Why Can’t Boys Be Sweet?

I read a Twitter thread today talking about how a 4 year old boy wanted to have a butterfly painted on his face, but his parents flat out refused to allow such and instead forced him to get a skull and crossbones. You know, something manly. It just got me thinking how much easier it is to be a girl.

I’m not saying that women don’t deal with issues of inequality. There are still jobs it’s hard for women to get, pay disparities, and general sexist attitudes that still exist in the world. But sometimes it seems it’s easier for women to break into the man’s world and be hailed a revolutionary than it is for the reverse. While we’re so busy trying to show the world we can be just as strong, capable, and badass as men, we overlook the fact that men aren’t as easily allowed to be sweet, loving, and nurturing as women. For both men and women, acts of masculinity are much more easily accepted than those deemed more feminine. Even at times for a woman, we’re seen as weak for being girly, no wonder all the heroines today are more Black Widow than Cinderella. But that’s a discussion for another day.

Now I’ve served in the Air Force as a mechanic, and what do most people say to hearing that? “Thank you for serving.” I was a girl who did a manly job, no problem. After getting out and getting a degree, I had trouble finding a job, and when folks asked me what I did I just said stay-at-home. Some would ask if I had kids, and upon hearing that I didn’t seemed simply envious I got to be home while my husband brought home the bacon. But while men going into the military doesn’t even get a second thought, a guy staying at home instead of working would simply be seen as lazy, and a man who decides to stay at home to take care of the kids is seen as unmanly, and worse the number of people who are sure men can’t care for children as well as women. Of course, I’ve already talked about that in Can Only Mommies Mommy? In either situation no one seemed bothered by my life choice, but for men it’s a whole other ballgame, and I’ve seen it before plenty of times. And it’s not just men being tough on other men, it’s women with the same expectations of how men should act.

However, when it comes to kids sometimes it’s almost more obvious how we start at the beginning to force this confining issue on boys, and less so on girls. A little girl wants to play with GI Joe, well look at her not excepting those stereotypes placed on her by men. A little boy wants to play with Barbie, we need to stop that or he’s gonna turn out to be one of them gays.

I think back to myself growing up, I was the weird girl who’d wear pocket watches, ties, and suspenders. Not very stylishly I might add, I was dressing to be “cool” like my dad. I remember a guy commenting how nobody said anything about my clothes, but if he wore a kilt it’d be a scandal. People’s response, “well that’s RG, that’s just what she does.” Essentially I can be accepted for weird boyish behavior, but he couldn’t be accepted for anything remotely girly.

When I asked my dad about this he said, “You can’t stop someone from being who they are on the inside. You can only oppress them, and stop them from accepting who they are. You can stop them from being happy with themselves.” Essentially your kid is who they is, you’re either helping them love themselves or making them feel ashamed and resentful.

I think of my sweet little 3 year old nephew, who one minute is hugging an angel figurine claiming it’s a beautiful butterfly and it’s his favorite. The next he’s building a Lego tower claiming it’s a robot prison, which apparently also needed a hug. One act is a bit ‘girly’ and the other more acceptable of boys. And I’m so happy his parents are raising him to be sweet rather than tough, they want him to learn and discover all the wonders of the world, and not try to shut down this intelligent loving little boy. Kids are innocent beings who are just learning about life. Don’t stifle their love and joy with your fear that they’re not going to be “normal”, instead allow them to bloom knowing that you’re there for them no matter what.

Every little boy should be allowed to appreciate the beauty of the world as much as girls do. Boys should be allowed to try new things and learn new skills even if they’re not deemed manly. After all that definition changes one century to the next. There was a time when knitting was considered too complicated for women and was actually a man’s hobby. Just think about that.

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