My two sons fumble in their dress up chest pulling out pirate hats, police shirts, swords and shields. I watch them and marvel at their natural sense of adventure recalling my own at that young age. Their delighted voices sing of great stories wildly embellished with their grand imaginations. These moments are what make motherhood splendid.
In our dress up chest we have been careful to include sparkling jewellery, tiaras, a couple of dresses, and dolls. They prefer the boyish costumes but there are many days I find them wearing cheap, colourful shiny beads with sequined capes blazing behind their back.
I have been mindful like most mothers of boys about my role as a woman in their lives.
But every now and then, I have been present when a little boy has been called a girl.
“Stop acting like a girl. Do you want me to go buy you a pink skirt? Do you want a blouse?”
So I morph into Beyoncé on that spot, kicking sand in my stiletto’s in a rendition of [Who] Runs the world (Girls)…..
Actually, I feel deeply offended. Deeply sorry for the repetition of this kind of language and the terrible damage it does. To boys, to girls, mothers, culture and society.
This is the kind of language that carries deep pain and shame. Is a boy acting like a “girl” when he is upset, bored, frustrated or not emotionally processing something (or someone) and begins to “whinge” complain or cry?
Does this not plant the psychological and behavioural seed that women and girls are weak and whingey?
As a conscious parent whinging creates opportunities for understanding and support. How we act (and react) as ‘grown ups’ to these situations defines our children’s emotional wellbeing and respect for others – male and female. Sure it is testing. Challenging. Out-right frustrating! But you sign up to certain things as a parent. Nothing more important than your child’s emotional security.
My son arrived home from school last week announcing that boys don’t play with girls. “Why not?” I asked him. “Girls are boring” he answered. This did not startle me. It is important to have these conversations as he develops his sense of gender separation and equality. “No they’re NOT!” I replied with a smile “I am a girl and I am not boring”.
His love for me and respect for me as his mother reshape his reflection. Girls are not just an opposite sex – they are our mother’s, sister’s, cousins, aunts, grandmothers. Language is key. Understanding is crucial.
I place this kind of language in the same category as Racism. It is using gender denigration and disrespect to make a point. It bends and breaks little boys’ perceptions of the “other” sex – little girls. It reinforces the idea that men are stronger by comparison, and that there is no place for sensitivity in being a man – or a little boy.
That is what I don’t get. My sons are very sensitive. They adore me. They adore the females in my family. In a world where male depression and suicide is rife, I hope I am able to do my part in nurturing their feelings by teaching them great love and respect. I hope my son’s feel comfortable with their emotions and supported by their parents in dealing with the blows the world delivers.
I would like them to live in a world where a woman’s blouse and skirt represents fashion and not weakness. And I hope that the woman standing across from them in the future, wearing that blouse and skirt feels adored by my son(s). That she may feel empowered by respect and love as a woman and them as men.
Yes. That is my wish.
Oh and if you would like to learn how to kick sand in your stiletto’s here is Beyonce’s song [Who] Runs the world (girls)