One of the most disturbing facets of the wave of hysteria sweeping half the nation in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential election victory is the recent trend of feminist confessionals about their problematic feelings for their male children.
In a recent opinion piece for The Sydney Morning Herald, self-declared feminist Polly Dunning, herself the daughter of a prominent feminist, expressed difficulty “reconciling my biology with my ideology, particularly when I discovered that my baby, my most-beloved Alfred, would be a boy.”
As an aside, if your ideology is at odds with your biology, that’s a sure sign that your ideology is at odds with reality, and a life reevaluation is in order.
“I had never wanted a son,” Dunning continues, an admission that isn’t in itself damning; many parents start off preferring to have a daughter rather than a son, or vice versa. But Dunning’s unsettling reasoning is that a daughter would “fit in with my feminism better.” She admits to “dark moments in the middle of the night. . . when I felt sick with worry.” “In this patriarchal world,” Dunning worried, “how will I raise a son who respects me the way a daughter would? Who sees women as just like him? As just human beings?. . . How do you raise a white, middle-class boy not to think his own experience is the default experience of the world?”
Despite this disappointment, Dunning is determined to “raise a feminist boy. . . He will be immersed in feminism by a family who models it in their everyday life.” She ultimately concludes that “[b]y having sons, we do feminism a great service.”
Similarly but more hysterically, Elle magazine ran an article with a title that plunges into parody: “I’m Terrified of Raising a Boy in Trump’s America,” which raises the burning question, “How can I explain to a little boy that the year he was born, the President of the United States was an admitted sexual predator?”
Pregnant Jo Piazza describes how she fantasized that she would one day bond with her future daughter over voting together for the first woman president—until she got two bad pieces of news: one, her candidate lost the election, and two, Piazza discovered that the life growing inside her was a boy.
“The thought of having a boy terrified me, paralyzed me even,” but what really panics Piazza “is the idea of raising a boy with good values when a man who represents the male stereotypes we’ve been fighting for generations is in the White House.”
As with Dunning, Piazza’s liberal white guilt, a malignant side effect of her identity politics, weighs heavily on her: “As a white boy who will become a white man, he’ll be starting with a lot of privilege; how do I make him realize that?”
Piazza and her feminist husband have come to accept that “raising a good man in the age of Trump is a burden,” and that they “need to raise children who defy these base stereotypes of what is masculine and feminine.”
On the celebrity front, Mad Men’s January Jones, a single mother, recently stressed her intent to surround her son, like a defensive moat, with strong women “to teach him to respect women.” She defiantly dismissed the critical importance of fatherhood altogether: “He doesn’t have a male person saying ‘don’t cry’ or ‘you throw like a girl.’ All those shitty things that dads accidentally do. I just don’t feel I need a partner.” How sad for her son that she believes he’s better off without a father—a “male person”—in his life.
Because it has been culturally acceptable for decades to bash men openly and celebrate single motherhood, women like these are under the mistaken impression that only feminists can teach boys respect for women because fathers—irredeemably sexist in their eyes, particularly in the so-called “age of Trump”—cannot or will not. It does not seem to occur to them that a boy’s most powerful influence is a father, not the president, and that a good father does not have to be self-loathing to believe in respect for and equal rights for women.
This is not to presume that Jones or the writers of the aforementioned articles don’t love their sons deeply; in fact, Polly Dunning concludes her piece by stressing that her son is her “sun, moon and stars,” and that her “love for him swells my heart.” That is as it should be. And most parents believe it’s important to inculcate the values and beliefs that are meaningful to them in their children. Christian parents, for example, naturally want to raise their children to be good Christians.
But if you see child-rearing primarily as an extension of your ideological mission, if your fervent dream for your children is to weaponize them in the service of your utopian political ideals, then you’re not parenting, you’re indoctrinating. This is unhealthy for everyone involved and for society at large.
It’s a cliché but true nonetheless: children—daughters and sons—are a humbling, miraculous blessing. If your instinctual, bottomless love for your own son is diminished or warped by your ideological distaste for his gender or your color, then you need to find a belief system that is grounded in love and gratitude instead of political dogma.