"We need to allow men to be sensitive... and not call them weak for caring."

I hadn't heard of Bronies until Hal sent me the link to this trailer about a movement we were apparently the last ones to be aware of. (Did you guys know about Bronies? Have I been living on the moon these past couple of years?) Anyway. The kids have been watching My Little Pony for months, but it's Archer who loves it most. He knows all the songs, the stories. He talks about the show constantly and yet until now has been completely secretive about it outside our house.


"Because it's supposed to be for girls, Mom."

"Says who?"

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.

And yet.

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
As much as we need to undo the way women have been perceived since the beginning of time, we must also create an environment that shatters the emotional glass ceiling for our sons. Because there's no emotional "lean in" for men. No lean in for boys. And we need to encourage and support boys and men to be their loving selves as well.


As quoted in the above trailer, "We need to allow men to be sensitive... and not call them weak for caring." Or more importantly, we need to remind our sons not to see THEMSELVES as "weak" for caring. Because they are SO not. Caring is the most POWERFUL tool we have as humans.

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.

Raising strong, empowered daughters is only PART of our mission. We need to be just as enthusiastic about raising caring, empathetic sons.

Sexism: it isn't just for girls. Not even close.

Go Bronies.


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. 



Anonymous | 11:18 AM

My brother grew up with two older sisters and many female family influences. He was always sensitive and enjoyed the same shows and movies as my sister and I growing up.....He may have been a little on the outskirts with boys his own age, but I felt my mom and I and all the girl friends he easily made were encouraging and positive about who he was and he's grown up to be a popular, awesome guy earning an arts degree and travelling the world!