The idea that men – especially white men – are dangerously entitled and controlling is one that pervades our culture today. It has come to color how people have perceived and judged even boys (think of the Covington incident as a notable example). Now it goes so far as to influence how some instinctively see the most innocent of all – unborn children. It is disheartening that we have reached a point where, due to the perpetuation of the idea that the patriarchy is in power and must be brought down, some people are afraid to have a boy.
Model Emily Ratajkowski recently announced her pregnancy with a personal essay for Vogue, reflecting on gender and why she and her husband are choosing not to announce the gender of their child. Ratajkowski reveals her apprehensions about having a son; she suspects she is pregnant with a boy:
I’m scared of having a son… I’ve known far too many white men who move through the world unaware of their privilege, and I’ve been traumatized by many of my experiences with them. And boys too; it’s shocking to realize how early young boys gain a sense of entitlement—to girls’ bodies and to the world in general.
The piece shows a peculiar tension, a struggle with the negative stereotypes that modern messaging on gender and identity has instilled in people about males, and the contrasting, inescapable love and wonder parents have for their children.
One of the most striking portions of the piece was this anecdote Ratajkowski shared:
My friend who is the mother to a three-year-old boy tells me that she didn’t think she cared about gender until her doctor broke the news that she was having a son. She burst into tears in her office. “And then I continued to cry for a whole month,” she says matter-of-factly. . . . “It was hard to come to terms with the fact that I was bringing yet another white man into the world. But now I adore him and can’t imagine it any other way.”
As a mother to a young son, I was saddened when I read about this woman’s initial reaction of grief over having a “white man.” Her child hadn’t even had a chance to draw breath yet before she mourned who he might become. Parenting is full of concerns about raising your child to be a decent, considerate human being. But her feelings echo a message that has become more prominent over the last several years: Men are predisposed to be poisonous, or at least domineering. And we must carefully educate boys out of this natural tendency. The phrases “toxic masculinity,” “mansplaining,” “manspreading,” and the like have become common in the cultural lexicon.
Fortunately this mother has come to deeply love and appreciate her son. Parents have a particular capacity for unconditional love for their children, but they also have the special ability to see them in their truest light. This parental perspective into her boy’s whole make-up seems to alleviate (at least somewhat) her powerful fear of his dangerous masculinity.
We shouldn’t treat or teach boys that there is something uniquely fearsome in their nature simply because they are male. I would never want my beautiful little boy to think he is a problem because of his race or his gender, things he did not choose. Just as I wouldn’t want a daughter (if I were ever to be blessed with one) to feel inferior for being female. No parent wants others to project hurtful assumptions on their children or judge them by anything less than their character. So perhaps we also ought to stop ascribing dangerous natures to the rising generations of boys before they have had a chance to prove themselves as men.
Despite her worries about raising her child, Ratajkowski ends her piece saying, “I’m already learning from this person inside my body. I’m full of wonder.” Now that is a sentiment I can wholeheartedly agree with.