Opinion / 24 August 2019, 3:00pm / Vanessa Govender
Opinion - I am not “that” mother. The one who dotes on her son. The one who waits on him hand and foot. The one who thinks the sun and moon revolves around his sweet cherub face. The one who thinks the kid shouldn’t lift a finger.
Please don’t for one second interpret that to mean I don’t love my boy. I do. And it is for that precise reason that I want to arm him with the skills and mindset that enable him to add value to the world and the lives of others.
In my home, there are no chores that are reserved for “girls only”. No.
A boy can clean up after himself, he can wash dishes, he can walk to the kitchen to collect his own plate of food - I am not a waiter and my home isn’t a restaurant - and he can take that same plate back to the sink when he is done.
Imagine the shock and horror of our great-grandparents and theirs before them - many of whom raised boys to continue the culture of patriarchy - to even consider allowing the male child to do anything other than chewing his own food.
What I’m addressing is no New Age fangled attempt at parenting. Neither is it pushing a feminist agenda. Let us analyse this objectively.
Over decades and centuries parents - especially in our community, and (dare I say) many other communities and cultures - have always focused on teaching daughters to cook and clean. This was in preparation for marriage. Because that was what all girls were “destined for” - being wives and mothers. Their worth based on the house they kept. In doing this, generations of entitled and misogynistic men were raised and sent into the world. Women, they were inadvertently taught, were there solely for their comfort and pleasure.
I have a big problem with this culture and practice. It is dangerous and ultimately aimed at keeping the female child forever in subjection, oppressed and unempowered. With ill-conceived acts of love and adoration for the supreme being of the household (the male child) we have, through the centuries, unwittingly raised hapless and helpless men.
If all the women on this planet suddenly disappeared, consider a hypothetical catastrophe. Most men would probably waste away because they were never taught to do all the myriad things females were compelled to learn.
Entitled men have a penchant to also be men who treat women badly. Entitled men all start off as insipid little boys with mothers who mollycoddle them and who take exceptional pride in being slaves to their sons. Like it’s a great achievement to have a child who is incapable of making a cup of tea for himself, or like it is something to brag about - having a child who thinks his masculinity is calculated by his inability to do basic household chores or “women’s work”.
I choose to give my boy a fighting chance at survival in this world. I want him to be every bit as strong and emancipated as his sisters. Perhaps even more so.
I choose to raise a son who can hold his own in the kitchen, just as he hopefully can in whatever career he ventures into.
I choose to raise a son whose partner will never have to secretly curse me for crippling him with the archaic belief that sanctions laziness and reinforces a false sense of superiority simply because he is male.
I choose to raise my boy to be a man, and it all starts with the simple but profound act of doing the dishes.
Govender is a full-time mom and author of the children’s book, “The Selfish Shongololo” and the explosive memoir, “Beaten But Not Broken”. Follow her on Facebook @VanessaGovenderTedder, and Twitter, @Govender_V