This Innocent Question We Ask Boys Puts A Lot Of Pressure On Them


We need to change the way we talk to boys. As we move to dismantle the patriarchy through girls, we are forgetting about the boys. One mom makes an excellent point about the way we talk to boys. As much as we make a concentrated effort to diversify the way we talk to girls about their interests, we still center our questions for boys around things perceived as "male," things like sports. Obviously, not all boys are into sports, and even if they are, they might not be interested in sports that are considered boy sports: football, baseball, etc.

Even though more progressively minded parents are beginning to raise our boys with wider lenses about what is normal, societal expectations of boys are still very much rooted in old concepts of masculinity. Society regards cooking as something that women do, and yet, all of the most revered chefs in the world are men. Are they held to a higher standard because people are viewing them as trailblazers? Perhaps. But it's proof of a skewed system, and one that is unfair to younger generations.

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We are encouraging our girls to like things like trucks, science and technology and things seen as inherently boy. We should be of course, because who made the decision that those things were for boys? It was a completely arbitrary decision. But at the same time, while society is elevating girls, we're leaving behind our boys. Society isn't encouraging our boys to like things like playing with dolls or dress up (which is really just imaginative play.) Girls can slay dragons, but boys can't like princesses. It's a completely uneven playing field still.

two boys taking a photo
Credit: iStock / Wavebreakmedia

Gender norms still dictate that boys can't do things like take dance lessons. But what's wrong with a boy who dances? It requires the same power and grace as something like football or basketball, and yet those are okay. One of Marya Markovich's sons is a figure skater, and she notes the challenges it presents for him. As a boy in a predominantly girl sport, he finds it hard to flourish. So how long is it before he quits because of the pressure, giving up something he genuinely enjoys?

"Girls can read boy books, but boys can't read girl books. Girls can wear boy colors or girl colors, but boys can only wear boy colors. Why is that, Mom?" Markovich's son asked. And it's a valid question. As much as we are trying to move past the more overt signs of toxic masculinity, we are still neck deep in the more deep rooted forms. And our boys are never going to flourish if we don't begin to wade deeper.

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