+
popular

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

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

This article originally appeared on 06.20.18


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.


Science

Sustainably good news: Recycling is getting better and this family is showing us how

What if instead of focusing on what isn’t working, we looked at these stories as an invitation to do better?

Via Ridwell

Ryan Metzger and son Owen

There is no shortage of dire news about the state of modern recycling. Most recently, this NPR article shared the jaw-dropping statistic that about 5% of all plastics produced get recycled, meaning the rest of it ends up in landfills. While the underlying concerns here are sound, I worry that the public narrative around recycling has gotten so pessimistic that it will make people give up on it entirely instead of seeing the opportunities to improve it. What if instead of focusing on what isn’t working, we looked at these news stories as an invitation to do better?

Keep ReadingShow less
via Tod Perry

An artist's recreation of Jackie's napkin note.

A woman named Jackie pulled a move straight out of a romantic comedy recently, and it has the internet rallying around her potential love interest. Jackie met a guy at a bar and liked him so much that she gave him her phone number. Well, 80% of her number, that is.

The world heard about it on January 17 when Twitter user Henpecked Hal and shared a picture of the napkin with her partial phone number written on it. "My 22-year-old cousin met his dream girl at a bar and it's going pretty well,” Hal wrote in the tweet.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

'Bachelor' alum's decision to hire a night nurse highlights the mixed messages new moms receive

Anyone who has given birth knows how difficult those first few months feel.

Photo by Jenna Norman on Unsplash

Hiring a night nurse brings out a mixed bag of opinions and advice.

"The Bachelor" alum Tia Booth is finding out firsthand how conflicting mom advice can be and she's calling it out. Booth gave birth in December of 2022 and revealed that she hired a night nurse so she and her fiancé Taylor Mock could get some sleep a few times a week. Sleep is essential to functioning properly as a human and as a parent.

Anyone who has given birth knows how difficult those first few months feel. You're essentially surviving some version of what is classified as a form of torture—sleep deprivation. New babies have weird, topsy-turvy, upside-down sleep cycles and new parents simply have to white-knuckle it until the little bundle is sleeping for several-hour stretches at a time.

The lack of sleep can not only make you delirious but can sometimes be dangerous when caring for a new baby. I remember being woken up in the middle of the night by a nurse while still in the hospital because in my sleep-deprived state I fell asleep while feeding my son. Thank goodness she walked in before one or both of us fell onto the floor from the rocking chair.

I should've informed the nurse that I was tired and allowed her to take my two-day-old baby to the nursery, but asking for help seemed taboo. In today's world, women are advocating for new moms to not only ask for help, but to seek it out—until they do, and suddenly the message changes...again.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

A letter to the woman who told me to stay in my daughter's life after seeing my skin.

'I'm not a shiny unicorn. There are plenty of black men like me who love fatherhood.'

Doyin Richards

Dad and daughters take a walk through Disneyland.

True
Fathers Everywhere

This article originally appeared on 06.15.16


To a stranger I met at a coffee shop a few years ago who introduced me to what my life as a parent would be like:

My "welcome to black fatherhood moment" happened five years ago, and I remember it like it happened yesterday.

I doubt you'll remember it, though — so let me refresh your memory.

Keep ReadingShow less

The Cumberland Police Department's evidence examination request.

A 10-year-old girl from Cumberland, Rhode Island, had serious questions about whether Santa Claus is real and submitted DNA evidence to her local police to get the truth. On the morning of December 25, 2022, Scarlett Doumato collected a partially eaten cookie and carrots with bite marks and sent them to the Cumberland Police Department for testing, along with a handwritten note.

“Dear Cumberland Police Dapartment [sic], I took a sample of a cookie and carrots that I left for Santa and the raindeer [sic] on Christmas Eve and was wondering if you could take a sample of DNA and see if Santa is real?” Doumato wrote.

Cumberland police chief Matthew J. Benson was impressed by the child’s dedication to solving the mystery. “For her to take that initiative and to push that forward because she has a question that she wants answered, I just think was amazing,” Benson told Today.

The police department shared a photo of Doumato’s evidence, her letter and a statement on Facebook.

letter, police

Doumato's handwritten letter to the police.

via Cumberland Police Department/Facebook

Doumato’s work collecting evidence at the scene of the crime was impressive, to say the least. “She did the work — she collected the evidence, she tagged it the right way,” Benson said. “She’s obviously watching the shows very intently. Separate baggies. She did it right by the book, so we’re taking it just as serious as she is.”

Doumato submitted evidence bagged separately.

via Cumberland Police Department/Facebook

The Cumberland Police Department announced that after seeing her evidence it has launched a special investigation into the Santa inquiry.

The department shared in its press release:

"Earlier this month, a young investigator from the Town of Cumberland submitted the attached letter requesting a DNA analysis be conducted on the partially eaten cookie and carrot remains she acquired on the morning of December 25, 2022, for possible DNA evidence of Santa Claus (aka, Kris Kringle, aka Saint Nicholas, aka St. Nick) and/or one of his nine reindeer. As such, Chief Benson immediately instructed his Investigative Division to forward her evidence to the State of Rhode Island’s, Department of Health–Forensic Sciences Unit for analysis. Chief Benson noted, 'This young lady obviously has a keen sense for truth and the investigative process and did a tremendous job packaging her evidence for submission. We will do our very best to provide answers for her.'"

The Cumberland Police added some additional evidence they collected on the night of December 24th. The most compelling evidence was a photo of a "reindeer" spotted in the area that night.

reindeer, deer

The Cumberland Police Department shared a "reindeer sighting" on Christmas Eve.

via Cumberland Police Department/Facebook

The girl’s mother was excited to see the police were taking her daughter’s inquiry seriously. “A giant thank you Chief Benson and the entire CPD! My Scarlett is going to be so thrilled that you are looking into her case!!!!!” Alyson Doumato wrote in the comments.

WJAR caught up with the young detective and learned that she has a Wacky Lab home detective kit sitting on her desktop. "I watch crime shows, and I thought it was like cool to be a detective,” she told the news outlet.

Her mother said that the investigation is just part of her nature. “She's always a little bit skeptical, and looking for the facts,” Alyson Doumuto said.

The open case is still being pursued by the Cumberland Police Department.

Joy

Knitters around the world unite to finish projects left behind by people who passed away

Loved ones will be able to appreciate these items the way they were intended.

Photo by rocknwool on Unsplash

The volunteers at Loose Ends finish knitting projects and mend broken hearts.

A cold reality of death is that it cares not at all about the things we’ve yet to complete while living. It comes relentlessly, even when the home is nearly remodeled…when the vacation is but a week away…when we are this close to finishing that book that brought so much joy. It comes when it comes, no exceptions.

Though there is no negotiation with this force of nature, those with loved ones who have passed on are being given a little bit of closure—one blanket, scarf or sweater at time.

When friends and knitting enthusiasts Jen Simonic and Masey Kaplan realized that they both shared the experience of frequently being asked to finish knitting items left undone by those who have died, they were inspired to create a like-minded community that expanded beyond their homes in Seattle and Falmouth. After all, this was an aspect of the hobby that both women deeply enjoyed.

“It occurred to us that there was an opportunity to let other people express that kind of generosity to each other as well, even between strangers,” Kaplan told local news outlet WMTW 8.

And thus, Loose Ends was born.

Keep ReadingShow less
Health

Influencers are pulling the veil off of menopause and women are shocked but thankful

"This was perhaps the most accurate and hilarious account of menopause I have ever watched! This is amazing!"

Influencers are pulling the veil off of menopause.

Surprisingly, or maybe not surprisingly depending on who you ask, menopause and perimenopause aren't really talked about much. Women sort of fumble through this part of life relying on whatever information your mother or older relative can remember. For some reason what happens to women's bodies when hormones start to decline is still a mystery, even to some medical professionals.

Thankfully in the age of the internet and middle-aged women who no longer care for many societal niceties—like not talking about menopause in mixed company—women are being educated about their bodies. Kristina Kuzmic, a social media influencer and author, posted a video where she and a friend discuss menopause. Out loud.

Keep ReadingShow less