More

3 helpful ways to teach boys to become men without the 'man up' nonsense.

Raising boys to be feminists doesn't just help girls and women. It helps boys, too.

3 helpful ways to teach boys to become men without the 'man up' nonsense.

Joanna Schroder is a proud feminist. She wants to raise her two sons to be proud feminists as well.

Joanna enjoys spending quality time with her boys, but she also values teaching them important lessons on masculinity. Photo from Joanna Schroeder, used with permission.


Schroeder is passionate about feminism due to her upbringing. In addition to her degree in women's studies from UCLA, she's part of a three-generation legacy of strong women, dating back to her grandmother who fought against sexist hiring standards in the 1930s.

But once her two sons came into the picture, things changed a bit.

"When I became a mom, my focus as a feminist shifted to what is happening with boys in society today," she told me. "That's why I believe in a feminist parenting style as I raise my sons."

Feminist parenting. Yep, it's a thing.

She's quick to point out that raising boys to be feminists is way more than just helping them become allies for women. Smashing gender norms helps our sons out, too.

Here are three reasons why Joanna believes raising our boys to be feminists is good idea.

1. It builds the foundation that boys are never justified in hurting or bullying girls.

Bullying is never OK. Photo from iStock.

There are a lot of seemingly innocent things we say about our boys:

"Boys will be boys."

"Don't worry. He's just mean to you because he likes you."

Joanna isn't buying any of it.

"Being a feminist parent doesn't allow for boys' bad behavior to be excused due to gender," she said. "Feminist parents believe that boys and girls are equally able to make choices that put empathy and kindness first."

Not to mention, studies have shown that gender-based language such as "boys will be boys" can lead our kids to subscribe to harmful stereotypes about what men and women can (or can't) do.

2. Crying? Yep, it's OK for boys to be emotional.

Yes, boys can cry, too. Photo from iStock.

Back in the day, if a boy was caught crying, he might catch a lecture from a well-meaning adult or be targeted by other kids who thought he was being a "sissy."

Things have improved in that regard lately. Or have they?

"From the time they're small, we tell boys to 'man up' and we try to stop them from crying," Joanna said. "Language like that keeps boys quiet when they're hurt, and it tells them that they're not allowed to seek support when times are tough."

The whole "be a man" narrative really only allows men to experience three emotions: happiness, lust, and anger. Here's the thing — no matter what our gender is, sadness exists in all of us, too.

GIF from "Inside Out."

A recent study found that only 19% of men felt comfortable talking about their problems with others. It doesn't take a big leap to figure out that most of the men who keep their feelings bottled up learned to do so at an early age.

Unfortunately, bottling up emotions comes at a steep price. Males account for over 75% of all suicides, and they're more than four times as likely to commit suicide than females.

That is a big problem. A problem that Joanna hopes parents of young boys will address by allowing boys to be their true selves.

"Raising feminist sons, allowed to express the full range of their feelings and find support when they're feeling sad or scared, can help our boys live longer, happier lives," Joanna said.

3. It prepares boys to be loving, supportive dads in the future.

If a boy chooses to have children when he becomes a man, it will be the most important job he will ever have. But in order for boys to truly realize their potential as fathers, Joanna believes it all starts with how we raise them now.

"When we allow boys to see themselves as kind, empathetic, loving people, they are able to see themselves as engaged dads," Joanna said. "Dads who will help break the cycle of toxic masculinity."

How can we do that? Heather Mainville, a single mom of an 8-year-old son named Joey believes having boys playing with dolls helps.

Joey is one of many boys who enjoy playing with dolls. Photo provided by Heather Mainville, used with permission.

"Joey loves dolls and has the confidence to speak up when he hears that boys shouldn't play with them," Heather told me. "He's also a loving and protective playmate with younger children due to learning empathy at a young age."

I like Joey's chances to be an excellent dad in the future.

Joanna believes that boys can also let go of the notion that their roles as men and fathers are to be financial providers. Instead they can be providers of a different kind.

The kind who reads books to his kids. The kind who attends his kids' doctor appointments. The kind who prepares healthy meals for his kids. The kind who styles his daughter's hair. The kind who isn't afraid to be affectionate around his kids.

Modern dads are learning to provide for their kids with more than just their paychecks. Photo taken from the Daddy Doin' Work Instagram feed, used with permission.

In other words, boys can learn to grow up to be the type of dad everyone expects them to be.

"That allows for their partners to enter the workforce to their full capacity, knowing that their men are empowered as a different type of provider, too," Joanna said.

No matter what you think of feminist parenting, we all have one thing in common.

There are people who think that teaching our boys to be feminists is a bad idea. But what isn't up for debate is we need to do whatever we can to help our boys to become the best men they can be.

Joanna agrees. She just has strong opinions on how to go about it.

"Feminist parenting directly combats toxic masculinity, which ultimately offers all of our kids a better future," she said.

For more insight into what "toxic masculinity" looks like, and why it's important to fight it, check out the recent documentary "The Mask You Live In," which explores how boys deal with navigating between being true to themselves and satisfying society's definitions of masculinity.

Needless to say, it can be a tough road for our young men. It's up to us to help them.

Pexels.com
True

June 26, 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter. Think of the Charter as the U.N.'s wedding vows, in which the institution solemnly promises to love and protect not one person, but the world. It's a union most of us can get behind, especially in light of recent history. We're less than seven months into 2020, and already it's established itself as a year of reckoning. The events of this year—ecological disaster, economic collapse, political division, racial injustice, and a pandemic—the complex ways those events feed into and amplify each other—have distressed and disoriented most of us, altering our very experience of time. Every passing month creaks under the weight of a decade's worth of history. Every quarantined day seems to bleed into the next.

But the U.N. was founded on the principles of peace, dignity, and equality (the exact opposite of the chaos, degradation, and inequality that seem to have become this year's ringing theme). Perhaps that's why, in its 75th year, the institution feels all the more precious and indispensable. When the U.N. proposed a "global conversation" in January 2020 (feels like thousands of years ago), many leapt to participate—200,000 within three months. The responses to surveys and polls, in addition to research mapping and media analysis, helped the U.N. pierce through the clamor—the roar of bushfire, the thunder of armed conflict, the ceaseless babble of talking heads—to actually hear what matters: our collective human voice.

Keep Reading Show less

Here we are, six months into the coronavirus pandemic, and people are tired. We're tired of social distancing, wearing masks, the economic uncertainty, the constant debates and denials, all of it.

But no one is more tired than the healthcare workers on the frontline. Those whom we celebrated and hailed as heroes months ago have largely been forgotten as news cycles shift and increased illness and death become "normal." But they're still there. They're still risking themselves to save others. And they've been at it for a long time.

Mary Katherine Backstrom shared her experience as the wife of an ER doctor in Florida, explaining the impact this pandemic is having on the people treating its victims and reminding us that healthcare workers are still showing up, despite all of the obstacles that make their jobs harder.

Keep Reading Show less
Mozilla
True
Firefox

When I found out I was pregnant in October 2018, I had planned to keep the news a secret from family for a little while — but my phone seemed to have other ideas.

Within just a few hours of finding out the news, I was being bombarded with ads for baby gear, baby clothes and diapers on Facebook, Instagram and pretty much any other site I visited — be it my phone or on my computer.

Good thing my family wasn't looking over my shoulder while I was on my phone or my secret would have been ruined.

I'm certainly not alone in feeling like online ads can read your mind.

When I started asking around, it seemed like everyone had their own similar story: Brian Kelleher told me that when he and his wife met, they started getting ads for wedding rings and bridal shops within just a few weeks. Tech blogger Snezhina Piskov told me that she started getting ads for pocket projectors after discussing them in Messenger with her colleagues. Meanwhile Lauren Foley, a writer, told me she started getting ads for Happy Socks after seeing one of their shops when she got off the bus one day.

When online advertising seems to know us this well, it begs the question: are our phones listening to us?

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Mahir Uysal on Unsplash

Two years ago, I got off the phone after an interview and cried my eyes out. I'd just spent an hour talking to Tim Ballard, the founder of Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that helps fight child sex trafficking, and I just couldn't take it.

Ballard told me about how the training to go undercover as a child predator nearly broke him. He told me an eerie story of a trafficker who could totally compartmentalize, showing Ballard photos of kids he had for sale, then switching gears to proudly show him a photo of his own daughter on her bicycle, just as any parent would. He told me about how lucrative child trafficking is—how a child can bring in three or four times as much as a female prostitute—and how Americans are the industry's biggest consumers.

Keep Reading Show less

Kids say the darnedest things and, if you're a parent, you know that can make for some embarrassing situations. Every parent has had a moment when their child has said something unintentionally inappropriate to a stranger and they prayed they wouldn't take it the wrong way.

Cassie, the mother of 4-year-old Camryn, had one of the those moments when her child yelled, "Black lives matter" to a Black woman at a Colorado Home Depot.

But the awkward interaction quickly turned sweet when the Black woman, Sherri Gonzales, appreciated the comment and thanked the young girl.

Keep Reading Show less