Yesterday I read an interesting and frustrating article that got me thinking, among other things, about raising boys who appreciate and respect women.
Sam is the youngest child in our family, the only son of an only son. With two older sisters and a wealth of girl cousins, aunts, and friends, he's comfortably well versed in the concept of strong women and has a good example in his dad. I'm glad he isn't going to be one of those guys who just doesn't "get" women (fingers crossed, knock on wood).
It's also absolutely true that, much more than my daughters, Sam's love language is homemade food, clean laundry, and other acts of nurturing and homey-ness. Sure, he can (and does) make himself a sandwich but do you know what he really loves? Yes. When I make him a sandwich. It just speaks volumes of love to his soul. Maybe it's because he's the youngest and has had his share of both chaos and youngest-child pampering? Or, I don't know, maybe it really is his Y chromosome? In any case, he loves being cared for (and really, who doesn't?). As his mother, I'm happy to convey these tokens of love. In fact, I love doing it. Is this a conundrum? Am I building expectations that will have my future daughter-in-law seething? Should I have him go make me a sandwich (see: Ryan Gosling)?
Whatever words feel applicable to you--enlightened? feminist? well-rounded? modern? compassionate?--I think we all hope to raise boys who don't assume they are the ones to be served without serving, those who don't presume to be the sole deciders in life, either at home or out and about in the world. Boys who don't participate in degrading conversations and commentary about girls and women (such discourse sadly on show in the linked article above). Boys who are not caught up in objectifying women and the disturbing "lad culture" of disdain that shows up particularly online but also throughout society.
So how do we raise boys who respect, love, and value the opinions and contributions of both men and women, and who don't assume, on a very local level, that all of the nitty gritty cooking and cleaning and social arranging and gift buying and laundry will necessarily and definitively be done by the women in their lives simply because they are women?
I think it's harder than it initially seems and the culture doesn't help us out much. Anna Quindlen said about raising boys in an interview last year, "Society is opposing you at every turn...When you have a daughter and you say to her, 'Look, things are not going to be fair for you. People might treat you in a certain way because you're female — might say this thing or that thing' — that's kind of easy. When you're saying to your boys, 'OK, there's a certain kind of privilege that comes along with being a white man and you should not take that' — that's a kind of craziness. That's asking them to be different from people — certainly different from the macho men who they might see on TV or hear around them. I just felt like the payoff ultimately was going to be so great. And as my one son says, about being a feminist boy, 'Chicks dig it.' And that's been his guiding principle" (on NPR's Fresh Air in 2012).
Fair enough. (See: Ryan Gosling.)
What do you think?