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Raising boys to be good human beings who believe in treating women as equals, is an extremely difficult thing in a patriarchal world.
When I was pregnant with my twins, every person I knew, upon hearing that we were having 2 boys, offered me pearls of wisdom; “Ah, that is good for you. Raising girls, especially through their teenage years, is a huge responsibility. Protecting them from the temptations of those years is the toughest thing ever”.
While the feminist in me bubbled beneath the surface, the pacifist in me knew the futility in trying to change the ignorant. So, I generally turned a deaf ear to such sexist assessments. Now, after being a parent to boys for 4 years, I am even more offended by those words, surprisingly, due to an antithetical reason.
In a society that prides itself in generating muted women and forceful men, it is perceivably, a more pleasing undertaking to raise hubristic and presumptuous men. It is, after all, not difficult to inculcate in kids, values, that mimic notions of the society at large.
Such values would raise boys that associate pink and delicate with girls and powerful and brash with boys. These boys would grow into teenagers, who assume that women who wear mini skirts are profane, while silently using such visuals to quench the thirst of their raging hormones.
These adolescent boys would then mature into young men, who would have a compartmentalized view of the world, expecting that it is a woman’s job to cook and clean and a man’s responsibility to go to work. Such men will always feel a superfluous need to protect ‘their’ women, merely because they are women and are presumed to be the weaker sex.
Such men would be ashamed to clean their own bathrooms, do their own laundry, change their kid’s diapers or buy groceries. They would also be the insecure men, that would arrogantly dismiss assertive women as tasteless and uncouth. These men would then, most unfortunately, raise yet another generation of reticent women and aggressive boys. The vicious cycle continues.
The world does not need any more of such insufferable, albeit easy to raise, men.
The world needs toddler boys that love pink and hearts as much as they do their dinosaurs and trucks. It needs boys, who, right from childhood, actively help out with all domestic chores. The world could use high school boys who are as happy mopping the floors of their home, as they are, fiddling with their skateboards. The world is in dire need of teenage boys that never crudely objectify another person’s sexuality, be that a boy or a girl.
These are the boys that would then grow up to become young men, who respect and admire a more successful or career minded partner, men who would not find ignominy at the idea of being a stay at home parent. Such men would know never to display their prowess by verbally or physically abusing another person. Most importantly, these would be the men who raise decent offsprings, sans an ounce of bigotry in them.
These would be the men that make the task easier, for future parents raising girls, by breaking the vicious cycle.
Raising such well rounded individuals is no trivial task. It essentially amounts to raising a decent human being in what is regrettably, still largely, a man’s world. It obligates teaching boys the courage to live their life counter to societal norms.
Parents of toddler boys need to make confident strides, along the pink aisles of department stores, to buy a butterfly bag. Strong and sensitive moms and dads have a duty to help their teenage boys understand that it is okay to walk away from peers who, beholden by the shackles of gender stereotypes, force certain unacceptable patterns of behavior.
Confident parents must encourage their boys to be self-assured humans, without having to lean on the label of being a “man”. Boys should be, continuously emboldened, to withdraw from responsibilities that are imposed upon them merely because they are men. Simultaneously, they must be gently guided into taking up onuses that are generally shirked by men. Dads of boys, must strive to show their kids, by example, how being human always trumps being men at the cost of being human.
Fostering such men requires of the parents, a consistent recasting of predisposed tendencies and a lifetime of deliberately working against the grain. Contemplative parenting is a tremendously difficult task as it is, without having chauvinistic perceptions inflicted upon us.
As long as we have fearful parents of girls, complacent parents of boys and a community that is accepting of this status quo, we would only be propagating a society of cocky men and timid women.
Only gender neutral, thoughtful and attentive parenting, would help us evolve into a more reasonable, honorable, and equitable society.
Image source: family cooking together by Shutterstock.
Good Shweta. Very well written. Happy that parents have started inculcating such values to boys.
Many a times, it is annoying to hear parents of boys talking with a sense of entitlement about how the boys need to be boisterous and be let free into the outside world, so that they learn about the world. But their insensitivity is striking, when they don’t check with the boys about what they do, when they are outside and whether they have not trespassed into others’ personal space. Such boys can be seen in every street corner, wherein they smoke and laugh loudly in the tea shops, or simply sitting on their parked vehicles. Reverse the gender, and you can imagine how people might have responded to such scenario !!
It bemuses me when I think why we have totally different set of cultural rules for boys and girls:
1. an Indian ‘nari’ should not smoke or drink. SO ‘CAN AN INDIAN MALE SMOKE AND DRINK?’
2. An Indian woman should respect her in-laws…..excuse me, why is it not taught to a male, when he is found sitting cross legged in front of his in-laws, and some of them don’t even care to get up when the in-laws come into the daughters and son-in-laws’ house.
3. An Indian woman should wear sari which is THE dress for a culture-bound woman. Why does a man then wear suit and blazer? I understand….these are the ethnic dress of Indian men !!
The list goes on…..but it can only end, if we teach all our kids, irrespective of gender, to learn to respect others’ space and treat the others as humans and not as some ‘property’ to be passed on….
I completely agree that there are blatant double standards imposed by society and worse by parents. We have always had a view point that we must show girls the way to survive in this world. It is high time we flip the coin and start showing boys the right way to behave, thereby affording girls the right to thrive, not merely survive.
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