My 10 Year Old Son Thinks the Trailers for Brave are Sexist

06.10.12

We don’t talk about sexism an awful lot around here so I was surprised when my ten year old looked at a billboard for Brave and declared it to be sexist. I asked him how it was sexist and got a five minute diatribe about how all the men were made to look stupid and that gender inequality was “from the 1960’s”.

Alexander asserted that girls do everything boys do except in sports and that the only reason someone would make a movie like this is to make boys feel about about things that happened even before they were born. He was genuinely offended by the trailer and the marketing, particularly the portrayal of Wee Dingwall.

I asked him some leading questions like, “Are there more boy scientists than girl scientists?” He looked at me like I’d sprouted an arm from my head and said, “No.”

“Are there more men than women in computer programming?” I followed up. “I don’t think so.” Was his (second wrong) reply.

I went through every profession I know of, even my husband’s where I know there’s dearth of female executives and he reminded me that our friend is president of a large corporation. She is a Mom.

My son was indignant. Boys are smart and so are men, he’s tired of them looking stupid all of the time. Part of me agrees with him. Men are often painted as buffoons so that women can look strong or savvy. Conversely women trade in on their sexuality. Modern Family is kind only to it’s two gay male stars and I assume that’s just because our country is so horrible to the gays that television can’t be, yet.

I wanted to tell Alexander that women don’t make as much money as men. I wanted to tell him that one of my first jobs was at a Mann Movie Theater and the term sexual harassment was an understatement it was more like Sexual Assault. I wanted to explain to him that women in technology are at a significant disadvantage in terms of networking and being taken seriously and wanted him to know the term “booth babe” because my hope is that in a dozen years when he enters the workforce he was have absolutely no idea what a “booth babe” is.

But I didn’t tell him this. I just sat in the car and listened more while my son told me that he and his sister had all the same opportunities, they have the exact same education and they are both good at different things but it has nothing to do with gender or gender roles.

He asserted that men are smart and I agreed with him. He told me that the movie was about ancient history and I nodded my agreement.

My son is wrong. Gender discrimination isn’t ancient history. Just last week every single republican in the senate voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act.

My son is also right. He’s right in knowing that 10 year old boys in America don’t see girls as weak, dumb or inferior. They also, mercifully, don’t see the comedy in portraying men and boys as bumbling buffoons. I don’t want to ruin his perception with a dose of unkind reality.

I wonder if there will be a smart movie that can talk about sexism without one gender having to win the imaginary war? It’s possible that Brave is this movie, unfortunately none of us will see it. Alexander would be wounded if we did.

 

A Letter to My Son on His 10th Birthday

07.27.11

Dear Sweet Alexander,

Ten years ago I was terrified that I didn’t have enough love to go around. I was so afraid of becoming your mother that I thought I’d have to love Jane less in order to love you more.

I was so very wrong. In your first minutes of life you taught us all that we were a family. You see before you came on the scene Daddy and I were a couple with a kid. You were our glue. You grounded us and made us a family. Three of us shared love for you, three of us were nervous that we wouldn’t quite  be enough but we loved you with our whole hearts from the moment you first appeared. You taught a lot of people about love Alexander. You were powerful in your first few minutes.

Tomorrow you’ll be ten. You’re my baby and there will be no more babies in this house after you.

I love your brain. I love when you take complex equations and narrow them down to their essence. I love being able to share science with you and have you understand it with minimal explanation. I love watching you solve problems. I’ve never told you that you’re smarter than other people. I think you probably know that, and I hope you will never be arrogant.

One of your best assets is your tenacity. It’s not easy to hit a baseball at 50 MPH, and it’s certainly not easy when you’re only looking out of one eye. I’m so proud of you for working extra hard at it so that you can get the job done. I’m thrilled that you’re starting vision therapy and that you are the one who wants to do the work. It’s good to be smart, Alexander, but it’s great to be a hard worker.

Every time you say “please”, “thank you” and “bless you” my heart soars. The world will treat you kindly when you have good manners. I know it’s not easy holding doors open, but you’re a boy, and soon you’ll be a man and it’s important to me that you are a gentleman.

Sometimes you ask me questions I can’t answer and we find the answers together. Your curiosity coupled with intelligence is what will change the world. Please remember, my son, that it’s more important to be good than it is to be first.

When you laugh I feel like I might burst, it’s like the sun shines ten times brighter and the joy is bouncing off of us all. I can’t imagine any joy greater than being your mother.

Someday Alexander you will have  a second child, and you’ll learn that a parent’s heart is built to grow.

Love,
Mom