Your baby is totally flirting with me

Rants are all the rage in the blogging world. From “open letters” to pet peevish posts punctuated with angry bullet points, these writers are fuming, and it’s something you are doing wrong. Of course, a proper rant is as satisfying as a Snickers® if you’re nodding right along with the writer. To wit, in honor of Pink-tober, Lisa Boncheck Adams reissued her angry plea to end kitschy Facebook postings that annoy us in the name of “awareness.” (The 99% who won’t repost are my kind of people.) Because my feathers don’t ruffle easily, I want this style to be wicked funny (better yet, satirical), or I read only whiny, self-indulgent, holier-than-thou foolishness.

If you are a ravenous reader of rants, you’ve noticed that the Internet has hijacked the word “feminism” in order to write angry essays about all sorts of things. When a 24-year-old Australian blogger took a crack at Feminism, and his young, thoughtful female readers chimed in with “I’m not a feminist, but…” comments, I couldn’t keep my meddling fingers from the keyboard. Doesn’t everyone know that the definition of feminism is a belief in the equality of the sexes? That’s it. Full stop. If you think women and men deserve equal rights and pay and access and accountability, then you are a feminist. (Yup, that’s you. Go get your bumper stickers.) All sensible and caring humans are feminists.

But after reading a ridiculous rant today, I see a glimmer of why sensible and caring people might shy away from the term instead of embracing it with pride. Occasionally, “feminist culture” has one too many Chardonnays and permits a dogged McCarthyism to unearth slights and inequalities in innocuous settings. Tagged with feminism! and gender this was published today on the always entertaining Belle Jar. A proud, but irritated mother of three absurdly attractive children doesn’t want you to compliment them. Seriously. She wants none of your inappropriate cooing about her diapered “heartbreaker.” She doesn’t want you to “warn” her that her son won’t be able to fight off the ladies. And when her Disney cute child aims a gassy grin your way, she doesn’t want to hear “he’s flirting!” Because apparently babies aren’t sexual creatures designed to seduce. Aaargh! I’M SO MAD THAT MY CHILDREN ARE BEAUTIFUL AND YOU ONLY HAVE COMPLIMENTS FROM 1965!

Taking offense at well-intentioned grandma praises is almost as silly as writing an essay about the downsides of financial security. I’m assuming future guest posts will tackle injustices against the naturally thin. Blessed with gorgeous, healthy children this mom can only suffer the right brand of compliments? A thread of supportive comments suggests there are plenty of sensitive moms who don’t think this is as silly as I do, but instead are aghast when someone wants to nibble Matty’s fat little toes. I imagine all of them sewing small burqas to shield gorgeous children from gender-role stifling compliments of evil anti-feminists. But telling someone in the checkout line that her baby is “delicious” is lovely, goddamit. There is NO OTHER WAY to receive this aside from, “thank you” or “I know, right? I just want to bite him!” The compliment may be trite or old-fashioned, but it’s a kindness from a stranger and should be paid forward with something much, much better than a rant about how not to say nice things about a baby.

And sure, we know what she’s getting at… after all, we’re all feminists (see paragraph 2). And language used thoughtlessly can certainly feed all sorts of stereotypes we would like to obliterate. But, if your children elicit these responses regularly enough to rally a rant against them, then you are throwing that cute baby out with the politically incorrect bathwater. Have the self-awareness to realize the world’s appreciation for your stunning children might not be knicker-bunch-worthy. Acknowledge a sincere kindness–hell, even a passing and corny kindness– as just that. And when we recognize the beauty of a child, this is not a willful neglect of his other traits, or a condemnation of all un-pretty babies (which do not exist, anyway).

Me, I’m much more concerned about why Suzie won’t be encouraged to pursue astrophysics. And if you want to compliment my boys on their cuteness and future prom date fitness, fire away. I’m going to thank you, and agree with you, and pour you a Prosecco.

My boys when little... big time flirts

My boys when little… big time flirts

20 responses

  1. I’m tired of people calling me “handsome” and “amazing” and “the smartest person I have ever met, ever.” I find it demeaning. Also, I would like people to start calling me these things.

  2. Correction, 25 year old blogger! And, I completely understand why that woman would get so upset at people ogling her precious sons. I mean, I always take issue with people telling me how sexy my beard is, or how much they wanna stroke my ankle hair. If someone were to say those things to my (imagined) kids (my genes would likely produce hobbit-like children), gee whizz banana fizz, I’d lose my proverbial shit – you wanna stroke my kid’s hairy ankle? Blasphemy. It’s a precious ankle, you voyeuristic asshat, have some respect for yo’self. That’s my purse. Get off my lawn. *Throws cat at said person* *Then sobs in corner for precisely 43 minutes* *Then mows lawn naked while throwing more cats*. Ahh – the crazy. I love it when it shines so bright, especially from middle aged, middle class, “normal” people.

    • You were 24 then! I still can’t believe you’re such a baby. I adore your whackadoodle-ness, and love that you get what I was going for here. For the record, though… 40 somethings may technically qualify as middle-aged, but will be madder than a feminist with a pretty baby if you call them that.

      • If there’s any one thing I’ve learnt here, on planet whackadoodle, it’s that people love having a reason to be offended. Screw em. From herein 30 is the new middle aged. I’ll be there soon too. Huzzah.

  3. Your sons are adorable! Actually, beautiful. (Phew! There, I said it!) Those smiles could light up the night sky.

    I found the reaction of the mothers about whom you wrote to be totally preposterous! Could it be that they themselves lacked cooing and admiration from those around them as children?

    Give me a break!

    • Thanks, Susie! I hear all of the time that my older son is going to be a “heartbreaker” and honestly feel it’s not damaging the planet or the women on it in any way. I had an overwhelming “give me a break” snorting impatience for the whole thing. When your biggest problem is that your children are too stunning, well then, lucky you.

  4. I used to call myself a feminist, but then some loud-mouthed types insisted that I had to be exactly like them… which I thought was the point of feminism in the first place – to respect people for who they are and let them make their own choices. Apparently not. I am letting the side down by wearing flowery dresses, being a SAHM, enjoying crochet and letting my little girls wear pink. My youngest will wear the prettiest pink dress as she carries her tarantula lunch box and cuddles her plastic radio-controlled spider.

    But anyway, who gets upset about someone giving their child a compliment? You must really be living a charmed life if the biggest thing you have to rant about is the compliments your child receives!

  5. I was surprised when someone who I know works tirelessly for the empowerment of women told me that she wasn’t a feminist. I asked her why not, and she said “because I don’t hate men”. Ah. We appear to have a difference of terminology. I’ve also been told that I’m not a feminist, because I’d like to stay home with my (hypothetical) kids for a few years. Apparently feminism is no longer about having an equal right to choose but about refusing to do anything remotely traditionally “female”.

    • I refuse to let others hijack the word and distort it! When we do that, then silly things like “you may only compliment my child THIS way” is called “feminism,” and no one wants to belong to that club of grumpies.

  6. Great article. Wonderful writing. And that woman with the hideous children (I’m just trying to make her happy, not complimenting them) has *flirting* wrong the way many have *feminism* wrong. Flirting is NOT, by its very definition, sexual. Just like feminism, by its very definition, is not all about the quest for female dominance and subjugation of males that we hate!

    It’s annoying to always be told by some young snip that she’s not a feminist but. But what, I want to say? But you like making .27 less than a man for the same job? But you prefer to be blamed for rape because of what you were wearing? But you think college and the military should have stayed male endeavors?But you don’t care that birth control is widely available? You’re not a feminist but WHAT?

    My I’m in a snit! Good essay!

    • Thanks, Sandra. The whole thing put me into a snit, too! If it hadn’t been tagged with “feminism” and “gender” I might have left it alone. But I’m tired of misplaced sensitivities making Feminism! sound like the battle cry of crazy women who don’t want you to say a baby is cute in the wrong way. Let’s continue to insist that these young snips to embrace the true definition!

  7. Pingback: boys are gorgeous | this incessant kaleidoscope

  8. You all seem offended. That someone doesn’t want your compliments. Jeez, I just have one vivid memory of my childhood. How much I hated hearing how pretty I was!!! I did not get it. Why was that so important? Really? I did not get it. Children are not aware of their looks, they become aware of their looks by stupid people like you. THAT is why you should not give them stupid compliments. Making them self conscious about their looks. How hard can it be to change a bit?

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