+
upworthy
Family

This innocent question we ask boys is putting more pressure on them than we realize

When it's always the first question asked, the implication is clear.

This innocent question we ask boys is putting more pressure on them than we realize



Studies show that having daughters makes men more sympathetic to women's issues.

And while it would be nice if men did not need a genetic investment in a female person in order to gain this perspective, lately I've had sympathy for those newly woke dads.

My two sons have caused something similar to happen to me. I've begun to glimpse the world through the eyes of a young male. And among the things I'm finding here in boyland are the same obnoxious gender norms that rankled when I was a girl.


Of course, one notices norms the most when they don't fit. If my tween sons were happily boy-ing away at boy things, neither they nor I would notice that they were hemmed in.

But oh boy, are they not doing that.

In fact, if I showed you a list of my sons' collective interests and you had to guess their gender, you'd waver a bit, but then choose girl.

Baking, reading, drawing, holidays, films, volleyball, cute mammals, video games, babies and toddlers, reading, travel, writing letters.

I imagine many of you are thinking at this point: That's awesome that your boys are interested in those things!

There's more. One loves comics and graphic novels but gravitates to stories with strong female protagonists, like Ms. Marvel and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.

Cool! I love it.

And sports. They are thoroughly bored by team sports. They don't play them. They won't watch them. They will up- or down-arrow through any number of sporting events on TV to get to a dance contest or to watch competitive baking.

So? Nothing wrong with that.

Those are the kinds of things all my progressive friends say.

But it's often not the message my sons themselves hear from the other adults in their lives, their classmates, and the media.

For example, the first get-to-know-you question they are inevitably asked by well-meaning grown-ups is, "So, do you play sports?" When they say, "No, not really," the adult usually continues brightly, "Oh, so what do you like to do, then?"

No one explicitly says it's bad for a boy not to play sports. But when it's always the first question asked, the implication is clear: playing sports is normal; therefore, not playing them is not.

The truth is that one of them does play a sport. He figure skates, as does my daughter. When people find out that she skates, they beam at her, as if she suddenly has possession of a few rays of Olympic glory. In the days before my son stopped telling people that he ice skates, most of them hesitated and then said, "Oh, so you are planning to play hockey?"

But it's not just what people say. It's all those pesky, unwritten rules. When he was in second grade, my younger son liked the Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew series. But he refused to check any out of the school library. He explained: "Girls can read boy books, but boys can't read girl books. Girls can wear boy colors or girl colors, but boys can only wear boy colors. Why is that, Mom?"

I didn't have an answer.

An obvious starting point — and the one that we have the most control over — is to change the way we speak to the boys in our lives.

As Andrew Reiner suggests in a spot-on essay, we should engage boys in analytical, emotion-focused conversations, just like we do with girls. In "How to Talk to Little Girls," Lisa Bloom offers alternatives to the appearance-focused comments so often directed at young girls: asking a girl what she's reading or about current events or what she would like to see changed in the world. I could copy-paste Bloom's list and slap a different title on it: "How to Ask Boys About Something Besides Sports."

And with a few more built-in nudges, we might expand the narrow world of boyhood more quickly. Boy Scouts could offer badges for developing skills in child care, teamwork, and journaling. Girl-dominated activities like art, dance, gymnastics, and figure skating could be made more welcoming to boys, with increased outreach and retention efforts. My son could write his own essay about trying to fit in to the nearly all-girl world of figure skating, including the times he has had to change clothes in a toilet stall at skating events because there were no locker rooms available for boys.

I used to think that the concept of gender — of "girl things" and "boy things" — was what was holding us back.

Now I see it differently.

The interdependent yin and yang of gender is a fundamental part of who we are, individually and collectively. We need people who like to fix cars and people who like to fix dinner. We need people who are willing and able to fight if needed and people who are exquisitely tuned into a baby's needs. But for millennia, we have forced these traits to align with biological sex, causing countless individuals to be dissatisfied and diminished. For the most part, we've recognized this with girls. But we have a long way to go when it comes to boys. As Gloria Steinem observed, "We've begun to raise daughters more like sons … but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters."

I acknowledge that young boys feeling pressured to be sports fans is not our country's biggest problem related to gender.

Transgender individuals still confront discrimination and violence. The #MeToo movement has revealed to anyone who didn't already know it that girls and women can't go about their everyday lives without bumping into male sexual aggression.

But if our culture shifts to wholeheartedly embrace the whole spectrum of unboyishness, it may play some small role in addressing these other issues, too. Male culture will be redefined, enriched, and expanded, diluting the toxic masculinity that is at the root of most of our gender-related problems.

Boys and girls alike will be able to decide if they would rather be made up of snips and snails, sugar and spice, or a customized mix. And my future grandsons, unlike my sons, won't think twice about wearing pink or reading about a girl detective at school.

This story originally appeared on Motherwell and is reprinted here with permission.


This article originally appeared on 06.20.18

Family

Younger generations are torn over inheriting boomer heirlooms. Here are 4 helpful tips.

The generational divide on this front is a big one, but there are better and worse ways to navigate it.

There are kind and gentle ways to handle hand-me-downs.


As the baby boomer generation reaches their "golden years," many of them are starting to think about what to do with their earthly possessions, much to the chagrin of some of their Gen X, millennial and Gen Z descendants.

How many of us really want to take over our grandma's collection of dolls or plates when we have no interest in collecting ourselves? How many people have homes filled with furniture we actually like, only to be offered antiques and heirlooms that we have neither the desire nor room for? What about china sets, artwork and other things our elders have loved that they want to see passed down in the family that no one in the family really wants?

Keep ReadingShow less
via WileeFam/TikTok (used with permission)

Cathy gets a "pupdate" from Embark.

A dog owner in New York City named Cathy had a touching reaction after learning that her rescue dog, Wilee, has a brother who looks just like him. Four years ago, she got Wilee's DNA tested through Embark because he’s a unique-looking rescue and wanted to know his specific mix.

“He is a mix of chow chow, Pomeranian, American Staffordshire terrier and many more,” Cathy told Upworthy. “He is a super mutt!”

A few months later, Embark began sending her profiles of dogs they found to be Wilee’s family members. Since then, Cathy has learned that he has two sisters and a brother, Nic. What’s incredible about the siblings is that the girls are solid-colored, but Nic is the spitting image of Wilee.

Keep ReadingShow less

A map of the United States post land-ice melt.


Land ice: We got a lot of it.

Considering the two largest ice sheets on earth — the one on Antarctica and the one on Greenland — extend more than 6 million square miles combined ... yeah, we're talkin' a lot of ice.

But what if it was all just ... gone? Not like gone gone, but melted?

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

8 comics that perfectly capture society's ridiculous expectations for women

"We are just humans, multifaceted and fascinating, divided by judgement, discrimination, and double standards."

@lainey.molnar/Instagram

"We are just humans, multifaceted and fascinating."

It’s one thing to talk about the unfair and unrealistic societal expectations that are still put on women. But it’s another thing to see exactly what those double standards look like in real life.

And, that, in essence, is often what artist Lainey Molnar’s work is all about.

On her popular Instagram account, Molnar has tackled all kinds of topics around womanhood and feminism—everything from the unsettling differences between men and women’s safety items that appear on a Google search to generational toxic relationships with food—using strikingly candid comic illustrations, many of which have depict cartoon versions of herself.
Keep ReadingShow less
@racheleehiggins/TikTok

Want out of a relationship rut? The Three hour night might be the perfect solution.

Almost every long term relationship suffers from a rut eventually. That goes especially for married partners who become parents and have the added responsibility of raising kids. Maintaining a connection is hard enough in this busy, fast paced world. Top it off with making sure kids are awake, dressed, entertained, well fed, oh yeah, and alive…and you best believe all you have energy for at the end of the day is sitting on the couch barely making it through one episode on Netflix.

And yet, we know how important it is to maintain a connection with our spouses. Many of us just don’t know how to make that happen while juggling a million other things.

According to one mom, a “three-hour night” could be just the thing to tick off multiple boxes on the to-do list while rekindling romance at the same time. Talk about the ultimate marriage hack.

Keep ReadingShow less

Arnold Ford shares a birthday—and birthday joy—with one of his students.

When Arnold Ford went to work on his birthday in February of 2024, he knew he was in for a treat. One of his students, a girl named Cali, has the same birthday as he does, and Ford was ready.

As soon as he saw Cali come bounding down the hallway with her arms spread wide, the assistant principal tossed his backpack aside, swooped the girl up and spun her around in joyful celebration. Then the two raced down the hallway, arm in arm, so Cali could give him a balloon and a cupcake she had saved for him.

All of this was captured on the security cameras at west Philadelphia's Mastery Charter School, Mann Elementary, and the footage has people cheering for amazing educators.

Keep ReadingShow less