compromise himself for anyone—in exactly the same way you would if you had a daughter.
A white, cis-male Dad.
P.S.: If you’ve read through this with the assumption that I’m banking on his sexuality ending up as hetero, then check your prejudice. That will be his decision to make as he explores his inner world. Certain rad-feminists have attacked trans, gay, and bi-sexuals for not agreeing or conforming to their particular brand of truth and reality. (1), (2), (3). There are other examples, just search for them.
The following conversation took place returning home from school in the car. It was dark. I was driving; my son was on the back seat behind me. He couldn’t see my face or read my body language. I deliberately kept my voice tone neutral, other than expressing mild enquiry.
Me: What do you think of girls?
My son: Nice, generous, sometimes annoying.
Me: And what do you think about boys?
My son: Bonkers, they like football*, sometimes annoying. Nice.
Me: So are girls better than boys, boys better than girls, or are they the same?
My son: … The same, they both have different properties.
Me: Where did you learn that? Who taught you?
My son: No one. I saw a boy bullying a girl in the playground and that… changed the way I think about things.
* What sounds like patriarchal role-enforcement is, to him, an observation of his male friends. He doesn’t play or particularly enjoy watching football. He goes his own way—always.