Heterosexism & Misandry from a Gay Dad’s Perspective

Here I am, waiting for my car to be repaired; I figured that a good use of my time would be to fire off a blog… so here it is!  Ohh, be warned though: it’s another rant-y one, so if you’re in the mood for an uplifting online experience, go google kittens or something.

If, however, you’re willing to humour me while I relate to you a couple little things that irk me, then please read on!

To start off with, let’s define a few terms, just so we’re all on the same page:

Heterosexism: Discrimination or prejudice against gays and lesbians based on the presumption that everyone in the world is heterosexual.  Example: asking a gay man what his wife does for a living.

Misandry: disdain or hatred for men.  Most of you have likely heard of misogyny; this is the male version.  Example: almost ANY baby book you can find… I’ll elaborate later.

Ever since becoming fathers, hubby and I have been literally bombarded with heterosexist comments and misandrist marketing, making it quite clear that – despite living in one of the most accepting nations on the planet when it comes to same-sex relationships – we still don’t quite fit in properly.   In case you are wondering what exactly I’m talking about, have a look at this short list of typical heterosexist comments that people make when meeting either him or me out in public with our kids:

Heterosexist Comments

1.  “Where’s is his mommy?” (bending over and squeezing son’s cheek)

2.  “Awwww – are you giving mommy a break?” (to me, in patronizing tone)

3.  “Dad’s turn to do some shopping, eh?” <nudge, nudge>

4.  “Out with daddy today for a change, are you?” (to my son)

5.  “Oh – you’ve got the day off from work?” (assuming that my ‘wife’ is – of course – raising the kids)

          or, when they find out that I’m  a stay-at-home-Dad:

6.  “Didn’t your wife take maternity leave?” (slightly worried, covertly checking over my son for obvious signs of neglect)

6.  “So what does your wife do?”

7.  “Oh – so your wife wears the pants in the family!” (chuckle, chuckle)

Gay dads have a couple of options when faced with this.  When I first began to get those comments, I just chuckled them off, as if I were amused by people’s playful prodding.  Later on though, it began to get a bit tedious, and I would – on occasion – gently explain that my son didn’t have a ‘mommy’, and that his other daddy was at home, or at work, or in another store.  Nowadays, I find comments like that downright infuriating, and my replies have begun to take on a more aggressive tone: I usual ‘educate’ the offending party on what heterosexism means, and how it makes me feel.  Sometimes, they take my lesson in good humour.  Sometimes they don’t.

It doesn’t stop there, though (woe is me!).  I’ve found that marketing for and around anything “baby” is insidiously and ubiquitously misandrist (disdainful of men’s role).  In a world where there were no gay dads, and all straight dads are big, burly and leave all the mothering to their women, nobody would bat an eyelash at this stuff.  However, gay dads are here to stay, and ALL DADS today have an obligation to be off their asses and co-parenting with their partners in equal proportions.  We no longer live in the 1950’s, boys. 

(If you’re a straight dad and you’re sitting on your ass, letting your woman raise the kids, get off your ass right now and start co-parenting in equal proportion to your partner)

Ahem.  Anywho – I was talking about insidious, misandrist marketing.  Here are some examples of misandry that you might have noticed, but not noticed:

Misandrist Marketing

1.  Parking spots for expectant and new mothers – yes, the ‘expectant’ part is for mothers alone, but there are new dads out there too who would really appreciate the odd conveniently-located parking spot on occasion!

2.  Virtually 100% of literature dealing with newborn babies.

      -the covers of these items either have babies on them, or babies AND doting mothers.  Find me a generic baby book that has a baby and her daddy on the cover, and I will give you… well, I probably won’t give you anything, but I will send that book’s publisher a personal letter of thanks and appreciation.

       -the inside of these books often treat “daddies” as inconvenient necessities for new mothers.  These ‘daddy’ creatures (we’re told) need to be given very specific make-work tasks, as well as provide for every comfort that a mother may need, while she coddles and cuddles and does all the important bonding stuff with the new baby.  I got about 30 pages into one of these books (back when hubby and I were first adopting son #1) when I hurled it into the trash can, so sick was I of the male-bashing that permeated the pages.  I was wholly revolted by the degree of lecturing to men about how to overcome our baser urges and animal instincts, such that I completely missed any valuable information that may have been in there.  Eventually, we came across a book that seemed to indicate that ‘daddy’ could contribute in a meaningful manner, and was even capable of holding a child while not forgetting that it was not a football.

3.  “Moms & Tots” – a category of activities that can be enjoyed by… babies and their mothers.  Only.  Think play groups, think baby swimming time, think little tyke skating hours – you name it.  There is a ‘Moms & Tot’s skating hour that we have been taking our eldest son to for a few years, which costs $1.  They leave a box outside the rink, cutely labelled “Kids – free; Mom’s – $1”.  Since my son is a kid and I’m not a mom, I have yet to pay even once.  And no, I don’t feel the slightest bit guilty.  Ironically, that particular kids skate is attended almost exclusively by dads and grandparents – I expect that the arena doesn’t depend on the income from this skate, else they would have been out of business ages ago.

4.  Slogans by companies peddling baby-related products – look up any website selling baby products and tell me what pics you see.  Yep, babies.  And?  Mommies.  You have to search pretty thoroughly to find a generic website picture with just a dad and his baby (sure, there’ll be the odd ‘daddy-can-help-too!’ section; however, I’m not helping to raise my kids, I AM raising them, so to hell with those areas).  Some of the slogans or tags  I’ve come across (without identifying the guilty parties) include:

  • we’re here for You, Mom!
  • Mommy Tools
  • All About Mom
  • Moms and their babies
  • Mommy answers
  • Calling all Mothers
  • You’re Doing Ok, Mom!
  • Maternal Instincts

ugh.

Ok, so about now, you straight readers are wondering: why is he making such a big deal about this stuff?  Well, the deal is that there is a more inclusive way of going about your daily business, whether as a pedestrian or a business owner.  Yes, 90% of males you’ll meet out there are at least nominally straight, so asking about their wives won’t be discriminatory.  However, asking about somebody’s spouse or partner includes EVERYBODY (uhm… well everybody that has a spouse or partner, I guess… sorry single parents!).  And yes, pictures of cutsie babies and MILF’s undeniably help to sell products.  Well, cosmetics companies learned about 35 years ago that marketing solely to white women was starting to hurt their bottom line.  Wisely, most of them (the ones that are still in business) diversified their products and started advertising to ALL women.  Perhaps it’s about time baby product companies featured some eye-catching DILF’s on – say – half their product labels; pictures of cute dads would still appeal to all the straight women out there, as well as all us gay dads!  Lesbians could buy the products with traditional labels, of course 😉

Anyways – some food for thought next time you see a Dad out with his kid. 🙂

Got some heterosexist / misandrist experiences to tell?  Leave them below and share the pain!

Breastfeeding vs. Baby Formula

Yeah, so we’re two gay dudes; as such, breastfeeding is pretty much out.  Very briefly after they were born, both our boys’ biological mothers tried to breast feed.  Both women dried up pretty quickly however, for which I was quite thankful – both women were heavy smokers, and the one-and-only time that breast milk was sent home to us by our eldest son’s birth mother, I nearly gagged and had to pour it down the drain.  “Poured out breast milk?!  But think of the poor children,”  you poo-poo’ers out there are saying!  Well, please remember: I’m gay, and I find breasts and/or the fluids they leak mildly revolting.  Best interests of the child or not, there ain’t no way I’m handling a sticky, warm cup full of chunky orange slurpy from some random lady’s boob.  NO WAY.

(ugh, ok – clearing my cache of mental images and moving on…)

Breast milk is undeniably the first choice for a baby, since it is created by humans, for humans.  So, if it is available for your baby (and you can handle it without being physically ill), then by all means use breast milk.  The nice ladies at www.maternalinstinct.ca have thoughtfully come up with a top-10 list of  the benefits of breastfeeding, just to make those of us who don’t/can’t do it feel even more like bad parents:

10 Benefits of Breastfeeding
1. Boosts immune function and may prevent a variety of illnesses
2. May prevent allergies
3. May prevent SIDS
4. Is easier to digest
5. Is made specifically for your baby
6. Is always available, sterile and the correct temperature
7. Is free!
8. May prevent certain types of cancer in the mother
9. May prevent postpartum depression
10. Helps moms get more sleep!

(*Notice the number of may’s in that list [5 of them], as well as the (accidental, I’m sure) absence of the word dads in #10.)

 Health Canada reported that while about 87% of mothers try breastfeeding, only about 26% are still plugging away at it six months later.  The numbers for the United States are a bit different, but the general trend holds.  Everyone else?  Well, we’re mixing drinks like madmen, for our tubby little buggers => between six and eight times per day for the first 4-6 months or so.

I was bottle fed when I was a babe, as was my hubby.  Our three-year old was bottle-fed, and now our youngest is being too.  What harm did our mothers do to us by bottle feeding us, and what damage are we now doing to our sons?  Arguably, I would say none.  I have no allergies, no asthma, no ADHD, and I didn’t die of SIDS as a kid.  Ditto for hubby.  In fact, I would go so far as to say (in my non-medical opinion) that bottle feeding is superior to breast feeding, except for fact that we evolved to be fed on the stuff until we grew teeth (pshaw! minor details!).  And so, in recognition of all the dads, moms, or other parental units out there who bottle feed their children for whatever reason, here is MY top-1o list of the benefits of bottle feeding:

Top-10 Benefits of Bottle Feeding

10.  You don’t need to give your baby vitamin-D or iron supplements, like some breastfed babies (baby formula already has enough of both added in);

9.  Your baby should drink from a sterilized source for the first few months of life – I know my dishwasher’s ‘sanitize’ cycle cleans my bottles properly… but  who knows where that breast has been?!?

8.  You can eat and drink what you like, or take any medications you need, and know that your baby is still getting  the nutrients and vitamins that she needs from her bottle;

7.  Bottles allow you to monitor how much your baby is drinking (short of weighing a mother to the exact ounce before and after breast feeding, there is very little way to keep track of what your little breast-drinking tyke is sucking in);

6.  Baby formula can be used as coffee whitener in a pinch – try asking any woman if she’d mind a pinch for some coffee cream!

5.  Anyone can feed the baby (your parents, your friends, Jehovah’s Witnesses who come to the door [that’ll be the last time they bug you, I can guarantee], etc.), which ultimately allows your baby to bond with other adults, other than just the boob-donor;

4.  When your baby starts to eat infant cereal that calls for breast milk or formula, it’s much easier to just add a scoop of formula than to… squirt in (?) some breast milk (honestly, I don’t even know how that would work!);

3.  When your baby has developed enough manual dexterity, he can drink all by himself (around 5-7 months, each of our boys were able to grasp and lift their bottle by themselves.  This allowed us to place them in their doughnut or their rocking chair somewhere close to us and let them do all the work by themselves while we chatted with them, but continued to do whatever we were doing);

2.  Bottle-fed babies typically eat less-frequently than their breast-fed buddies.  This means that they can go for longer stretches through the night, sooner than said buddies (ie: you get to sleep through the night MUCH SOONER than your breastfeeding friends!);

      and the top benefit to bottle feeding your baby:

1.  no breasts to deal with (Yay!).

       And with that, it’s time for me to get a good (FULL) night’s sleep!

Common Sense Daddy-ing vs. Maternal ‘Instinct’

Common Sense Daddy-ing

Rant!

 

**DISCLAIMER** this will be a bit of a rant.  One of several to come.

 

 

 

“Fathers are biological necessities, but social accidents.”  —  Margaret Mead

Ouch.  What are two gay dads to do, then?  Couple our ‘accidental’ status with our definitive lack of maternal instinct, and you might start to wonder what the Children’s Aid Society was thinking by giving us a couple kids to raise.  You might even conclude that it was tantamount to child abuse allowing not one, but two of us ham-fisted, moronic brutes to get our meaty caveman paws all over tender little baby flesh.

Well, somehow, we’ve managed.  Three years in, and we haven’t dropped them (excessively), sat on them (at least, not by accident), starved them, forgotten them at the mall (hell – we haven’t been to the mall in three years!) or otherwise neglected, abused or mistreated them in any way.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that both our boys have prospered under our masculine care because of the very thing that distinguishes us from the traditional primary caregiver… we are not shackled by any maternal ‘instinct’.

“When a woman becomes a mother she somehow taps into a psychic and connected power to understand the intricate details of another human.”  —  A Mother’s Instinct

Hmmm.  So it’s psychic ability that women have, eh?  And here I thought that maternal instinct was a combination of old wives tales, and what ‘experts’ told impressionable young mothers to do.  No wait – if I were the type of guy who likes to ruffle feathers (and I am), I might go so far to say that maternal instinct was nothing more than a cutsie, antiquated imaginary belief that women hold on to, to keep a degree of mystique around the task of mothering parenting.  I think that the abolishment of the term ‘maternal instinct’ is long overdue… and no – I won’t suggest replacing it with the politically acceptable  ‘parental instinct’, because we’ve already got a phrase that covers it: common sense.

Yes, you heard me right.  Without the benefit of that psychic ability, and not a woman to be found anywhere in our house, we both had to ‘man-up’ to the job that only mothers (apparently) could do, with nothing but the heads on our shoulders.

Hubby and I had an inkling early on that raising small humans wasn’t as much of a big deal as most people make out.  We’d been practicing for several years in fact: early on in our relationship, we bought plants…  and they lived (they’ve even had their own clone-babies).  Later, we got a dog, and then we even got a second dog!  Two dogs were no more difficult than one in fact; things got easier with the second dog, because they pretty much entertain one another.  So what about a human baby?  Well, babies share most of the same basic needs as plants and dogs (water, food, shelter, etc) – indeed, they share a good portion of their genome (about 50% with plants and 90% with dogs) as well.

Yes, yes – I can hear you all thinking “is this guy out of his mind?  A plant and a friggin’ baby!!?!?!?!”  Well just chill: I’m joking.  For the most part.  The part of me which is serious is telling me to remind you that we’re simply animals, just like dogs, cats, horses, dolphins, chimpanzees and rabbits.  We did not evolve to wear diapers, or to sleep only on our backs, or to require sterilized bottles for drinking out of, or to be paraded around in prams wearing frilly little bonnets and booties.  Those are all affectations thrust upon us by our mothers, who had them thrust upon them by their mothers and/or savvy marketing firms.  So where does that leave hubby and I?  Like I said – we just applied some common sense to each situation we came across.  Lemme give you a prime example:

We both know a young woman who had a baby about the same time that we adopted our first son.  We met up with her one week (around the time that our little guy was 11mths old, and had stopped wearing diapers during the day).  She was looking pretty haggard, as she lugged her guy around in her arms (our guy was walking as of that month) and she mentioned that her little guy was having a particularly bad week.  When we asked why, she said that he was suffering from a really bad bum rash, and that he was currently on medication for it, as well as on a trio of prescription anti-bacterial & anti-fungal creams and ointments.  Now we were no strangers to a bit of diaper rash.  Our second son had an inflamed red ring of hellfire around his poor little anus when he was less than one week old.  But did we rush to some emergency room so that some intern could offer us a host of chemicals that would abate the symptoms, but do nothing to address the cause, or offer a cure?  Nope.  First thing we did was whip that nasty diaper off his tender little toosh, then lay him on his front, legs tucked up under his belly and aired that nasty ring of fire out.  Took 24 hours to dry out and for the swelling & colour to return to a more normal state, but it was well on its way to being 100% better.

Now let’s turn back to our young mother acquaintance.  Primed with her psychic motherly instinct, she was dutifully packing those chemicals onto that rash, and sealing it all in tightly with yet another diaper.  I was imagining that poor boy’s infected skin, just cooking inside that wet, airless diaper of his, marinading in that cocktail of pore-clogging spreads all day long.  No wonder he was cranky.  No wonder his young mother was worried sick.  No wonder we don’t hang out with her anymore.  In my books, a lack of common sense is next to criminal neglect.

Quick review: diaper rash comes from where?  That’s right!  DIAPERS.  If your baby has diaper rash TAKE OFF THE FRIGGIN DIAPER.

 Here’s another excerpt from that brilliant article at professorhouse.com:

A mother’s instinct is not saved for times of strife or illness either. There comes a point in most woman’s life when they naturally gravitate to the warm and soft cuddly infants they see in public. For many, this love of nurturing life starts with a kitten or puppy and grows into the undisputable urge and need to have children. The instinct allows a mother to know without asking or researching what to do to take care of a fever or to get a fussy baby to sleep. While dads look on baffled about which way the diaper goes on – women seem to automatically and naturally know these things from the very beginning.

Yeah.  I think it was this paragraph that spurred me to write this post.  Isn’t it wonderful, all my readers of the female persuasion, how you seem to automatically and naturally know how to put a diaper on the right way?  Awwww.  Isn’t that sweet.  I bet you all instinctively know how to keep a lovely home too, while your man is out working all day.  Isn’t the evolution of the housewife a magical and wonderful thing? 

I sincerely hope you are catching onto my sarcasm here.  I  even hope that at least some of you are seething with righteous fury at the antiquated stereotypes being promulgated here.  The thing is, articles like this are still being written to this day.  Everywhere you turn, mothers are pegged as the natural experts when it comes to parenting.  Sure – traditionally, women have done the majority of parenting, but doing something often doesn’t always make you better.  If I started to play golf 24/7, I’d still never ever be as good as Tiger Woods.  Of course, I’ll also never cheat on my wife like Tiger Woods, but that’s a different topic altogether.  Where was I?  Oh, maternal instinct.  Doesn’t it seem that society is setting women up unfairly, by making them think that they should have some sort of innate psychic ability when they give birth?  Because how many mothers do you know, who panicked and fretted and sweated and freaked out when they had their first child, and (not) surprisingly had no idea what to do?  I remember going to a party a few years back, and a woman I knew brought her newborn with her.  The poor thing cried the entire time he was there, and I can still picture that woman gawking at her baby, uttering in an anguished whisper “why are you crying???”

Guess what folks?  THERE IS NO INSTINCT.

It’s just common sense.

(Ok, Mom – and a bit of help to get us started)

ps: exceptions to the rule:

Yes, there ARE some men out there who make a bad name for the rest of us.  I’m ashamed to share a gender with them.

…and as for lack of common sense?  Yeah – there’s a few folks out there like that: