Originally posted on September 29, 2011
The Frisky recently featured an article about teaching boys to be feminists. From the article:
A couple of years ago, I recall a conversation I had with my 13-year-old nephew who is quite intelligent and a bit beyond his years. He was saying that he and his friends had had a discussion about who had it easier, men or women. They decided that women did for various reasons. A huge conversation ensued, as you can imagine, with my nephew, his mother, his grandmother and grandfather, and me. I think decidedly, by the end of the talk, we might have changed his mind! But it was a great moment to have an intelligent discussion about gender and what it means to be male or female in today’s world.
The author later states:
There are plenty of adult men out there who support women’s rights and work equally as hard to continue to make sure that girls and minorities are at the forefront of the discourse about equal rights. The question is, are we raising boys who are sensitive to inequity, critical thinkers, and culturally aware?
Apparently not, so the author provides a list of things people should teach boys:
As a young boy:
- Teach them it’s okay to be emotional and that holding feelings in is not what being a man is about.
- Become media literate so that they can become aware of how gender is portrayed in terms of what they are seeing and hearing. When a boy sees an ad or a TV show in which stereotypes are present, make sure you point it out.
- Teach them that there is more to a girl than what she looks like. Discuss famous women who have done and are doing important things.
- Make play dates in which there are boys and girls to play with. Making friends with girls can be an important part of how they will perceive women.
- Introduce them to female characters through books, movies, etc. Research shows that a majority of these characters are male, so it will be up to you to provide a variety.
As a young man:
- Teach them that “feminism” means promoting women’s rights and interests.
- Discuss how being a feminist does not mean women hate men or that women think men are the enemy.
- Teach them that by taking a role in feminism they will be helping everyone, not just women.
- Teach them that because they are at the top of society’s hierarchy, they have a responsibility and an ability to be part of social change and justice for everyone.
- Simply talk to them and use probing questions when teachable moments arise. Allow them to reach their own conclusions.
Feminism means promoting women’s rights and interests, that much is true. Between the two list, only the first item in the first list mentions of men’s rights and interests. Everything focuses solely on women’s interests. However, the notion that feminism does not mean women hate men and think men are the enemy does not hold water when the proceeding items claim that men essentially have it better and easier than women in society.
Likewise, it is perplexing to claim feminism is about helping everyone when nothing on the list really addresses the problems boys and men face. Nothing about unfair expectations placed on men by women and society, nothing about showing there is more to boys than their looks or social status, nothing about teaching boys to value their relationships with other boys and men, nothing about introducing boys to positive male characters.
Some of the items on the list are good advice, but most of them simply teach boys to overvalue females and to ignore the problems that affects boys and men. At best, boys will fail to notice or understand their own problems. At worst, boys learn to hate themselves and other males.