difficult gift shopping filter: Help me find books, toys, comics, music, etc that provide a broad, varying, and largely non-traditional view of masculinity for my little brother, who is absolutely nothing like me or anyone else in our family. More details than necessary inside!
posted by ellehumour to human relations (36 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
My twelve-year-old brother is the only boy in his immediate family. He has two sisters, two mothers, two former foster-mothers who are still part of his life, a biological grandmother, and an occasionally-present-but-mostly-absent biological mother. Bio-dad is not in the picture; adoptive uncles are in the American midwest, thousands of miles away and across a border. As far as friends and non-family-influences go, he lives in a very small town which some might classify as "hick" - if it's anything like how it was when I was growing up there (many years ago now - there is an eleven-year age gap between me and my brother), the vast majority of his peers are the children of dyed-in-the-wool rednecks, and well on the way to becoming dyed-in-the-wool rednecks themselves.
All the women in his life are very strong feminists, which is great in that (unlike his redneck-to-be peers) he respects women, but not so great in that he doesn't really have a lot of male role models to look up to, and as such, he tends to latch on to popular representations of masculinity and emulate them with great zeal.
He plays soccer, football, and hockey. He's in the boy scouts. He wants to join the military when he grows up. He's very nationalistic. He eats meat (I was raised vegetarian in that same household). I thought I had become the black sheep of the family by eschewing university to become an activist and artist, but this kid has me beat for that position by going in the exact opposite direction.
I'm not super-concerned - my mother, while supportive of his interests, is terrified that he'll get hurt playing violent sports and/or turn into some kind of adolescent fascist, but I figure it's probably just a phase, as he tries to figure out what his identity is as a guy in a very female-oriented environment. Nevertheless, in doing my (early-ass, I know) Christmas shopping, it occurred to me that it might help to present him with some alternate expressions and interpretations of masculinity - feminine boys, pacifist boys, queer boys, disabled boys, boys opposed to sexism, racism, etc as, well, boys. Boys who don't act like the boys and men on TV and in most mainstream comic books and novels. Men who take the expression of their masculinity beyond that of your average mainstream rock band.
Twelve years old is too young for Propagandhi's Less Talk, More Rock and too old for children's books with simple messages like Free To Be You And Me. As a kid, I systematically sought out and (figuratively) devoured books, movies and comics that featured heroines who were strong, firm in their convictions, capable, and cast off traditional womens' roles - what are some similar works of fiction, but for boys? Where is the Le Tigre of the adolescent boys' world? Where is the sequel to The Practical Princess - a book called The Prince Who Was Secure in His Masculinity, Comfortable With His Sexuality, And Empowered His Subjects By Treating Them All With Dignity?
Show me the way, Hive Mind. Help me help a twelve year old boy in a small town help himself.
Apologies if this ran a bit long. I am pedantic.