Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Cave of One's Own

My husband informed me that he has come to a conclusion: "Women don't like men very much. And the worst part," he says, "is that they see nothing wrong with it." Lest you fear that this revelation might have come as the result of some action on my part, let me assure you the comment was not made in connection with anything I have done.  Actually, we were discussing the recent coinage of a new term -- the mom cave.  HomeGoods and designer Elaine Griffin have developed the concept of a mom cave -- a place for mom to sit, store items, work and visit.  I had first heard the term on the Thrifty Decor Chick blog and then again this morning as the DJs (one male, one female) argued about whether mom caves are really a need.  Funny that the male DJ and my husband had very similar reactions -- women can't let guys have man caves without stealing the concept for themselves?

Now, as a proud graduate of a women's college and a longtime feminist, I understand that this reaction is, to a degree, ironic.  I mean, how many things have men over the centuries parlayed for their own without allowing women to have a share?  However, as the mother of three boys, sister of two brothers and teacher to hundreds of young men (and women) over the last fourteen years, I see where the guys are coming from and I wonder about the expectations the world has for them.

Modern sit-coms seem hell-bent on presenting the man as an insensitive, backward doof while his too-good-for-him-ever-to-get-in-real-life wife belittles, mocks and patronizes him.  In the end we are supposed to see that she is justified, but because of love, they forgive and forget and we are then ready for the next episode which will once again reveal her superiority. 

Recently, I was speaking with a parent at school about her two sons.  Our conversation turned to the raising of boys and how boys were fitting in (or rather not fitting in) to the academic and leadership programs at the high school.  This doesn't mean boys are absent from leadership or silent in the classroom, but what we have observed is that they are more often than not perfectly willing to allow the girls to take charge of whatever task must be completed. Even my own eight-year old confided to me tonight that girls can be "rude and mean" and that in his table group at school, he and his buddy have no idea how these "crazy girls think" so they just try to stay out of their way.

So, as a teacher, how do I work toward allowing both boys and girls to feel valued and capable?  Not all of their learning needs are necessarily determined by gender, but  am I doing anything to encourage both genders to move away from what is so common now -- the girls in a group running the show and the guys being the cut-ups and tagalongs?  And in my own life, are my sons getting what they need to be confident contributors while demonstrating a degree of chivalry and humility as well?  Am I careful to consider my husband's feelings, cognizant of his desire to be a leader in the family, but also able to maintain my own sense of identity and worth?

I know one thing -- if my husband wants a man cave, I won't complain a bit.  And I won't try to counter his space with a mom cave of my own.  Besides, isn't that what the salon is for?


(PS: No matter how these two guys feel about girls in general, I am pretty sure they are crazy about me!)

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Thursday, November 4, 2010