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What Carmichael outlines here are measures intended to screen out sexism from childraising practices, not by blunting or denying differences between girls and boys but by ""celebrating"" their distinctions and extending their options. Her position, increasingly familiar from feminist books and magazine articles, does not skirt the difficulties most women experience when fighting their own conditioning or facing down the opposition. And she recognizes a troubling figure on the horizon--the woman intent on a political statement, disappointed at the birth of a son. Although her examples of two contrasting families (traditional/oppressed, liberated/contented) are consciously overdrawn, comments from others who share her goal reflect a range of possibilities, a balance of ideas. Carmichael examines the stereotypes and discouragements most frequently encountered in childhood, dismisses homophobia (e.g. fear that boys playing with dresses will grow up gay) as unsubstantiated, and considers ways of deprogramming popular culture--clothing, media images, toys, even language (the last the most elusive). She observes some progress: an Inglenook commercial (toasting ""the new baby, the future President of the United States. Here's to Debbie""); altered textbook policies; successful curriculum revisions; and the multiplying variety of alternative lifestyle experiments. Much of this is broad enough to appeal to large numbers of families seeking workable modifications; anyone can see the value of widening opportunities for children or appreciate the irony in a Joan of Arc poster captioned ""I have to go home now and fix supper."" But other, more radical exponents limit the outreach; one mother, unalterably opposed to pink for her infant girl, dyed all her gift clothes black, and another would reject all fairy tales because of heroine passivity--""Snow White and Sleeping Beauty should get up and call the cops."" Great expectations, raising consciousness along with the kids.

Pub Date: Oct. 3rd, 1977
Publisher: Beacon