[Awhile back, I wrote an article entitled "It's Never Too Early to Teach Boys to Be Feminists" that offered suggestions, on a very basic level, about how to raise boys to not only respect women, but to be promoters of equality. The following is a guest post by my good friend, Lisa Boggs, who exemplifies a mother who is raising her sons to understand that being a boy should not be limited by a narrow version of masculinity or femininity.
They are pictured here in PFZ's "Girls Are Important" tees which were created, in conjunction with the nonprofit organization, SHARE, to emphasize the global imperative to raise girls up in order to improve the lives of girls and women everywhere.]
Today I brought my boys, Linden, age 7, and Mason, age 4, to karate class for sparring. My karate class. They watched for an hour and cheered me on while I sweat, got punched and kicked by men and women, did a little kicking and punching myself, and wore goofy looking protective gear. They especially got a kick out of my helmet and lovely mouth-guard. They started taking karate at the studio quite some time ago; they both liked it, but then decided that gymnastics was more their thing. But before they quit, I joined in to show solidarity--I wanted to bond with them. After they decided to leave, however, I didn’t want to stop. I loved it. As it turns out, it is my thing!
When I asked the boys what they thought of me taking karate classes, they said, “That’s cool--karate is for everyone.” That’s what I wanted to hear. In fact, that’s what I teach them all the time: Anyone can do anything they want to do, regardless of gender.
We spend time with lots of different kinds of friends with different kinds of households. Many are like ours--stay at home moms, and dads that work outside of the home. Mainly middle class families. I always like to discuss family dynamics with the kids whenever the opportunity arises. When we spend time with T and G, for example, I always comment to the kids about how cool it is that T and G’s dad stays at home and raises the kids, while mom works. When I ask the kids their thoughts about this they say, “That’s cool - their parents are really nice.”
I also like to tell my kids what other parents do for a living as well as in their free time. For instance, C’s mom is a graphic designer who owns and operates her own business. I like to point out how fantastic that is. She also dances ballet in her free time. But my little one, Mason, said, “ I love dancing - but not ballet.” “Why not ballet?” I ask. He says, “because ballet is for girls.” I promptly pull up a picture online of Mikhail Baryshnikov dancing ballet. Whenever either of the kids say anything like, “That’s only for girls," or "that’s only for boys,” I quickly find an example for them that puts that notion to rest.
Recently, I asked Linden what he thought about girls and boys in general. He told me this: “Crazy commercials make you think that stuff like dinosaurs and super heroes are only for boys. But girls can play with whatever they want, even dinosaurs and super heroes. It’s a choice you make--not something someone chooses for you.”
Mason added, “... and farts. Farts are not just for boys--you are a girl and you fart.” (It’s true. I am and I do.)
Linden continued, “Girls are really important because they have babies. Without girls, none of us would be here.” I made sure to explain that boys are just as important because girls can’t have babies without boys, and just as important--girls and boys both raise children and take care of them. I emphasize the fact that boys and girls are both important. Not one over the other.
I asked the boys, “What would you say if I told you that some people don’t think that girls are as important as boys?” I told them that some girls don’t think they are as important as boys. "Did you know that?” I asked.
Linden said, “That is very sad. We should try to change that. Everyone is important.”
Mason chimed in, “Houses are important because boys and girls need them to live in.” Then he pinched my nose and skipped along his merry way.
I am doing my best to raise boys that will turn into positive, confident, healthy, well-adjusted, compassionate, intelligent, happy men that contribute in a positive, healthy way to society. I don’t want my kids to grow up looking at the world through a hole in the fence. I am going to tear down the fence and make sure my kids grow up with a panoramic view.
Lisa Budish Boggs is 38 years old. She earned her bachelor's degree in psychology from Worcester State College in Massachusetts in 1996. She worked for ten years as a social worker in Mass. and in South Florida before she became a stay at home mom in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia.