I'm not a sexist. I have loved Amelia Earhart since I was knee-high to a corn stalk (even though I grew up in Brooklyn, NY and there were more fire hydrants than corn stalks, but still...) and I wore a button which stated clearly "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle" when I was 10 years old, and I meant it.
Never has my faith in the stereotype bending capabilities of all folk been challenged as much as it has been since becoming the proud mother of two little boys, now turning, before my eyes, into young men.
It began when my second child, a fiery young thing, who attended a very cooperative non-conformist Montessori pre-school, began making lovely little creations which he stuffed into his cubby for me to take with him, his backpack and napping pillow when I picked him up. His brother was not a warrior at that time and I didn't allow any violent toys in the house; that meant no guns, no swords, no violent television shows or video games.
So my younger son, with no media influence to speak of, created, from the depths of his inner soldier's imagination, long swords out of paper, short knives from cardboard, and daggers from colorful construction materials. Shocked, dismayed and horrified, I asked the lovely preschool teachers about these and practically demanded to know what kind of fool they thought I was, that I would not be aware of the sneaky warring agenda they were implementing during the hours between "working with clay" and "free play outside." Yet the warring agenda was non-existent, my son was not a trouble maker and the influence was from within him, not from his environment.
"Sometimes," the teachers told me, "boys just naturally become interested in these things and you'd be advised not to make a big deal out of it."
Well. This was almost nine years ago and since that time I have allowed Harry Potter and his magical violence into our home in its myriad benevolent and obnoxious forms, wrestling to be watched with their step father, and countless movies and television shows with themes that would have, at one time, made me retch.