Modern feminism has brought to light a plethora of problems – both real and imagined – with a woman’s role in society today. Liberty Nation’s Gabriella Fiorino and Jeff Charles both wrote about one such trendy feminist topic – toxic masculinity – and explained both the reasons for and the dangers inherent in the idea. While this toxic idea has plagued mankind since its invention, it has now inspired one feminist mom to turn her three-year-old son into her “proud princess” – whether he likes it or not.
Canadian journalist and mother of two, Leah McLaren, wrote an article about her son’s developing toxic masculinity for The Globe and Mail, in which she explained that she would be signing her three-year-old, James, up for ballet. In her article, Mrs. McLaren identifies herself as a feminist and claims to abhor the same stereotypical things that her two sons reject as girly. Just the fact that she reacts so negatively to these items could well be a contributing factor to the same behavior from her children, though at seven and three, they likely can’t understand the feminist reasoning beyond the girly label. She explains that James is a very masculine boy and that while he hasn’t fully formed his identity yet, he does know he is not a baby or a girl.
Many young boys show this behavior. It is just as natural as toddlers and preschoolers avoiding baby things. It’s simply part of growing up. Despite his mother’s fears, refusing to accept a flower at three because he’s a boy is not an indication that James will grow into an abusive man who does not value women. If that were so, then taking ballet should indicate that he’ll grow to be transgender or gay. Thankfully, neither fear is valid. While there is nothing wrong with playing with girl toys or liking the color pink, there is also nothing wrong with not liking flowers or the movie Frozen. Mrs. McLaren is right to worry about her son’s rejection of certain things based only on their “girlishness,” but at age three this is hardly dangerous behavior. Young James does need to be taught – eventually – that even boys can like things that are stereotypically feminine and still be boys. What this mother wants her son to learn is entirely different. She writes:
When his older brother complained about having to watch Frozen because it was “girlish,” James instantly struck it off his list of favourite movies and now refuses to play Elsa and Anna even when his best nursery school girlfriends insist.
You might think this is no big deal, that my son is just behaving “naturally,” but I’m automatically wary of notions of biological determinism. When he hands me back a flower because pretty things are for girls, I think, what’s next? Kindness? Decency? Dancing?
Leah McLaren doesn’t want her son to understand that boys can like “girlish” things; she wants him to believe that boys don’t have to be boys. She specifically attacks the idea of biological determinism. As a parent, Mrs. McLaren has a responsibility to guide her son and help him form his identity – not necessarily to form it for him. There are times when parents should make their children do things they don’t want to – like making a picky eater try out a new vegetable – but participating in an unwanted sport or activity and forcing a boy to be a girl do not fall under this category.
If this sounds like a strange parenting model, keep in mind that this is the same woman who once picked up another person’s baby at a house party and attempted to breastfeed the child – while not actually lactating and without parental consent or knowledge.
It’s bad enough when parents force their kids to participate in activities they don’t want to be a part of, but this woman is specifically doing so to coerce her son to become more feminine. By attacking biological determinism, she positions herself as tolerant to the idea that a child should be allowed to choose his or her gender – so long as that choice is not to be a cisgender male.