“Boys will be boys.”
If perfection is the enemy of the good, then this phrase — which dismisses and erases the accountability of brutish acts by boys — is the enemy of every parent, both moms and dads.
And the “boys will be boys” excuse is especially the enemy of every feminist mom hoping to raise boys to become young men who are respectful of women and who may embrace the title of feminist. I know; I raised three.
If my sons, now all in their 20s, are each not feminists, then they are good actors or they know better than to admit otherwise.
I believe it would be nearly impossible to have lived in our home and not catch some gender enlightenment by osmosis, if not by default. Yes, it’s true you cannot control all elements and factors of influence, but you can deliberately act on providing an environment that would promote them acting in ways to support gender equality. And you can be a role model for feminism.
And here are just some of my tips.
1. Stereotypes be damned. I suggest you stay away from the pink and blue, guns and dolls separation of play. In your conversations, no reinforcement of the popularity of hyper-toxic male figures as idols either, whether that is about WWE stars they admire or politicians who make crude remarks. You may not be able to eliminate the possibility any of their friends or coaches will utter insults like “you run like a girl,” or “be a man,” but you can say girls and women are incredible athletes and that real men do cry. Remember that from costumes to toys, no reinforcement of aggression as male and subservience as female should be OK in your house.
2. Go on outings to museums, art galleries, restaurants, book stores. Admire the brilliance of artists, poets, playwrights, authors, sculptors, chefs, creators of all stripes whether they are male or female. Be sure to point out the accomplishments and creative work of women. Take your son to a gallery dedicated to women’s art, The National Museum of Women in The Arts in Washington, D.C., is one, but just be sure you express that innovation and impact are available for both genders. Honor the artistry of men and women.
3. Listen to music and watch movies where women are not victims. This will eliminate a lot of content for sure, but do try to find movies where women have strength and more than a bit part as someone’s spouse, girlfriend or mother. Definitely no violent movies where women and girls are getting hurt. Stay away from songs in the background where women are always pleading for men not to leave or crying that they just left. You don’t have to stay with current songs, as you can dig back into the archives on music, tv shows and music, but you just want to show where women are strong characters.
4. Teach them to cook. Do not make the household chores your duty alone, and show them how fun it is to be creative in the kitchen, assigning them a weekend meal regularly where you will let them create whatever they want. Applaud ingenuity and mastery by celebrating that they cook and how they clean up after themselves. And cleaning up after themselves should be required. Their partners later in life will thank you.
5. Ask his opinion about sexist behaviors. And be sure to tell him what you think. Talk about how jfair behavior, attitudes and actions are what make a good man. Give him examples of good role models. I would embrace the chance to comment on the news of sexual harassment and gender discrimination by saying how this demeans all humans.
I can’t guarantee you will raise a 100 percent feminist son who is completely gender balanced in his outlook and who will never utter a sexist remark. But chances are—and I would know—you will raise a son who makes you proud of the man he will become. I know I am. Times three.