The writer is clearly into autonomy theory. This is the mainstream idea within liberalism that what matters is that we remain unimpeded (and therefore autonomous) in choosing to do or be anything we wish. The emphasis is usually on the self-determining, self-creating individual.
The writer's brother gave her son a book about boys who have achieved great things. Her instinctive feminist response to the book is this:
It's a strange kind of book. I mean, does anyone - including boys - really need to be told that "boys can do anything"?
This is the usual feminist assumption that since autonomy is what matters, and since men have power in society, that men must have autonomy.
However, the writer then backtracks and adds:
Which isn't to say that boys face no obstacles in being and becoming anything they want to be ...
This comment clearly reveals the writer's commitment to autonomy theory. But why backtrack? If I reproduce the quote in full, the answer is revealed: she believes that boys are restricted by masculinity itself:
Which isn't to say that boys face no obstacles in being and becoming anything they want to be - or even in getting to the point where they might feel a wish to somehow step outside of the accepted masculine constraints.
One thing to note here is that autonomy theory turns something that most men take to be a positive (their masculinity) into a negative (as masculinity is thought of as a constraint on being anything you want to be).
This is an undesirable feature of autonomy theory but not a contradiction. The contradiction comes at the end of the entry when we learn that the writer doesn't really want her son to be anything he wants to be after all. The writer has definite preferences for her son which she is actively guiding him toward. In her own words:
... we do take care to point out to Olle positive examples of men and boys. What, for me, is a positive example? I suppose it does incorporate men doing atypical things like dance ... I lean towards drawing his attention to men who are able to use their bodies with sensitivity, men who are expressive and intellectually creative, as a counterweight to all the bottled-up boofheads who get the mainstream kudos in our society.
What happened to the "be anything" ideal? The writer is here being quite particular in pointing out what she takes to be ideal types of character and behaviour for her son to follow, and reprehensible types to be shunned.
So even someone who is highly committed to autonomy theory doesn't stick to it in a consistent way in practice. The instinct to raise a child according to a positive ideal of character and behaviour proves too strong after all.
This means that the important issue, the one normally hidden by an emphasis on autonomy, is what a worthy ideal for boys is. There doesn't have to be a single, simplistic answer, of course, but nor is it helpful to deny the reality that such ideals will be brought forward.
The other area of ideological confusion in the entry concerns role models. The writer tells us, first, that she doesn't like the notion of role models. She believes that the formation of gender is much more complex than copying masculine or feminine behaviour. Therefore, she doesn't believe that her son, by having no father, is missing out:
That is, of course, why the claim that sons of lesbians are missing the essential role model has always struck me as nonsense.
Again, she then quickly backtracks when she adds:
(Which is different from the proposition that boys need men in their lives.)
So boys don't need a paternal role model, but they do need men in their lives.
Later, though, she states:
I don't think parenthood requires anything especially different from mothers or fathers.
I suppose this could all fit together subtly. It's not easy to put together, though. If there is no purpose to gender in our closest and most formative relationships (with our parents) then why do boys need men in their lives at all? In other words, if it's not important to our socialisation whether our primary carers are male or female, then why should it matter to our socialisation if our lesser relationships involve males or females?
I might be wrong, but I wonder if the writer is trying to justify her son having no father, without drawing the very radical conclusion that men aren’t needed in family life.
This, though, is the logical conclusion to draw: if two women are as likely to raise a son as successfully as a father and mother, then fathers aren’t necessary to family life. If men and women were truly to believe this, then the intrinsic motivation for men to feel responsible to stay with their families, and for women to encourage them to do so, is considerably weakened.
In short, the writer isn't able to present a view of gender and parenting which is both moderate and coherent (and she does seem to be trying to be moderate).