I like to think that I do not live in a sweet little Swedish bubble, that I keep my head on straight about “real” life in the US. But then I wrote an essay for Salon on my desire – and struggles – to dress Baby B in pink hand me downs. I thought I was writing a cute, tongue-in-cheek look at the changing landscape for men and how we need to raise our boys differently in a “flat” world.
But it turns out I tapped into that great seething mass of crazy that often lies just below the American surface. In the comments section, I was called a child abuser multiple times, and those were the nicer ones. The reasonable defenders rang in eventually – one writing, “This is the equivalent of coming after him with torches and pitchforks” – but it still shocked me.
I’m over it now, though I haven’t checked the comments again. After all, I want to provoke, and the US needs to change. And here I am a man staying home from work for nine months to raise my son – and then I go and get all involved with pink. I get that it is threatening.
Still, all that hostility over pink pants (which I don’t even put on him in the essay).
— Update — I just got up the courage to read the comments again and things have taken a nice turn. I will quote here from a commenter who made several posts and got the point exactly:
The internet is playground for trolls and flame wars…this is known. But this thread sees more than that…a meme about masculinity that isn’t about rescuing trapped animals from pipes, but about a cycle of male-male violence.
We justify making warriors and brutes of men, because there are other warriors and brutes who threaten us. But Our instincts for surival in small bands are contra survival for global industrial civilizations.
Anyway, here is the top of my essay:
The pants mock me. I usually keep this pair hidden — underneath my 18-month-old son’s jeans and sweats, under the hand-me-down khakis with the embroidered hearts on the butt. But today the pants, those pink pants with the flowers, lie exposed in an empty dresser drawer. The only clean pants. For my boy.
When this happens — and it happens more often than I like — I think about a Gloria Steinem quote a friend posted on Facebook. It read: “We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons … but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.”
Pink is the most loaded color, at least in a child’s world. Once a fierce boy color, pink has for decades now been insidiously marketed and pushed as the epitome of a kind of frilly, marginalizing girlhood. Small-scale boycotts have popped up in England and elsewhere as people finally push back against what the former head of UK’s National Consumer Council calls this “gender apartheid.”
You can finish it here.