A LETTER TO MY SON

MOTHERHOOD, MUST READ

Kandice Menzie’s  ode to her son touches on feminism, gender but also articulates her hopes, fear and guidance on how to challenge the black male stereotype

 

  • My favourite author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie once wrote that “It is pointless raising feminist daughters and not feminist sons”.

  • Not only do I totally agree with this statement, but it has become an increasingly omnipresent thought of mine when planning how I’ll approach the challenging but honourable task of raising somebodies future husband and father; the supposed “head of the family” who will have to go out into the world with prejudgment looming over him like an ominous grey cloud.

  • As a self-styled “modern mama” I aim to raise an equally modern, multi-faceted man. 

  • So keeping Adichie’s statement in mind I have devised a few key points for my “little man” to read & live by once he has bigger things to think about than eating his toes:

  • Respect woman as a standard. Don’t value a woman on what she can offer you. 

  • Do not offer her admiration, defence or esteem just because she is your sister, cousin or your boys other half. 

  • Don’t offer her respect just because she is dressed demurely & in your eyes must “respect herself”.

  • Treat every female you meet with respect because she is a human being, no less capable than yourself. 

  • Respect a woman’s body, but most importantly, respect her opinion. 

  • Women are intriguing, and as complexed as can be. Women operate a little differently to men, but do remember that just because they may react more emotionally than you, it doesn’t make them weak. 

  • Baring that in mind never raise your fists to them – its unbecoming and you will have me to deal with if you ever do.

  • Maintain a fluid approach to gender: Fun Fact: When you were a baby, I’d get frustrated with the lack of cute clothes on offer in the little boys section. of most high street stores, 

  • side note: why do all retailers banish clothing for little boys to the tiniest, dankest corner of the childrenswear section?

  • For such small things, little babies always get a hearty floor space for their teddy bear print onesies and miniature hats. 

  • The little girls section is always centre stage. Bright and airy, with rows upon rows of styles, colours, trousers, shorts, skirts, leggings, dungarees, dresses, overalls all to cherry-pick from.

  • But, downstage left lies the boys clothes; a joyless backwall made of khaki, several shades of blue, Lightening McQueen t-shirts and Crocs. You’re hit by a palpable sense of desolation just by entering it. 

  • Retailers seem to be believe printing tees with “this girl can” is tackling gender inequality. Really, an internal conversation needs to be had about their imbalance of choice for little girls and boys on the shop floor. 

  • Why are girls fed countless options and taught to base their value on the extrinsic?: the cut of their skirt, or how many adornments the can attain and attach to their bodies. 

  • Boys are offered little choice, thus freed from such superficial burden and offered time to focus on whatever they so wish. 

  • Anyway, because of this lack of cute boy’s clothes, I began veering off course into the girls aisles to take my pick from anything I felt would suit your steez. 

  • Leopard print leggings. Rainbow sweatshirts, a shiny silver pair of Oxford brogues. 

  • So son, just like me I don’t want you to be tied down by labels, especially ones that hinder your self-expression. 

  • Wear pink if you feel that it compliment your skin tone. Just be true to you. 

  • Now son, I’m not expecting you to continue what your mum started and come high heel shopping with me, but, i do want you to take a fluid approach to gender & the roles surrounding it. 

  • Know that women are not made for household chores and men are not made for DIY. If you’re no good at either that’s ok with me.

  • Banish the black male stereotype. Son, black boys are the most conditioned members of society. 

  • To keep what is a naturally strong willed human in check you will be sold to, surveillanced and scrutinised daily. 

  • You are 28 times more likely than your white friends, to be stopped by the police in the UK, and outside of it that number only grows and the dangers get even more alarming. 

  • I don’t want this to frighten you, but I do want it to make you aware of how you conduct yourself in public. 

  • I want you to remain a gentleman always. The stereotype for a black male is uneducated, aggressive and dangerous, do not perpetuate it.

  • However, feel free to indulge in our beautifully rich culture. Listen to music from Fela Kuti to Future. 

  • But remember that most music aimed at the black male has a carefully constructed rhetoric of materialism and misogyny, don’t get sucked into this.

  • You live in a diverse city and so indulge, roam freely beyond what you know & what is expected of you.

  • As a Londoner, you have the world on your doorstep. On any given greater London high street you can experience the beauty and unique nuances of cultures from all across the globe. 

  • In London, you can eat Italian whilst dancing to Jamaican music with your friends from China, Scotland and Somalia. It’s a coveted position, take advantage of it. 

  • You yourself are a delicious blend of Africa & the Caribbean; by way of West London. So explore your tastes and also your roots.

  • Keep hyper-masculinity far from your door. I’ve waged a personal war against hyper masculinity and don’t want it anywhere near you, son.

  • I believe that hyper-masculinity is just as damaging to men as it is to women. It tells you that you cannot cry or show emotion, and if you do then you are less of a man for it. 

  • Please ignore this idea & anyone who subscribes to it. It’ll cripple your self-development and force you to only indulge in “manly” activities such as football, cars or computer games. 

  • When you were three, I tried to work a  doll into your roster of favourite toys.

  • Playing with dolls teaches responsibility, and helps children practice social skills such as compassion and empathy. 

  • Why are only little girls offered a chance to hone those qualities?

  • If I wanted to help normalise shared parental leave, and make the next generation of men more emotionally intelligent than the last, then I too had to instil those qualities in my son too. 

  • You tried with that doll, and I must admit, I tried harder. 

  • For a while you showed it some lukewarm attention, it became the oversized monster which would trample over your Hot Wheels, you even took it to bed with you on the rare occasion. 

  • But sure enough, that doll was left to sit eerily in the corner of your room. 

  • After two weeks untouched it began to freak me out so much that I hid it at the bottom of your toybox; underneath the dinosaur figurines, Toot Toot Drivers, building blocks and *sigh* footballs. 

  • It seemed that dolls just weren’t your thing. You were already shaping up to be quite the * gulp* “boys, boy”.  

  • This may of course change, so if you do fancy taking up ballet let me know & I’ll drive you to classes, if you enjoy art we’ll go to the Saatchi, National Gallery and more.  

  • Just as hyper masculinity threatens women with violence and emotional abuse it will leave you void of emotion; and son, there is nothing more beautiful than a man who isn’t afraid to express himself. 

  • Be yourself son, trust me ladies will love you for it.

  • You may meet people who will feel more comfortable with you saying that you’re a gang member than gay; again, ignore them; and if that ever becomes a question for you then we’ll deal with it together.

  • Broaden your horizons. As much as I love our little patch of London, I cant bypass the fact that it’s a cesspit for black boys coveting the things that don’t matter in life (drugs, ego, material possessions etc). 

  • You may wonder why i peppered your childhood with visits to museums, farms, stay-cations in the UK countryside and trips back to your parent countries. It was to make you aware firstly of your privilege, and also that there’s more to life than the concrete jungle you’re growing up in the heart of.  

  • Where we’re from, little boys who believe that their postcode is the centre of the world, end up dying for it. 

  • It will be bittersweet but I want you to live on the other side of the world at some point in your long life, for a few months or maybe years. 

  • I want you to experience all that life has to offer and to interact with people of all backgrounds & become inspired by their stories, so that when the time comes to make your own life choices you will be well informed.

  • And lastly I want you to know, that If I ruled the world son, I would give it all to you.

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