Cormac is twenty-two months old. I love seeing Cormac cuddle his doll. Ditto, on walking into the kitchen to see his father and he sitting on the floor together because he has asked his father to paint his toenails. Bill, who has little in the way of a feminine side and who has never worn nail polish himself, happily obliging his son with pink nails.
Last year I had an incoming link to this post from a men’s site complaining about feminist mothers and their anti-male parenting. It was mostly amusing to me. Lots of shock and horror over the idea that I would dress my baby in anything but boy’s clothing. Lots of assumptions that this meant I hated my son for being male.
It took becoming a mother of a son for me to realise just how fearful the world is of losing masculinity. I mean, god knows there are lots of rules about gender binary and how girls and women perform femininity, too, but I don’t think we’re as frightened of femininity being corrupted and lost as we are of masculinity being diluted. It is a strange fear.
I don’t love Cormac’s stereotypical ‘boyish’ behaviour any less – the constant growling, the rough play, the obsession with trucks and trains and diggers – than his more stereotypical ‘girlish’ behaviour (it’s all cute to me), but I confess to privately celebrating the girlish moments a little more. It is not because I entertain notions of undoing masculinity, it is because I recognise its dominance. It is because there is an onslaught of hyper-masculinity coming Cormac’s way. Cormac’s masculinity, or the ‘cordial concentrate’ version of it anyway, is taken care of without me having to lift a finger or purchase a single item of ‘camo’ clothing. The world will ensure that he is fully tutored in its expression (some of which I will enjoy in him and some of which I will not), at the expense of his fuller personality.
But every moment of softness and twirling and nurturing in him is proof for me of his personhood; proof that he is still freely roaming the spectrum of options in developing his identity and indeed, his own masculinity.