It’s Time To Teach Boys To Embrace Who They Are — Not Just Who Society Wants Them To Be

We’ve had a shift in our culture over the last decade or so, where we’ve begun to tell young girls they can be and do anything. The Always #LikeAGirl campaign is a prime example.

The opposite, however, is not true.

A 2017 study showed that more than three-quarters of those surveyed said it was a good thing for parents to encourage young girls to play with toys or do activities “associated with the opposite gender.” The share rises to 80% for women and millennials.

But when it came to boys, support dropped significantly, with 64% overall — and far fewer men — saying it was good to encourage them to do things associated with girls. Those who were older and more conservative were even more like to think it wasn’t a good idea.

Reading between the lines suggests there’s a view that traits stereotypically associated with men — such as strength, courage and leadership — are good, whereas those tied to femininity — such as vulnerability, emotion and care — are bad. Thus boys receive the message that wanting to look up to girls is not OK.

How toys became gendered—and why it’ll take more than a gender-neutral doll to change how boys perceive femininity by Megan K. Maas

As a society, we have started to recognize how negatively toxic masculinity affects men, but we still don’t seem ready to commit to making change. We want our girls to be and do anything they desire. We want it for our boys, too, so long as they keep their emotions out of it.

So, how do we fix this?

Well, you’ve probably heard me say it before… but we need to raise children without strict, enforced gender norms and stereotypes. Here are a few ways to do just that:

  1. LET TOYS BE TOYS. Stop only buying “girl” toys for girls and “boy” toys for boys. Let boys have access to My Little Pony, baby dolls, vacuums and kitchen sets. Let girls play with soccer balls, tool sets and fire trucks. Need ideas? Check out my gift guide.
  2. LET COLORS BE COLORS. Just before World War I, someone decided pink was a girl color and blue was a boy color. Before then, babies were largely outfitted in white dresses until the age of six (yes, boys too). For a while, blue was considered a “girl” color and pink was the “boy” color. Who is “someone,” you ask? … Marketers, of course. They realized they could sell twice as much if boys and girls couldn’t share clothing. [Here’s a really interesting read on the history of it from the Smithsonian.] Let’s stop attaching colors to gender and instead let everyone explore the entire palette.
  3. LET BOYS EMBRACE THEIR FEMININE QUALITIES. Why is it feminine to communicate well? To cry when you’re upset? To be compassionate toward others, or to show that you care? These are all characteristics of being a whole human being. These are all characteristics of being a good partner in a relationship. If we teach boys they have to be tough — that they can’t show emotion — we’re robbing them of this.

What are your ideas for allowing boys to embrace their true selves? Drop a comment below!

One thought on “It’s Time To Teach Boys To Embrace Who They Are — Not Just Who Society Wants Them To Be

  1. I’ve witnessed the example of it’s ok for guys to cook as long as it’s on the grill or over the campfire, but if they’re in the kitchen it is viewed differently unless he’s a professional chef. Personally I think we should teach our sons/nephews/grandsons to cook meals, to clean the kitchen as they go, proper way to set the table, serve the meal, and table etiquette. He’ll carry this with him and have something to be proud of and he’ll be a self sufficient man that his future spouse won’t have to “train” to be mannerly. Personally I’ve always felt a well rounded man is a pretty darn good catch 😉
    Let our children be who they choose to be and learn what their interests draw them to learn. There shouldn’t be a right or wrong way to play as a child. Isn’t that the purpose of play, to allow them to explore the world in a safe environment and discover their interests? My girls had cars, tool sets, football’s, etc and my nephews had dolls, kitchens, etc and they have and are grown(ing) into well rounded adults who can fend for themselves in the world and society without relying on the opposite sex to get them by and are now raising their own children in the same way and we’re pretty darn proud of that as a family.


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