Who Will Take Care of the Gravy Boat?

by Juliet Sorensen on May 6, 2015

In the past week, a mystifying series of sexist posts on parenting boys have proliferated online. For example, this week’s feature on The Week is “What It’s Like to be a Mother of Only Boys.” Last week’s ScaryMommy essay was entitled, “10 Things Moms of Boys Must Do.” Needlessly gendered, these articles hearken back to the era of Mad Men’s first season.

Take the ScaryMommy voice of authority. She advises women expecting boys to “love bathtime,” “think farts are funny,” “do battle with the toilet,” “rethink your standards of safety,” “be prepared for messes,” “rethink your standards of safety,” and more. I don’t question the truth in these statements; indeed, as the parent of a boy, I concur. Rather, I take issue with her basic assumption that none of these nuggets apply to girls. As the parent of two girls, I know firsthand that they all do.

“What It’s Like to be a Mother of Only Boys” assures its readers that mothering (note the verb; no “parenting” used here) boys “leads to a set of personality traits, namely that you’re not fussy and that you roll with the (actual) punches.” While the counterfactual is not provided, presumably mothers of girls are fussy and uptight. Mothers of only boys learn to buy lots of food; the inference is that mothers of girls do not, since their princesses subsist on air. The author “wonders about the future of her stuff,” including her “mother’s gravy boat.” I don’t own a gravy boat and am confident that my two daughters would show no interest in it whatsoever.

At its best, the Internet gives voice to the voiceless and speaks truth to power. At its worst, it reinforces age-old gender stereotypes that can now be broadcast worldwide with a single keystroke.