Updated: Jan 9
Generations of parents have a lot to answer for
"Mommy, why do little boys hate girls so much?" I asked.
"I don't know," she replied. "That's the way they are."
"But why?" I persisted. "Larry doesn't like me 'because I'm a girl.' I can't help it. I was born this way. And what's so terrible about being a girl anyway?"
I'd reached that logical conclusion based on the many conversations Mom and I had had regarding how wrong it was to judge someone by the color of their skin. She didn't want to raise racist children in 1960s Florida.
"I don't know," she replied again, frustrating me. Why didn't she know?
"But doesn't Mrs. X teach him it's wrong to hate girls? She is a girl!"
"It's not my place to tell Mrs. X how to raise Larry," Mom explained. "But a lot of little boys are like this."
Larry was my first-ever friend, and the only one my age in our small neighborhood. Sometimes he was nice, and sometimes he would hit me, run away, and laugh at my impotence. I'd complain to our mothers. Mrs. X grew tired of the tattling. "Hit him back," my mother advised.
It never occurred to me to do it the next time he came within striking distance. I wonder if Larry grew up to be an abuser because his parents taught him it was okay to hit girls.
Not all little boys were pint-sized jerks. Randall was a first-grade classmate with a sweet Southern drawl who I could always count on to be a decent human being around me, or other girls. Bill, a boy in my neighborhood with whom I frequently played, never gave me crap. I remember his hyper-masculine older brother teasing us once as we sat in a tree together.
"Two little lovebirds sittin' in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G, First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Nicole with a baby carriage!"
Years later, I suspect Bill might have been gay. He had all the earmarks of a future femme: Limp-wristed, talked in a higher somewhat feminine voice, and never ever had a problem with girls.
My cousin, on the other hand, was a case study in how parents could do a better job raising their sons.
He wouldn't let me into his treehouse because of his strict No Girls Allowed policy.
I complained to my aunt, noting we'd been up there together the previous summer. She went outside and told him to let me in but he resisted, telling her absolutely no girls allowed. She relented.
I appealed to my mother next, but she didn't want to intervene, because it wasn't her place once again.
"Why doesn't Aunt Y tell him to come down, that he can't play there either until he changes his mind?" I asked.
"That's what I would do," Mom said, "but I'm not Aunt Y."
How different would the world be if parents, but especially mothers, who really should know better, crushed baby misogynists like little entitled bugs?
Why does male entitlement persist?
I never understood why Mrs. X and Aunt Y allowed their sons to get away with misogynist behavior and attitudes.
They were girls, weren't they? Why would they allow their sons to be mean to girls when they were girls themselves? How did they not identify with my frustrations? Perhaps I judge the Silent Generation too harshly. Betty Friedan wasn't even a household name yet, and full-time mothers had little time to read, especially tomes as lengthy as then-popular The Feminine Mystique or Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex.
We spend a ridiculous amount of time debating male privilege and entitlement. I get it with the Boomers and us early Xers: We were raised in less enlightened times, when 'misogyny' wasn't a household word and we wrote off most of it with 'Boys will be boys'. Few questioned why boys were such boys, and whether they could do better.
I have a harder time understanding why some young boys and men today - tail-end Xers, Millennials, and Gen Z - are still so entitled.
We've seen progress, for sure. If you keep your eyes open, know or remember your history and don't subscribe to self-infantilizing victim mentality, you see fewer entitled-feeling men walking among us. When I speak of misogynist behavior I refer to indisputable, harassing, abusive behavior. I don't count compliments, pickup attempts, random comments, and minor events touted as 'misogyny' by the sort of women who will always find an oppression narrative in every interaction with a man.
I don't see 'patriarchy' everywhere and I don't find it 'exhausting' to be a woman. I live in a sexist society, for sure. I'm well aware men are responsible for 90% of the violence in the world, and the people most at risk for violence by men are men.
Much of the Trumpian backlash we experience today is thanks to entitled men's last stand at preserving their penis-gran