I’ve recently discovered that the feminist mantras I’ve been teaching my son are becoming slowly undone. All the years of warning him not to underestimate princesses because they might surprise you with a blaster gun like Princess Leia, as well as all those nights singing Annie Oakley’s theme “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better,” have lately felt like they’ve been taught in vain.
Between the never-ending heavily-made up Bratz dolls commercials on Nickelodeon, the gender stereotyping on all of his favorite television shows, and the sexist parents who (I swear to God) still instruct their kids to “Stop throwing like a girl,” I’ve had to do some reprogramming. My son lives in a world of standards: Barbies are for girls. Princesses suck (unless it’s the girl from Brave). Girls aren’t as strong. And because my son has developed early-onset world-class smart assy-ness, I’ve had to use strong feminist evidence to get my point across.
First, I’ve given great weight to history because my son deals in absolutes. (i.e., It doesn’t count if it’s just your opinion, Mom.) So about six months ago, I hung up a collage by artist Michael Albert in my kids’ bathroom that quotes the 19th Amendment. I’m serious. In all sorts of cut out letters it reads: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” The collage is a brilliant array of hundreds of pictures of women including Dora the Explorer, Pebbles and the Statue of Liberty. My son never fails to discuss the contents of the collage because he’s facing it while peeing.
“Mom, what is ‘abridged?’” he called the other day from the bathroom.
“Deprive,” I said. “Why?”
“Who was deprived?”
“Women. We weren’t allowed to vote.”
He stared at the poster carefully.
“Wow, who ever created that rule is a total idiot.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Like serious idiot. Like, twenty times a thousand idiot.”
I can’t disagree.