1. Differences between men and women are not natural but exist because of the patriarchy.
2. Under the patriarchy the male is the human default setting, the female is therefore not thought to be fully human.
3. White males uphold the patriarchy to defend their privilege at the expense of women and people of colour.
If you were a woman and you really believed these things, would it not complicate your relations with men? Is it not possible that you would feel negatively toward men as a class?
Enter Polly Dunning. She is a third generation feminist (her mother is the feminist commentator Jane Caro). In a column for the Sydney Morning Herald she writes of how conflicted she felt when she learned that she was carrying a boy child rather than a girl:
I had never wanted a son. I wanted daughters...This seemed altogether to fit in with my feminism better. It was more comfortable to me. But when the sonographer pointed out my son's dangly bits in our 19-week scan, it was clear that I was going to raise a son. The anxious feeling I had about this daunting prospect lasted a few weeks as I came to terms with why I felt the way I did and how I could let it go.
There were two parts to the feeling: I had to mourn the life I thought I was supposed to have...and I had to come to terms with having a relationship with a son that I had never really considered. There were dark moments in the middle of the night (when all those dark thoughts come), when I felt sick at the thought of something male growing inside me.
The bolded part was noticed by a number of media outlets and seems now to have been edited (replaced by "when I felt sick with worry thinking about how I would go about raising a son.")
So what's a feminist to do? How do you reconcile the ideology with mothering a son? Polly Dunning's solution is the gruesome one of subjecting her son to a kind of feminist cleansing process:
In this patriarchal world, this world where even the best men (and women, for that matter) engage in casual and ingrained sexism, how will I raise a son who respects me the way a daughter would? Who sees women as just like him? As just human beings?
...People are constantly telling me "boys are easier" to raise (casual and ingrained sexism, anyone?), but I think they are much harder. How do you raise a white, middle-class boy not to think his own experience is the default experience of the world?
How do you counter a society that makes things easier for him than for others, and make him see it? See how it is for women, for people of colour?
Raising a boy who maintains the status quo sure would be easy, but I refuse to be satisfied with that. I will raise a feminist boy. Just like his father and grandfathers before him, but even better. I will point sexism out to him at every turn, and he will never get away with it without being called out. I will show him that girls are just people like him and that products and art targeted at them are no less valuable or enjoyable. He will be immersed in feminism by a family who models it in their everyday life.
She wants a son who will respect her, even as she points out his sexism and privilege at every turn. I don't like her chances. I know some feminist mothers and the usual result is an exasperated son who is "shorter" with his mother than boys usually are.
Polly Dunning is likely to love her son and repel him in equal measure.