At least eight questions about girls that your sons should know too

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

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I think over the course of the years of raising a girl, most parents have come across some kind of advertisement or video that has shouted the importance of your daughter “learning to defend herself!”

Sometimes these are offered as courses, other times it is maybe just a video that shows one really neat trick for escaping an attacker. You know, the ones that are often captioned with things like “you won’t want to mess with her anymore!” or “you’ll never guess what kind of power this small woman can pack!” I haven’t seen them all, but I’ve seen enough to know what they look like.

Or, if somehow you have been able to go through life without seeing these, you have seen an article that describes the great contributions from women scientists throughout history and somewhere in the text, mentions “you need to show this to your daughters!”

My question about these kinds of stories, both the good ones and the bad ones, is what do you tell your sons about them? Because obviously, our sons interact with girls over the course of their lifetime and vice versa so surely they must need some kind of information on what kinds of obstacles girls face over their lifetime compared to what they go through.

It cannot possibly be a bad idea for us to talk to our sons about the same things we talk to our daughters about. Boys need to see women as heroes and role models as much as girls do. Boys need to know that a girl experiences different things than a boy as they grow up. This is not a condemnation of boys, it is a simple matter of equipping them with information.

So what are some of the things we need to talk to our boys about when it comes to girls and women?

A few questions you might want to explain to your sons about what we tell girls

Keep in mind the information I’m offering under each of these questions is where we start. There are resources out there to help you develop more detailed answers and to hold more in depth conversations with your sons as they grow up.

Why is “run like a girl” considered an insult?

Women have been positioned as physically weak for reasons well beyond my belief. So anyone who isn’t an elite athlete is feminized. Girls, of course, are anything but weak both physically and emotionally. Boys would be wise to accept “you run like a girl” as a compliment.

Why do we tell girls they need to learn self defense?

Because of rape culture, some people feel that it easier for more people to tell girls to carry pepper spray, learn how to punch someone in the throat and run, or wear nailpolish that tells them if their drink has been drugged than it is to tell rapists to stop raping. So girls are told to learn all these techniques to fend of attackers trying to assault them because statistics show there is a high likelihood of this happening.

A lot of clothes for girls say things like “my boyfriend is a superhero.” Why is that?

It has taken retailers and clothing manufacturers a long time to understand that girls have ambitions beyond marriage. This same lack of understanding is the reason why we continue to see a lack of women superheroes put on merchandising. So people ask “Where’s Rey?” or “Where’s Black Widow?” or “Why have they replaced Black Widow with Captain America from a scene in the movie that was clearly Black Widow?”

Why do women make less money than men?

First, explain that “women make less than men” means women as an entire group. And that marginalized communities make even less than the average of all women. Beyond that, there is significant undervaluing of the type of work predominantly done by women. This all starts with the kinds of activities we encourage our young girls to undertake all the way through how we educate them in elementary and high school.

Why are many laws and regulations about women’s bodies decided on by men?

Because we elect so many damn white men to positions of power. Because we use terms like “meritocracy” to explain these ridiculous imbalances even when we clearly do not raise and encourage young girls and women to run for office. We have parental leave policies that focus on the mother as a primary long term caregiver which forces women with kids to suffer consequences of having children in a way men do not. This is also the same reason so many boardrooms are full of white men.

Why are there makeup kits targeted at 5-year-olds?

Because why wouldn’t our 5-year-olds want to see what it is like to have their body commoditized?

Why do women athletes get paid less than men?

Some say things like “men’s sports bring in more money and bigger audiences, hence higher salaries.” Of course, this ignores the fact that we fund men’s sports programs more completely than we fund women sports. So really, it’s a system that sets up women to not have the same opportunity to become professional athletes. The same can be said for the amount of coverage women’s sports get in daily sports coverage.

Why do many girls shave their legs and armpits?

Well it has become expected that girls and women do this because somewhere along the way we started finding the exact same kind of hair that grows on men to be disgusting on women. There aren’t really any reason other than personal choice why body hair on a man or a woman would need removal yet it is often looked at as a sign of “being a man” (wrong, by the way) and of a woman being “gross.”

This is not a comprehensive list, it is just a start. And there are most definitely questions you need to talk address with your daughters about the way we raise boys.

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