It's true, it can happen to anyone. Even someone who all but minored in women's studies. Someone who fancies herself a feminist and loses her temper when sexist remarks are whispered at water coolers. Even we bra burning women can raise a son who says, "No mommy, boys are fast, not girls."
It happened on a cool day in Davenport, on a little jaunt to the local Wal Mart. My 2 1/2 year old son, Trysten, and I were "racing" to the front door. I did something I will regret for the next few months at least, I let him win.
"Wow!" I exclaimed, "You're fast".
"Yes", he said with a grin the size of Texas, "fast like daddy".
Not to toot my horn but, I was a college track athlete afterall, I couldn't let this moment pass, "No, fast like mommy".
"No, fast like Papa Frank", he assures me.
"Oh Trysten, mommy is DEFINITELY faster than Papa Frank, he is a grandpa after all!"
And here it comes...."No mommy, boys are fast, not girls".
Perhaps I overreacted, I couldn't help myself. In one instance I saw his life flash before my eyes. A 5 year old on the playground not letting a girl be on his kickball team; a 14 year old teasing a girl for throwing differently; a 21 year old only complimenting women for their outward appearance and finally a 50 year old executive, not giving the woman the same amount of money the man was getting for the same job. I felt my heart break, I felt my heart break! I treated it like any other misdoing we happen along when raising a toddler, I got down to eye level and stated calmly, "Trysten, that is not exactly true, there are lots of girls that are faster than boys, you shouldn't make those umbrella statements, they are unfair to many people."
He took it well. His big blue eyes looked up and he said, "Okay mommy".
"Well then say you run fast like mommy and give me a kiss and we can go get you a toy at Wal Mart".
Like I said, I'm a flawed mom. I ran this atrocity past my husband, brother-in-law and father-in-law. To set the stage all of those men are better men than the overwhelming majority. They all treat women with more respect than we treat each other and they usually give a hearty cry at the outrages against all minorities. My father-in-law and Zach (my husband) looked at each other and then at me like I was overreacting. It was only my brother-in-law that gave me a look like he could understand as well as any man could.
My husband, who I assure you is a great man, he did marry me after all, said "Well, you have to admit it is true, most men are faster than women."
I gave him one of my now notorious death glares, "Okay Maurice, let's see you race Marion Jones!" I ached to yell.
But what good does it do? Even someone like me understands that it's not always about the big battles but the little fights have to be won too. But was this too small of a fight? Was I a woman standing up for women's rights or a woman who complains about the color pink in the University of Iowa opponent's locker rooms?
One comment from my innocent little boy made me rethink what it meant to be a feminist in this age. I stand by my outrage, but I stand by it now only because it represents a man I don't want him to become. The fact is, Maurice Green will forever beat Marion Jones in the 200 and it's something I'm just going to have to get used to. But I will never let my son, or any other man for that matter, win a little fight that could one day become a big battle.