The moment had arrived. Years of anticipation were soon to bear fruit. I popped the popcorn, fluffed the pillows, and loaded the DVD player. My husband and I had built this up, and now we were ready. We gathered the children, grinning with excitement. Yes, this was the moment that we finally deemed our boys old enough to view--and fully appreciate the comedic genius of--the amazing baseball movie, The Sandlot. Now was the precious hour when this movie, with its moments of hilarity and a perfectly-executed portrayal of childhood nostalgia, was going to be bestowed like a priceless family heirloom upon our children.
And, it was great. Our boys loved it. They laughed nonstop at the attempts to get the ball back from The Beast; they cringed during Squint’s escapade at the pool; they vicariously dry-heaved during the chaw-on-the-carnival-ride scene. And, of course, there was THE insult. Ask anyone who has seen that movie about its greatest lines, and this one will always come up: “You play ball LIKE A GIRL!” We fully expected peals of laughter from our sons after that famous line was impeccably delivered by Ham to the uppity little leaguer. Instead, we were treated to the experience of watching my oldest son furrow his brow, frown, and then quizzically ask, “Wait a minute. Isn’t that a bad thing to say? Isn’t that...what’s the word…no, wait, I know this. Isn’t that….genderist?”
So. Instead of laughing at a classic joke in an innocent and hilarious movie, we got that. My son reciting politically correct lines that come straight from the playbook of a culture that is overly concerned with giving offense. Somehow, somewhere along the way, he has absorbed that attitude to such a point where it is now his instinctive response.
Now, I know some in our culture are rejoicing. “Good!” they’ll gloat, “See? Progress! He gets it!” And apparently he does get it. With that made up word, “genderist,” he expressed what has been drilled into his little head: that pointing out any differences between males and females is wrong. And even though it is a fact that males and females are different, and do generally play sports differently, it is somehow shameful and sinful to acknowledge that difference.
I know that my son’s comment isn't something to get terribly worked up over, but the more I thought about it, the more it got to me, because when it comes down to it, it hints at a larger issue that is permeating our society: the insistence that men and women must be the same, and that differences between them are bad. Women must have the same treatment as men, and women must behave as men, and we must pity women for not having or being these things.
This message hasn’t come from his parents. So, the culprits are outside influences; the most obvious is the media. After he saw saw Jurassic World, the main subject of conversation he focused on was the woman who wore--the entire time, even whilst being chased by man-eating dinosaurs--high heels. He marveled that she could run in them, and stated the obvious: “Why didn’t she just take the stupid shoes off?” Indeed, why not? Even the actress herself admitted she had to submit to an insane calf workout regimen to get her legs to the point where she could wear the shoes for extended periods without severe cramping. So, why did they have her do it?
Well, whereas even feminists were in an uproar of the apparent sexism of such a stunt, what they fail to realize is that such superficiality is a by-product of their own myopic messaging. In the never-ending quest for equality, somehow the result often looks like a step backwards: women managing to somehow just be glorified Barbies running around with the outward trappings of equality displayed like evidence of strength. The actress and costume designers decided that character must exude power and be independent and strong-willed. Boots would make her seem “too protected”; so, high heels it was, because she needed to prove she could do it all, not needing protection from anyone. After all, she was a woman, and as a woman, not only is she she supposed to be a high-powered executive, but she also has to be sexy while doing it. Those shoes proved her power and superiority, a sign she had arrived at that elusive state of equality, right?
So, we know that the media is certainly a culprit in shaping our childrens’ brains to reject differences between genders as bad and shameful. We see it every day in every medium. And it’s not just television and entertainment outlets; it is in every form of media and everything in-between. It is in social media feeds and websites, news sources and blogs, curriculum and literature, and in the parlance of our politicians and pundits.
We see people demanding that men pay taxes for simply being….men. Politicians are eager to exploit people’s eagerness to eradicate differences between men and women. We see constant debates over what makes women powerful and numerous celebrities and icons doing all they can to prove they are the pinnacle of female progress. We see feminists sending hate mail to anyone who dares to say they choose not to be feminists, screaming about how feminism is all about equality and if you don’t agree with their extreme views, you’re just wrong.
So let’s talk about that word for a moment--that ever-present word that is painted on the banners of the feminist movement. EQUALITY. Like it is the end-all, be-all of our existence as women. Not happiness, or fulfillment, or enlightenment, or anything else that is a legitimate life goal. No, it is equality that is the most important. Only after equality is obtained is happiness and fulfillment allowed. Thus, the message broadcast is that we as women, in order to be worth anything, must be the same as men. Have the same things, the same desires, be treated the same, and that any differences cannot be pointed out or it’s sexist.
Here is my point today: Women and men are NOT the same. And that is okay.
I feel like I’m on the outskirts of a nonsensical roadshow, observing adults childishly up in arms over oranges not being included in apple crisp. Apple and oranges aren’t being treated equally! Life just isn’t fair for the oranges! Can I just say that I’m DONE with equality? At least with this obsession with “sameness” that is packaged as equality and used as a weapon to silence political opposition and foster cultural discontent. In a culture that prides itself on celebrating diversity, isn’t it a bit odd that we somehow pass the buck when it comes to celebrating the diversity of women and men? Can we not just admit that different can and does sometimes mean "unequal"--and that’s okay? Can we celebrate our differences instead of stamping them with a scarlet letter of shame, stigmatizing any gender characteristics as reprehensible and embarrassing? And what is interesting is that many use words like “equality” and “diversity”--paradoxically--at the same time. And those terms are often used to cultivate uniformity and conformity.
I for one can tell you that I don’t want to be the same as men, and I don’t want my son growing up thinking I should be the same as men. I want him to grow up knowing that women are different than men--and revering and respecting and loving them for it. I don’t want him demanding that a woman's worth is only found if she brings in a salary. I don’t want him to preach how a woman should be embarrassed if she doesn’t get paid as much as him, even though she might have chosen a profession that just pays less. I don’t want him to insist that women meet the insanely hypocritical standards of our culture when it comes to sexuality. I don’t want him treating women like Hollywood treats women. Women in Hollywood can preach about feminism and equality all they want, but until they stop making movies that essentially say women must be sex objects (sometimes with a brain too), they are raving hypocrites.
I want my son to treat women like women. And not like the sub-par creatures feminists paint women as being--weak, oppressed, abused, and shameful because they aren't men. He needs to understand women are beautiful and powerful and strong because they are women. I also don't want him to treat women like attention-seekers who need to parade around in sexy outfits while earning a top-notch salary and saving the world. And just as importantly, I don’t want him to treat women like objects of pity. Like they are victims who have to be pandered to.
We have a culture that shouts “Equality for Women!” from the rooftops. Yet, that same culture is the very one that seems to indicate that part of that equality means killing off everything that makes women amazing. In becoming “strong women,” we are told that women must remove everything about themselves that makes them uniquely powerful--that is, their innate and beautiful womanhood and motherhood. In fact, modern feminism is a participating co-conspirator with forces in our society that label anything traditionally female as weak. Humility? Weak. Virtue? Weak. Playing a supporting role instead of a starring lead? Weak. Gentleness, nurturing, sensitivity, selflessness? Weak. Staying at home with children to raise them? Weak and worthless. Playing ball like a girl? How dare you even suggest it?
In the pursuit of civil equality and battle against legitimate chauvinism, modern-day feminism devolves into the need for an all-encompassing “equality” to men. In ignoring qualities that are traditionally female in favor of those traditionally male, they preach that we must be the “same” as men. Ironically, the mere existence of extreme feminism's insistence on sameness implicitly suggests that men are better than women. And this message does more to demoralize, degrade, and destroy the esteem of women than just about any other attitude in society.
And, our children are being bombarded with that message. Our sons are somehow being taught that they are bad because they are male, and it is shameful that girls are different than boys. And our daughters are being taught that men are oppressive and taking everything good that they rightly deserve, and, less overtly, that they are not good enough until they have what men have.
I have a problem with society teaching my children that they are not good enough as they were created. Our culture says life is all about acceptance and celebrating diversity, but hits the mute button when it comes to letting the rest of us be happy with our natural genders and their innate differences. And if you look at many of the fruits of modern feminism--bitterness, hatred, discontent, and dissatisfaction--that’s where you can see what it truly yields. It yields men who are always afraid of offending, of being men, and of our culture’s condemnation of many of their actions. It yields women who are insecure and use anger and entitlement as a defense mechanism and a tool to gain what they believe is power.
What many seem to be missing is that women don’t need any help being powerful; we don’t need boosts or rallies or pity or concessions or to make others feel sorry for us. We are powerful because we embrace our role as women and mothers, no conditions needed. And we, alongside fathers, have more power and influence in the lives of our children than anyone or anything else.
So, while my kids will inevitably notice undesirable messages in our culture, I am determined to do my best to raise them so that they can influence these trends for the better. Yes, I will teach my kids “genderism”. I will teach them that boys and girls do throw baseballs differently...and that’s not only okay, it’s good. It’s right. It is something to rejoice in, not fight against. And I won’t teach these things by nurturing discontent and victimization, but by nurturing confidence and individuality, and nurturing a celebration of the amazing and beautiful differences between men and women. Lofty goal? Yes. But because I am a woman and I am their mother, and I believe that those two roles are naturally, innately, and eternally beautiful and powerful, it is within my reach.