We hear a lot about the terrible messages our society and media send to young girls. Messages about their worth lying in their beauty, that men need to take care of them etc. As a woman and a mother I completely agree. I have often found myself silently celebrating that I only have boys when I listen to the mom’s around me talk about the body issues and social/behavioral influences on their daughters.
Then I take a step back and think about the cultural challenges for boys. The challenges are real and hold just as much potential for damage. In general we realize the damage that done to girls by this ideal of physical beauty and society’s intense focus on the merits of beauty. On the reverse side girls have a huge range of behavioral flexibility. While boys don’t have the same pressure to look like everybody else they face much more rigid social restrictions about their personal interests, personality traits, and talents.
The impact on boys is to feel more uncomfortable about who they are on the inside.
The importance of being tough is oh so well established in our culture. After all boys don’t cry. It is so crucial to be tough that the other boys encourage and reinforce tough behavior. As a result it promotes behaviors that become problematic and distracting in the educational setting. It also encourages and promotes bullying and defiance.
What about the sensitive souls? The ones we hope our daughters will marry. The ones who would never push someone down on a play ground. The ones who would rather collect rocks than throw them.
Our culture promotes this tough boy image to the detriment of most resulting in the internal torture of many. It is important to teach our boys how to be strong and stand up for themselves while abstaining from violence. Being able to be tough and stand up for themselves and others will gain them a lot of respect from their peers and serve them well as adults. To learn more about Bully Proofing your child click here.
The Athletic Boy:
Sports-Sports-Sports. It almost goes hand in hand with the toughness issue cause they better play hard and not cry if they get hurt. The need for athletic prowess dates back to hunting and gathering days for sure. Boys as burgeoning men seek to display physical prowess. Alright I get that but in today’s culture there are so many ways to achieve and so many interests to explore.
Girls get a lot of freedom socially in this regard. If a little boy is more interested in acting, music, or animals than in sports there can be some very harsh social consequences headed his direction.
While on the topic of creative interests those are certainly more limited for boys than they are for girls. If a little girl wants to play an instrument she can pick up piano, cello, flute, guitar, maracas, drums etc. A boy is only still a boy if he wants to do guitar or drums…maybe sax but really that is pretty borderline on the macho chart. If they want to act… assumptions could be made about how light in their loafers they may or may not be. The field of what is deemed to be masculine enough is just so limiting and sends a message to far too many little boys that what makes them who they are may not be manly enough.
That judgment carries on into teen years showing up in judgments of their hobbies and interests. It shows up in what types cars are acceptable to drive. Not many boys can show up in a light green Volkswagen and not get teased. A girl can show up in her dad’s old pick up though and be the hot chick who drives a truck.
Let all that simmer for the first couple of decades of life and its pretty darn entrenched in how males judge themselves and the next generation of boys.
The point being that society is hard on everybody. We realize more readily how unfair the external appearance expectations are for girls. We talk about plastic surgery, provocative clothing, and eating disorders.
Perhaps a little more time should be put into considering how grossly unfair the judgments exerted on boys can be. How many boys did not do as well in school as they should because they were busy trying to be tough enough to be accepted pr athletic enough to gain social standing. How many boys got led astray from their occasion and interests. How many boys became depressed because they felt they were not valued as themselves in our society so they had to try to be someone else.
Differences abound. Acceptance, tolerance and encouragement are important for every member of our society girl and boy alike.
Let us move forward and teach girls that they are more than their appearance. They can be smart capable women who will be loved for who they are. Let us move forward and teach every little boy to do what he loves, explore every aspect of his inner self, and to live with an open heart.
That would be a beautiful world.
Less hate. Less judgment. More of all the beauty in life that those two evils smother and extinguish.
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