The too-familiar image of an emaciated, lingerie-clad woman graced the back of the magazine I was reading this morning. I thought nothing of it until my son ran up to me exclaiming, “Big boobies! Big boobies!”
He’s not even three years old and already, without my consent, he has been bombarded by sexualized images of what a woman is supposed to be. I quickly threw the magazine on the table, but he asked to see the boobies again. At first I said no, but he passionately persisted in wanting to see the boobies. The more I resisted, the more appealing the boobies became. I was left with a choice: either distract him by pointing to one of his three thousand trucks, or show him the magazine again, using it as an opportunity to teach him that advertisements are not real, that this woman’s body was not normal, that women in the real world wear clothes. So I chose to do the latter, comparing the anorexic almost-naked woman to a picture of a modestly-clad Miley Cyrus (not my first choice, believe me, but this was an unplanned lesson, and you take what you can get in the moment). We talked about who looked healthier and why, we talked about who looked more real and why, we talked about who was covering her boobies more and why.
At the beginning of my pregnancy, I had hoped my baby was a girl, in part because I wanted the opportunity to raise a strong girl in this patriarchal world. When I found out that Kyan was a boy, I was terrified; I thought that this somehow meant I would be adding another male to an already male-dominated planet, adding to the problem in some ways. Of course, as soon as I saw Kyan, I fell in love with him and knew that he was perfect exactly as he was, male genitalia and all. Now that he is exploring his sexuality, his gender, his place in this world, I feel blessed to have a boy- I have the opportunity to raise a boy who will eventually become a man who is part of the solution rather than the problem. I will have raised a man who treats and views women with dignity and respect.
But he might always love looking at pictures of big boobies.