Authors note: For the sake of this post when I discuss the progress in feminism and girl empowerment I tend to refer to it as a success, I am aware that there is still a lot that needs to be done for true equal rights to be attained by women. By success I refer to the prevalence of such programs.
Let’s talk about the one thing that no one has said right out during the past week’s media hot topic of raising a child without gender. All the discussions I saw, talked about the effects this would have on boys. Today it is much easier for a girl to pick and chose what roles she takes than it is for a boy. It isn’t just about pink or blue, or trucks or dolls; and this is a really big deal. During the past forty years of girl empowerment we have forgotten to create a new model of what it means to be a boy/man.
Boys today are given little in terms of guidance as to what it means to be a man in a world where women are equals. They are told that they have the choice of being classic men (aggressive, silent, sports oriented) or being something in response to the changes in the role of women. But these aren’t really options because “being someone who supports women” isn’t actually a full identity for them. We have moved forward in identifying women’s roles but left a large hole in the place boys reside.
As a feminist I am raising my son to look at girls as equals. I can talk about equality and how it is not separate from embracing the feminine. But who is he. In this culture of changing attitudes towards women and empowering girls we have left boys without an identity to be proud of. All children should be able to have the chance to embrace who they are. But where are the experiences for boys to embrace their male-ness that isn’t wrapped in the worlds of sports and violence or some variation on the primal hunter. If you take the aggression away what does it mean to be male; and how can we introduce this to our boys.
I’ve struggled writing this. I know it is important but there are no words, no vocabulary to use for this. As a woman I’m not even sure that I am the right one to discuss this. But as a mother I feel that it is crucial for my son’s growth. How can I claim to be facilitating his learning if I can not give him opportunities to explore who he is?
For all the work that has been done towards creating equality for women it will not be successful until we change the role of men. The entire system needs to change before women’s equality can be realized.
Author’s request: I know most of you who read this are women, but if you know a man who you think might have some insight I would love to hear their opinions. Kevin and I have talked about this some and he has a hard time putting words to this as well.