“And son? Take care of your mom while I’m gone.”

Excuse me? I don’t need a child to take care of me. I know, he might reply, I’m just trying to – trying to what? Teach him to be a man? Teach him that grown women need looking after? And that he, as the one with the penis, is just the person to do it?

For six months while we’re pregnant – if we get pregnant – we’re vulnerable, yeah. And while we have kids, okay, yeah, if we’re attacked, one of us should protect, hide, get the kids to safety. We could both fight, but the kids need one of us alive. Though of course who does what need not be determined by sex. If I’m closer to the gun and you’re closer to the kids – be reasonable! But otherwise, for the other 594 months of our lives…

So whatever it is you think you’re trying to teach the boy, it’s at my expense. He grows up to think – hell, already at thirteen, he thinks he’s more capable, more competent than me. Than a thirty-five-year-old – woman. And since everything tells him to, he generalizes: he comes to think he’s more capable, more competent, than all women. And the patriarchy lives on.

It’s interesting that when there are two boys in the family, it’s the older one who’s told “Look after your mom and your sisters and your younger brother.” There and only there is age a factor. But only for the males. Why doesn’t dad say the younger sisters? Is it that, like blacks, we all look alike?

Which is why I love Sarah Connor (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles). Even when her son is sixteen, she’s the one protecting, looking after, him. And why not? She’s twice his age. And he’s no less ‘a man’ for it – John still manages to be capable, competent, interesting, sexy-in-progress. True, they’ve added the ‘He’s more important, she’s more dispensable’ factor, perhaps because without that, male viewers would consider John emasculated by her protection. But still.

(“Tell me again why are the boys in here and the girls are in there?” “‘Cause one of the boys is still wanted for murder and one of the girls is harder than nuclear nails.” “And the other one’s a cyborg.”)



    • lyra112 on August 9, 2013 at 2:08 pm
    • Reply

    I am the oldest child in my family, a girl. When he needed to travel for work, my dad would always tell me to look after my mom and younger brother,to “be a big help to Mom” and “keep those two out of trouble.” This would always be said sarcastically, and with an extremely knowing wink at my mother. I was never under the impression that he meant I could better take care of my family than my mother could, just an indication that he was trusting me to behave well while he was gone. I seriously don’t think most people put that much thought behind this kind of statement, and some probably intend it as a ploy to keep their children thinking about pursuing the responsible course of action while they are gone. On the other hand, my mother never said this to me when she traveled…

    • ptittle on August 9, 2013 at 2:25 pm
    • Reply

    Hi Lyra, welcome to the site! Telling you to be a big help to Mom is encouraging you to ‘mother’s little helper’. Telling you to keep your brothers out of trouble is similarly grooming you to be a Mom yourself. Do men tell their sons to look after their siblings while they’re gone? Or to look after their Mom while they’re gone? BIG DIFFERENCE.

    Even if said sarcastically and with a wink – why say it at all? Why not just say “Be good while I’m gone”?? if that’s all it was, as you suggest.

    I agree that most people don’t put that much thought into that kind of statement. THAT’S THE PROBLEM! Those statements still have meaning, and still have influence. Like ‘You throw like a girl!’ Agreed, most men don’t think about what they’re saying, but it’s still a put-down to girls everywhere, it’s still maintaining the sexism that puts boys ‘better’ than girls.

    I think you’re astute to notice that your mother never said that to you when she travelled!

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