I can't tell you how many times I have uttered the words, "Thank goodness we have boys."
Anytime we're watching a show where the parents are struggling with rebelling girls dating bad boys or I pass a children's store with clothes I can't imagine being appropriate for little girls or hear again that Congress again can't pass equal pay for equal work...
Thank goodness, I think, we have boys.
Being a girl and a woman in this country is tough. There is fat-shaming and Photoshop; being sexual makes you a slut while trying not to makes you frigid; bossy is bi*chy; breastfeeding is "dirty" or essential; lesbians can't marry, but media makes girl-on-girl action the holy grail of male fantasies; you need to get your pre-baby body back stat. It's truly never-ending. Just take a gander at #YesAllWomen to see the truly ingrained misogyny of our country. It's staggering. And it's real.
Thank goodness we have boys.
And then I think I can make a difference. I have a responsibility to raise gentlemen. To raise boys into men who think unequal pay for equal work just isn't fair. To raise men who don't think mommies stay home and daddies go to work. To raise men who are equal participants in the household and have the skills -- when they finally leave the nest -- to do their own laundry, cook a meal, clean a bathroom. And beyond that, to raise men who support women leaders, can report to female bosses, are secure in a society where all members contribute different skills and that princesses don't need rescuing unless they ask to be.
It's a tall order. Particularly when you realize what they are faced with.
At our local grocery store, the magazine section is just past the check-out. A few months ago, T, our 7-year-old, was checking out the car and baseball magazines as I paid. I could see him and all the available titles at his eye level and felt comfortable. As I walked by to collect him, he noticed the Sports Illustrated logo and went to move the plastic cover our store uses to cover up whatever they deem to be "inappropriate" content (whether this is a justifiable practice or not and who judges what is and isn't appropriate is a discussion for another day). This particular cover was the swimsuit edition. He peeled back the plastic cover to see the magazine as I tried to get out a "not for you," or "let's go," or some other "please don't look at that one" when he caught a glimpse of the uncovered bums of a topless trio and quickly covered it back up. His cheeks red, his head hung, embarrassed.
After loading the groceries in the car, I thought it might be a good time to address it. I tried to explain again about private parts (yeah, that whole covered by the bathing suit thing doesn't work in this particular case) and what's inappropriate for kids, but then didn't want to shame the female body either and quickly realized through my blubbering that I had no good explanation. How could I explain what those half-naked ladies were doing on a Sports Illustrated cover when it had nothing to do with sports or celebrating women and everything to do with selling magazines? That those women's bodies were put there simply to move a commodity? Oh, my Women's Studies classes were rearing up with a vengeance in my head, but all I managed to get out was that the human body is beautiful, it shouldn't always be shared with the world and that if he ever had any questions about anything he saw that he should come to me or his dad.
Suddenly, raising boys in this environment that continues to perpetuate certain cultural expectations of women seems daunting. Dealing with it as a woman is insurmountable some days, but how can I ensure that my boys aren't part of the cycle?
I don't have the answers. But I do have the intention. I have the example. I have the husband who works hard at breaking down those boundaries within our own family. I have the boys who currently think the world is all rainbows and equality and theirs for the taking. I have the open eyes to see that it isn't all about women leaning in and on-ramping and breaking ceilings; it's about everyone taking off the blinders to the misogyny present in our country and slowly but surely rebuilding our perceptions of what equality really looks like.
And I can start that at home. With two little dudes who like to help me cook and build Legos and run fast and to play tea party with their three year old cousin. I can make that difference.
Thank goodness we have boys.