Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Girl Is A Gun- Fashionista or Sandinista?

While visiting New Orleans this summer, I noticed a sign over a storefront on Magazine Street, that hipster's paradise and shopping mecca et. al.  I wasn’t sure exactly what the sign was advertising, but I found myself reading it as though it were a fill-in-the-blank puzzler of sorts.  The sign read, “A Girl Is A Gun”.

A Girl is a Gun…so you better get a license to use her?
A girl is a gun ….so watch your aim?
A girl is a gun …. don’t play with her if she’s loaded?

I looked up some NRA gun safety recommendations and also found additional tips on a blog that I have visited before and have great respect for,  The Art of Manliness

A girl is a gun …. wear eye and ear protection as appropriate.
A girl is a gun … ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.  
A girl is a gun …. when holding a gun, rest your finger on the trigger guard or along the side of the gun. Until you are actually ready to fire, do not touch the trigger (this seems rife with innuendo and a little suggestive).

I thought the sign might be advertising a hip new musical venue, or a support group for divorced men.  Maybe the NRA headquarters for women?

It caught my eye because I have this great aversion to guns and violence and weapons of assorted-sized destruction. As such, I have somehow been raising a son that is quite attracted to guns and weapons and not exactly destruction, but maybe this particular aspect of manliness or at least power and maybe control.  Some of this attraction is related to his developing sense of self.  Some of it is just a “man” thing, and some may be just that very bit of nature in spite of the maternal nurturing, forewarnings and peaceful promoting ad nauseum.   The banning of guns  and video games certainly did not help.

So what else is a mother to do with a son that is curious about the world, intrigued with figuring things out and making things after he figures them out?  She supports and attempts to redirect.  She promotes science and education over violence, he continues to weave in questions and comments and explores the topic gently without seeming quite transparent. 

“What would you do if I wanted to join the military?” 
“I wouldn’t like it, why would I want my son to kill people or get killed?”
What would you do if I was an engineer and worked for a corporation that made weapons or protective gear to help save soldiers?” 
“Oh you mean, save soldiers from one country so they could kill someone’s sons from a different country?” Unfortunately,  I do like Iron Man movies and have enjoyed a couple with this son.  I sort of get the attraction.  I mostly just like Robert Downey Jr.

I don’t want to be supportive of violence or weapons.   I have a hard time with war.  I am not completely convinced that the wars we have been fighting for the last 5 decades have been fought in the name of democracy or freedom or in defense of innocent people.  I might have a very different viewpoint if the Iran-Contra scandal did not arm a few different nations only to later have  our own weapons pointed back at us. If we hadn’t helped put Gaddafi in power after supporting his removal, only to somehow determine he wasn’t really reformed after-all.  Osama Bin Laden and Sadam Hussein have both been on the 'friendlier' side of this nation at one time.  I really might have a different opinion, if not for these strange actualities.  I understand that our nation offers us great freedoms, and security, but I don’t entirely believe it is related to us sending troops to foreign nations that we have less than noble interests in.   All that aside, I  want to believe in idealistic and peaceful resolutions and I know this is more than a bit naïve and simplistic.  

I promoted his interest in creating things.  I brought him to the Maker Faire.  I learned more about science and air compression.  I did not initially understand that he was making a gun, exactly. This came in time.  I rationalized the benign effects of marshmallow launchers and spud guns.  I was impressed with his knowledge.  (I am thrilled he wasn’t interested in making the atom bomb.)  I supported his interest in attempting to start a science club and watched with pride as he lead a class for middle school students in the engineering of a self-designed prototype for air-compressed paint “guns” made from pvc pipes, tire tube valves, ball valves and pvc epoxy.    He used these “guns” to paint on a large canvas, Jackson Pollack-style in a local Science Foundation sponsored community event.

What surprised me more than anything, however was watching the girls that signed up for his class. The girls outnumbered the boys 2:1.  The girls that came to the community event were also very curious to observe.  Now I am a little ashamed to point out that I was surprised at the girls behavior.   As a card-carrying feminist of the most loving and sweet-natured variety, I had stereotyped the concept that girls should not be attracted to weapons or, violence.  And perhaps they are not.  But the girls, each one, every single one, aimed, turned the ball valve with such thrill and excitement, and launched paint clear across the field, armed and at the ready with a new taste of power.   A grin across their faces that left them wanting for more was obvious and a little frightening.  The boys for the most part handled the air/paint launcher with a little more seriousness and reserve.    Accept for the one Rambo-type individual that will surely be charged in the future with friendly-fire, the first one downed or the victim of a self-inflicted wound, his excitement was connected to something else all together-danger, not power.

I am truly hoping that my son will look to developing his skills as an engineer and move away from the gun fixation.  (The brochure that mysteriously appeared on my kitchen table advertising the ROTC Marine Corps tells me otherwise.- Can I sign a commitment with MIT for a ten year college contract, how about a mail order bride and a few other diversions?)   

“The Girl is a Gun” turned out to be a trendy new fashion boutique for hipster types, and also the name of a psychedelic French Western film from 1971.   Fashionista vs Sandinista?    As for the girls with the guns that I recently observed, hootchy mama…watch out!

What's that prayer about remembering ....Give me the strength to know what I have the power to control or change or completely ignore and a tall glass of red wine, please?

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