People always say that boys are easier than girls, but I sometimes think those people just aren't doing a very good job with their boys.
I know how to raise a strong, confident girl. I feel pretty well equipped to handle her self esteem issues and mood swings since I have girl parts myself. But when it comes to raising a strong, sensitive, and confident man who treats women with respect, I feel slightly out of my element.
For any mom like me who feels that pressure, this article in the Boston Globe will resonate. As the mother of two teenage boys, the writer worries about how her boys will learn to respect women when they're surrounded by a culture that rewards women not for intelligence, but for "hotness."
We live in a culture where a 4-year-old can get laughs (and praise from dad) for announcing that cheerleaders are "hot" and a teenage boy has conversations with his dad about how stacked his friends' moms are. Yes, seriously.
So how do we raise these boys to get both without teaching them that you objectify some girls and respect others, thereby creating a lifelong Madonna/Whore complex?
Easy. He better have a good dad or male model.
I'm lucky that my husband doesn't objectify women (at least not out loud) and will probably err on the side of conservative when it comes to the comments he makes to our young son. But inevitably, there will come a time when my adorable little blond Mama's boy will become a horny pre-teen who notices girls and then he isn't going to want to talk to his mama. If I'm with a man who doesn't respect women, there isn't much hope for my son.
My son has smart women who surround him and a big sister whom he adores. I will try to keep the language clean as long as I can and teach him about the amazing contributions of women to sports, medicine, science, and entertainment. Still, I think the key is going to be having a strong male role model who doesn't speak of women only as sex objects and who clearly loves a strong-minded woman (he married me, after all). Luckily I have that in my husband.
Of course all families are different. It doesn't have to be a dad, but it does have to be a consistent, strong male presence.
It's unrealistic to expect our straight, teenage sons not to see large breasts or to want to see Playboy and visit strip clubs. It would be unnatural and repressive to expect otherwise. Both respect and acknowledgment can co-exist, but it can feel a bit like walking a tightrope in the teenage years. Don't objectify, but don't repress your urges, either.
Whew. It makes toddlerhood look easy.
Do you worry about your son's obsession with women?