A friend recently posted an interesting article on Facebook written by a famous CEO mom about how the #MeToo movement and feminist thrust of today’s society might adversely affect the way we’re raising boys, and despite my better judgment, I’m going to weight in on that.
Let’s start with a few basic truths:
- How we express our gender/sexuality is unique to the individual–and it’s not something we control. Like, I can’t be gay because I’m attracted to women–not because I decided to be, nor because society or my parents assumed that as a male I would be. No, I’m attracted to women, because… I’m attracted to women. And that’s not going to change, nor would it be different, I’m convinced, even if my parents had tried to force me to be gay or raised me on Barbies and pink tutu’s instead of baseball and dinosaurs.
- In general, there’s a distinct difference between men and women–not because it’s forced on us by society, but because of our biology. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some women who are more “masculine” or men who are more “feminine,” and it doesn’t mean we aren’t more similar than we are different, but there IS a general difference that exists which correlates to our sexual organs. Science bears this out, as does common sense–and remember, we can’t cite science as the reason to do something about climate change and then turn around and deny it when it comes to gender and sexuality.
- By far the most common thing is to be a cisgender man attracted to women or a cisgender woman attracted to men (cisgender means our sex and gender are the same and we’re attracted to the opposite sex). If it wasn’t, our species would not have survived the early period of evolution and we wouldn’t now be cartwheeling toward a world population of 8 billion people.
- Though gender/sexuality is somewhat hardwired into our biology, it exists on a spectrum, and there’s no doubt that how we talk about either of those things is pretty important and definitely affects how people express and view gender/sexuality. Again, this isn’t saying we can change someone’s gender/sexuality–but giving GI Joes to boys and Barbies to girls absolutely delivers messages about both, and we should pay attention to how that affects our kids.
OK, hopefully I didn’t lose anyone (if I did, leave a comment and tell me why I’m wrong–after all, that’s the American way).
So my first response to the mom who’s worried about her son–that we’re going too far the other way in terms of uplifting women–is: he’ll be fine. She’s a rich, white CEO, which means he’ll be raised with every advantage. And that’s the first point I want to make: how much wealth/privilege a family has matters a lot more than whether they give their children Barbies or GI Joes. Yes, we might deliver some negative/stereotypical ideas about gender with the toys or other messages, but kids who grow up moving all the time or lack proper clothing or sometimes go without food or see their parents fight because the family’s poor are much more likely to be at risk later on in life.
Wealth inequality is by far the greatest challenge our society faces, and it’s an issue that transcends race, sex, gender, etc.
My second response is that too many people look at the world through a lens in which someone has to lose in order for someone else to win, and in most cases it’s just not true. Supporting the #MeToo movement and fighting for gender equality does not mean men have to lose–actually, to my thinking, a world where we have healthier sexual relationships and more equality for women is a win-win for everyone.
Third, #MeToo and #TimesUp and feminism in general are not anti-male–they’re anti women being taken advantage of by males. This seems to be a common misunderstanding in today’s politics–for example:
- #BlackLivesMatter is not anti-police–they’re anti police murdering black people because of racial bias and/or inadequate training.
- Advocates for gun-control are not anti-gun–we’re anti dangerous people having guns, especially guns like AR-15s.
And just as with my second point, everyone can win on both issues–we can better train our police so there are fewer incidents where they use violent force. And responsible gun owners can still own guns while we see a drop in firearm violence if we put some common sense laws in place. I should point out that perhaps these two issues are not unrelated, but I digress…
The one place, however, where things go off the rails a bit is that we too often view the world as a place where women are the weaker sex and have no agency over their circumstances–and the irony is that women are often as guilty of this as men.
This is because we still live in a society that teaches women to be prude, shy, and defer their sexual desires until they’re assured the man they’re with is interested in a long-term monogamous relationship (usually marriage); a society in which for many, the only acceptable sexual behavior for women is a slow and grudging acquiescence to a male aggressor. It’s a toxic model, one that we’re hopefully slowly escaping, but it still frames the dynamic for a lot of male-female relationships.
And if we view the world as a place where men are, in the end, held more responsible for what happens in the context of a relationship than women, we’ve failed everyone. Yes, we should raise the next generation of men to be better–to recognize when a woman’s uncomfortable, to view and treat women as equals, not sexual conquests–but we should also raise the next generation of women to have the power and agency to stand up to them if they don’t.
I recall what Nelson Mandela said, reflecting on his time in prison on Robben Island:
“I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.”
Anyway, my thoughts for now… please weigh in if you have something to say!
Thanks for reading! Cheers!