I read a post recently that a friend liked from an entrepeneur named Dale Partridge who said,
“You can have beard. You can post pictures of yourself in the mountains. You can even chop wood with a vintage axe. But none of that makes you a man. Our culture is fighting to diminish manhood by defining it with “manly” things. But they’re not fooling anyone. There isn’t a good woman on this planet who wants a burley guy who can’t control his temper or who can’t provide for his family or who can’t commit to a relationship or who can’t raise his own children. Men, stop trying to trick the world that beer and whiskey make you honorable or cavalier. The look is empty and if you can’t back it up with integrity, maturity, and leadership you just end up with a boy trying to fill the boots of the man he’ll never be”
This was just the thing this boy mom needed to hear today. Just in the past week I’ve been faced with two separate occasions of kind older people who praise me for raising a boy, because he’s a boy. For no other reason. The first instance, at a clothing store dressing room, I was told that “the man is dying. Good for you for raising him to be manly.” The second time was in a waiting room where an older gentleman asked if he was a boy and when I said yes told me, “Good. I bet you were so glad he was a boy”. Writing that out it doesn’t sound as bad as it was in person. His tone meant, “Having a boy is so much better than having a girl.” In retrospect I should have said, “Well we would have been just as happy with a girl”. But I’m polite and I shook my head because of course I’m glad I had a boy. I’m actually just glad I had a baby.
But raising a boy in this climate is a challenge. In 2014 Emma Watson, a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, gave a moving speech at an event for the HeForShe campaign at the United Nations Headquarters. In her speech she speaks about her struggle as a girl and as a woman to find her place in the movie business and to fight the gender stereotypes and misogyny she regularly faced. But she also talked about boys and how there is this push for boys to be “manly”; to not cry; to not show emotion and be tough. Her speech was encouraging men to stand up for women and be feminists because in the end, gender equality is for them too. “If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.” My goal in raising a boy is to raise a good human being who loves his life and who treats others with respect. My goal in raising a boy is to show him that being a “man” isn’t his lot in life- being a kind person with values who knows himself is. My goal in raising a boy isn’t to have him be tough and manly, but able to feel emotions and have empathy. These are the characteristics that will help him be a good partner, a good dad if he chooses to be, and a good friend.
We put a lot of focus on raising girls to be strong and making sure they know they can do anything. They can run the world and get paid as much as men. They can have control over their bodies and the right to say no. I am a feminist in every meaning of the word. But we also need to make sure that we are raising our boys to break the stereotypes of men. We need their wives, their husbands, their female friends, to feel safe in their presence and not have to second guess their intentions.
I’m raising a boy, yes. But it is so much more than that. I’m raising a person. And isn’t that so much more important?