"Because it's supposed to be for girls, Mom."
I ask but I know the answer. We all know the answer. It has been engrained in all of us since always. Every commercial and billboard, every Target aisle, movie, song, conversation... girls and boys are marketed to on opposite ends of the store.
It is FAR more socially acceptable for a girl to shop in the boy's section. To wear "boy's" clothes, to watch "boy" shows. Go by "boy" names...
We celebrate girls who ride skateboards and play male dominated sports, who dress up as superheroes and are as in touch with their strength as men are expected to be. And of course we should! Rock on, ladies!
But for boys who might lean the other direction, who have little interest in sports or superheroes... who are more comfortable, with say, My Little Pony... society isn't exactly singing their praises. Sexual orientation is immediately taken into question and boys are made to feel inadequate, less than, freakish...
When Archer came home from school the other day, I showed him the below trailer, explained to him that there was no reason to be embarrassed that he liked a well done show about friends taking care of each other. That that was AMAZING and high five... check out how many people feel the same way.
"You know what this means? Less boys like violence than everyone thinks," Archer said. "I thought I was rare but I'm not."
And then I cried.
Because, fuck that noise.
There is so much out there for parents of daughters, which is, of course, AWESOME. And yet. While every other message is about empowering our girls to be strong, vocal, unafraid, the support group for sensitive boys is pretty much non-existent. Boys are tough, girls need to get tougher...
Just like not all girls want to play princesses, wear pink and paint their nails (not that there is anything wrong with that), not all boys want to play superhero (nothing wrong with that, either). Most of us fall in the middle somewhere. I know I did. So did Hal. And yet, until we sat down and talked about why it was perfectly okay for him to rock out to My Little Pony, Archer felt bad about loving the show. Embarrassed.
We talked a lot about the double standards. I told him my story about wanting to skateboard when I was his age and how all the boys were like, "NO GIRLS ALLOWED" and how I always regretted listening to them. Hearing them.
"Sometimes I feel pressure to like scary stuff because that's what boys like."
Because that's what boys like?
That's not fair. And it isn't even true. And yet, how many of our sons believe that? Believe that they are supposed to like this and want that and play that?
Gender roles are changing, however the media, which mainly portrays men as MANLY TOUGH guys and "HEROES" as DUDES WHO FIGHT BAD GUYS, somehow hasn't received the memo. (Props to movies like Despicable Me that are about TOUGH GUYS who also love caring for children. We need more of those up in here.)
I know I'm reposting this photo but it struck such a chord with me in a major way when I took it and it strikes many chords in me, now, as I write this post - a whole symphony of them, actually.
This is What You're up Against. Keep Right on Walking, Boots: The Musical
LOVE IS MANLY. EMPATHY IS FOR EVERYONE. POSITIVITY IS NOT A SIGN OF WEAKNESS.
And yet, I can only tell my son that so many times when all around him the opposite is suggested. So when I see men and boys rebelling against the sexist stereotypes that, too, hold them back, I feel giddy with optimism.
Sexism: it isn't just for girls. Not even close.
What do you think? How do we help our sons navigate a culture where masculinity is typically associated with violence, stoicism and competitiveness? Can't wait to hear from you on this.