Friday, October 30, 2009

He's All Baby! הוא כזה תינוק

I heard it again today. The twenty-something mom saying about her six-week-old infant: hu kazeh ben! Translation: “He’s all boy”. Tip: If you want to see me go ballistic, this is the perfect way to do it. Since I wasn’t part of the conversation, I managed to control myself and make do with an eyeroll and a sigh, but what my shadow was doing was tapping her on the shoulder and saying:

“Excuse me. This is 2009. How is it that you’re twenty-eight years old and you sound like my grandmother? Have we gone backwards? Are we devolving? Was feminism just a blip?"

That's right: Despite what you choose to believe, feminism is too about combating gender stereotypes; if we perpetuate stereotypes, how can we honestly say that our children have choices? Sorry, Millennials: Despite what you may believe, feminism is not “the choice to dress my girl in girly-garb if I want; I’m secure in my feminism. I’m liberated.” Mom, you may feel liberated, but your job is far from done.

Let’s take a minute and break this down: You say your son is “all boy”. Even if I chose to buy into stereotypes, this doesn’t parse. What is he doing at age six weeks that’s typically masculine? Is he smoking cigars? Watching a prize fight on ESPN? Saying “hubba hubba” as a blond bombshell passes by? Fast-forward 16 years. If he were doing any of the above, would you be saying glowingly of him, “He’s all boy!”?

I’m thinking you’ll say no. I’m thinking you probably want your son to have more substance than a cartoon version of “boy” or “man”. If you do, then how come you’re starting now — at age six weeks — to push a cartoon agenda, if only in your own mind? At what point does it stop being in your own mind and begin to be absorbed by him? When he starts to understand language? Age two? Three? At that point, will you jump up and “insert the Human Being disk into your son’s CD drive” and quit referring to him as “all boy” / relating to him as a stereotype?

Mom, wouldn’t it be simpler to insert the Human Being disk now, rather than have to uninstall the cartoon program later on? Consider substituting for “He’s all boy!” > “He’s exquisite. I’ve never seen anything quite like him. I’m crazy about him!” There. Didn’t that feel wonderful?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Has anyone else had it with NYCentrism?

Has anyone else had it with NYCentrism? I’m referring to the assumption on some people’s parts that not only is New York City the center of the planet, but that it’s everyone else’s reference point.

This morning I happened to sit down at breakfast across from a women who proceeded to wax on about the Village and “the Park” [I assume Washington Square Park] and Bleecker Street, nodding at me earnestly the entire time as if we’d grown up together next door to the Village Gate. I honestly thought she might have mistaken me for someone else.

We hadn’t been introduced; in fact, I hadn’t uttered a word, so there was no way she had of knowing that I’m even a native English speaker, much less whether I’d ever so much as stepped foot in North America. For all she knew, I’d just dropped in for the day from Afghanistan. But the galling assumption not only that I’d been to NYC, was familiar with it, and share her cultural references, was simply over the top.

Anyone else been in this situation, and does it bother you?