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Not Your Activists

I’m reading a lot about Lori Done, the author of the wonderful blog Raising My Rainbow. The book just came out and I’ve got to order it. She has a gender-creative child. Our guys would probably be good friends.

So I’ve been thinking about kids and gender and allies and activism. And here’s what I have to say.

My kids aren’t your activists. They aren’t my subversives.

You can't box this kid in. You could try...

You can’t box this kid in. You could try…

This started to concern me at the beginning of summer, when I posted a picture of my son doing something seen conventionally as girly, then shortly after there was a picture of my daughter helping her dad build a fence. A couple of activist friends commented that they love how subversive my kids are.

This rattled me a little and I’ve been thinking about it and journalling about it, trying to identify my negative reaction to those comments.

Our family is rooted in a culture of activism and social justice consciousness. I would call myself an ally for many people, especially children (a largely voiceless population…they need all the allies they can get). Our kids are growing up hearing issues of integrity, social justice, and the like, discussed at the table. They go to rallies and protests. They might very well grow up to be activists and subversives.

And I do have an agenda. A deeply subversive agenda for them.

I want them to grow up as whole as possible. I want them to choose their labels and positions in this world, and I’d really prefer if people kept their labels off my kids.

I’m a realistic person though and I know that’s not going to happen. So instead of that, lets read this excellent essay by Jerry Mahoney.

Why I Won’t Tell My Daughter That She Can Do Anything Boys Can Do

“…here’s my problem with constantly telling little girls they’re as good as boys: until my daughter heard that message, she didn’t have any reason not to believe it.”

Likewise, my children don’t know that there is any reason, beyond personal preference, a girl wouldn’t use the power drill with her dad, or a boy wouldn’t be Action Girl in our superhero play. They don’t know that they are doing anything special except for being their fabulous selves.

I'm looking forward to a day when it's not "special" to be a boy in ballet.

I’m looking forward to a day when it’s not “special” to be a boy in ballet.

Once we tell a child that what they are doing is subversive, against the grain, we’ve also told them that somewhere out in the world, what they are doing is seen as wrong. And we’ve put that idea in their head – I’m not conforming – when they didn’t know there was something to conform to! They didn’t do anything but follow their own interest or passion. They can’t be activists because they are too busy playing. It’s not subversive if they are just being wholly themselves.

And maybe that’s the most subversive thing of all.


In someways I think this idea might clash with my recent post about Young Superheroes. If you go back and re-read that essay, I am careful to use the ideas to empower my child’s choices, rather than box him in one way or the other. Or that’s my goal, anyway.


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