I think that the two (sexism and homophobia) are intertwined, starting
with our culture's "traditional wisdom" that boys must disconnect from
mothers at a very early age. The mother/son relationship is maligned by our
culture. Little boys (age 4,5,6) get the message that they can't look to
for the empathy, emotional solice and support that has been key to this
primary relationship. Closeness with mom is dangerous because it leads to
ridicule( "sissy, wimp, mama's boy") and shame. The inherent de-valuing of
women and the emotionality and relationship that she represents is clear.
what is also clear is the message that such closeness may lead to an even
more dreaded outcome than being a "mama's boy" and that is being
In my work with mothers of sons this is the biggest question in the
of their minds when going against the cultural message to disconnect from
sons. Will they somehow be implicated in the development of a "problem"
in their boy's life. This problem of course is that he would develop
Why is it that we don't have these same worries about girls being close
with their dads? Will these girls develop masculine tendencies which will
lead them to homosexuality? No, we glorify the father-daughter
....Compare the attitude toward a mother meeting her son for a walk in the
park together after dinner with that of a daughter meeting her father.
The former raises concerns about the mother-son closeness as weird,
a mama's boy, and even questions the sexual identity of the son.
The latter glamorizes the father/daughter connection as empowering with
little nostalgic about daddy's little girl. Girls are trading up into
daddy's world, the world of power and privilege. Boys are trading down into
Mommy's world of emotionality and relationship, with the additional worry
creating a feminine (homosexual)son as a result of the closeness. The
of "Mommy's little boy" carries with it the burden of cultural sexism and
In place of emotionality and real relationship, our culture offers
boys the alternative of superheroes; males who are physically dominant,
invincible, emotionless figures who use aggression and violence to insure
power and control. Boys are under siege by the culture to hide (or kill
vulnerability and emotionality, replacing it with physical strength and
powers. Those who don't are shunned as weak, sissies, or "gay". In this we
see the devaluing of females and of the homosexuals these boys purportedly
will become if they don't follow these male mandates.
In fact, boys who stay connected emotionally and learn how to be in
relationships in a real way will be better able to have mutually empathic
relationships with whomever they choose to in life. I have more thoughts
but will save them for later!
Thanks, Cate Dooley
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