I talk frequently about my desire to bring my daughter up to be a strong, confident young woman, and the role I play in encouraging that. Gender equality is so important to us but recently I’ve felt the need to remind people that it isn’t just girls who face being stereotyped.
I take my job in raising boys seriously. I want to raise the kind of young men that the world desperately needs right now. I want them to be part of a new generation of men that can be strong and kind. Ambitious and courteous. Smart and loving.
I get sick of hearing how society thinks women should be portrayed but I am equally nauseated by the way boys are too.
“Boys will be boys!”
“Boys don’t cry.”
“Boys don’t play with dolls!”
And the completely vomit-inducing….
The last thing the world needs right now is more men who repress their feelings. Men in the UK aged 20 to 49 are more likely to die by suicide than any other cause. This has to change. We have to encourage boys from a young age that it’s OK to feel sad. They need to know their feelings are valid. By telling them “boys don’t cry” we are teaching them that their feelings don’t matter. That they should bottle up their emotions and “man up!”
I don’t want that for my boys. I have worried about one of my sons in particular being too gentle, before realising that the world needs more people like him. We can never have too much kindness, surely?
I want my boys to be able to play with dolls without people raising their eyebrows. I’d like them to have the courage to wear a dress, if they so choose.
What I want for my boys
I want them to grow up with a respect for women. It’s something we talk a lot about at home, and thankfully their school is brilliant at encouraging equality. My eldest son was baffled that in some countries women don’t have the same rights as men. That only just over 100 years ago I would not have been able to go out vote as their dad would have.
I want them to be able to express their emotions freely. We talk about the importance of mental health a lot at home, and encourage them to talk openly with us. My eldest son is almost nine, and is getting to the age where he is bothered about looking “cool”. I want him to know that it isn’t “uncool” to talk about your feelings. He’s naturally very reserved like his dad and it’s an ongoing battle to get him to open up, but it’s not a battle I’m willing to give up on.
I don’t want them to be bound by society’s expectations of what a “man” should be. They want to play with dolls? Fine by me. They want to be a midwife, a dancer, a stay at home dad…no problem. It’s not only my daughter who may need to fight against stereotypes.
I want them to strive to be the best they can be. I don’t want them to compete against anyone but themselves. I want them to work hard to achieve their goals, without attempting to belittle their competitiors.
I want them to realise that it takes great strength to be gentle in a tough world. Kindness is never a weakness.
I want them to join the fight for female equality for their sister and other girls around the world. I don’t want them to feel intimidated by feminists – true feminism is not is not about tearing down men. It’s about raising women. A good strong man is not intimidated by a good strong woman.
I want them to have the strength to fight for what is right. The world is full of injustices. I don’t want my boys to turn a blind eye. I want them to be helpers. I want them to have that compassion and ingrained sense of what is right.
I want them to understand that love is love. I do think our kids’ generation may finally be the one that is accepting of love in all it’s forms. My youngest son received a Valentine’s Day card from a boy last year and he was thrilled!
Most of all I want them to be happy. My wish for them is the same as my wish for my daughter – to live the life they want. Not the life any one tells them they should have.