She meant to be free
from bourgeois conventions
and dependence on a man,
that is, not like her mother,
so she learned the rush-ahead,
upstream paddling a woman needs
to keep from spilling over
the rapids, that is, a succession
of jobs, each a step up, negotiations
and fights with her husband,
shifts of power. As soon as
she pushed her son out of her body,
she had to discover how not
to smother him, not sacrifice
herself, even as her heart
turned always toward him,
sunflower to the sun.
He stands in the white light
of the kitchen in August,
shirtless, gulping milk.
She wants only to touch
the birthmark on his back,
but instead scolds him for drinking
from the carton, for it’s the mother,
who else, who has to teach
the child manners and kindness.
He shrugs her off, pulls on
his uniform, grabs his mitt?
not heartless, just careless?
knowing she’ll drive him to the diamond,
cheer him on from the sidelines.


© Debra Kaufman

“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*

I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.

Share your thoughts

* Gloria Steinem