Thursday, March 09, 2006

masculinism at its finest

Rachel and I spent about two hours at Evangeline's school last Thursday, doing our part to tear down gender-based stereotypes.

Last Thursday of course was the birthday of Dr. Seuss and the official kickoff date for Read Across America, the annual program aimed at getting more students reading books. As someone who has loved to read ever since he was a child, and who loves to read with his own children, it was a given that I was going to volunteer.

My choice of reading material was the usual sort of sedition you would expect from someone who encourages his elder daughter's interest in Spider-man. We read Robert Munsch's "The Paper Bag Princess," a book I love because it turns the whole Disney notion of a princess on its vacuous ear and has the girl not only save the prince from the dragon by her quick thinking, but saves her from marrying a dull and boorish prince.

Of course, this is me we're talking about. Why stop with a little sedition when you can go a lot further?

One of the staple activities of Read Across America is getting the kids to make green eggs and ham, and then somehow convincing them actually to eat them. Since this involves heating a skillet to 350 or 400 degrees and cooking the eggs, it's generally a good idea to have someone around to help, particularly when you have a bunch of kindergartners through second-graders doing the cooking.

As I manned the skillet, I heard one of the boys scoff that cooking is "for girls." It wasn't enough for me just to point out that I'm no girl, nor was it enough for me call another of the boys muchacha (i.e., "girl") when he called me "Old Lady." No, I had to encourage the boys -- each of them, one at a time, as they gave me their eggs to cook -- to remember that they were free to choose their own paths in life.

"Remember," I told them, "there's nothing a girl can do that a boy can't do just as well if he wants to."

One of the sharper girls picked up on the ironic message of empowerment inherent in that and pointed out to one of her friends, but one of the boys wasn't convinced that girls and boys are all that much alike. He pointed out that boys can't like dolls.

"Sure they can," I said. "Don't you like action figures?"

The poor kid froze, his eyes as wide and as helpless as a deer's when it sees a car barreling down on it but it doesn't know where to go. He turned to the teacher for help.

"Miss Zoƫ!" he called. "Are action figures dolls?"

I saw the wheels turn rapidly in her head as she figured out what was going on. And then, scarcely a beat missed, she said, "Of course they are."

Thus does the revolution continue.


JJ said...

It's been a while since I've had time to actually read your posts... I've stopped by for a few moments here and there to make sure you were alright (ie: surviving the cancer) (man, I sound so flippant about that, I don't mean to be)... but today as I'm reading through your posts I just had one thing to say. Reading about you as a dad makes me very very happy for your girls. You sound like an awesome father!

marauder said...

Flippant, schmlippant. I should have started a pool on how gruesome and grisly my death-by-cancer would be, then I could be raking in the big bucks by now.

Kidding aside, thanks for your concern, and thanks for the kind words about me as a dad. I fall short too often of being the dad my girls need, but Lord knows I try. Maybe they'll turn out all right despite me.