Last summer I wrote a post called Why I Don’t Want A Daughter, and more than a year later, it’s still drawing ire. I was just being honest. I’d always felt that way, that I would prefer to have sons. Writing that post was my way of trying to figure out why. I just started writing, and that was what came out.
Commenters accused me of being self-hating. They called my preference “misogynistic” and “ingrained sexist BS.” And I still can’t figure out if maybe they’re right. After all, it sounds wrong, doesn’t it? Why would a woman not want daughters?
Only one of my objections to having a daughter was based on biological sex: the confusion and dismay I predict I’ll feel when confronted with a vagina full of poop. I mean, how can I make sure I get all the poop out of there? The folds of a wrinkly scrotal sac are bad enough; a poopy vagina is totally daunting.
My other objections were based on not on sex, but on the expectations associated with gender. I know that not all girls like pink sparkly things and that not all girls secure their social status by being mean to each other. But most of them do. It’s a stereotype for a reason; it contains truth. I don’t like princesses of any kind, and I don’t want to deal with any of the trappings of princessdom. Some commenters pointed out that I can choose not to raise my daughter to be princessy, but I think that point is debatable. Sometimes, even though it might be disturbing for us to admit, kids are what they are, regardless of our influence as parents.
People would not be nearly this upset if I said I didn’t want a boy because they’re too noisy or too active or too dirty, even though those characterizations are stereotypes as well. And I hear women say they’d prefer to have girls all the time.
Then there are the things I definitely cannot change about being female, because they’re foisted upon women from without. That my daughter would be likely to earn less in any given career than her male counterpart. That there are members of society who don’t trust her to make choices about her own body. That she’d be likely to be sexually assaulted, all just because she’s female. I don’t see these objections as indictments of women. Quite the opposite: these are indictments of a society that has a long way to go before it can claim “gender equality.”
“Do you think I’m a misogynist because I’m afraid to have a daughter?” I asked a blogger friend recently.
“Because you’re afraid?” She shook her head. “That’s not misogyny. That’s fear.”
I thought about what she said. True, I’m daunted by the prospect of a poopy vagina as well as by the societal obstacles that my daughter would face. When it comes to stereotypical girl behavior, though, I can’t say I’m afraid of it.
Or am I? Isn’t there always just a little fear in our hate? Don’t we hate what we’re afraid of?
Why is the princess mindset anathema to me? Perhaps because I see those stereotypically “girly” things as inherently sexist. Princesses don’t have to be intellectually curious or funny or disciplined or determined—just pretty, anodyne. But more than that, the princess culture is all about being beautiful, exalted, and ultimately, worthy of a man’s love. For reasons I can’t figure out, little girls gravitate toward princessdom, and now we’ve got a nation full of tiny princess-brides—and not the good kind with Mandy Patinkin and unusually large rodents. You know what you never see? A little boy dressing up like a groom, dreaming about a future of marital privilege during which he’ll be showered with recipes and kitchen implements.
And that’s a problem. We encourage in girls things we’d never encourage in boys. We never confer marital privilege on men to the extent we do for women. We don’t squeal and salivate over a ring when a man gets engaged. We don’t encourage a man to change his name so he can feel, or appear, more committed to a union.
Conversely, we don’t make a man feel like a failure for choosing not to get married or have children.
A few commenters on my post said it was a good thing I didn’t have a daughter. That because of my feelings, I’d raise her poorly. I think that’s a pretty sweeping statement to make about a person you don’t know in real life. Would I love a daughter as much as my son? Of course. And I dare to think I’d do a bang-up job of raising her despite my reservations.
But frankly, right now, I’m enjoying the lazy path of fighting my son with foam swords and leaving unexamined my complicated feelings about being female.