Gender Roles?

So, I fully acknowledge that once the kiddos get here, I’m not going to have an over-abundance of “me time” to do the things that I do just for me.  Like read.  So, I try to read as much as I can now about things that I find relevant because I may or may not get to them in a timely fashion later.

So, I was reading this evening about the current lack of women in technology fields, and there was some hemming and hawing about the tendency NOT to encourage girls to be actively interested in math and the sciences and so forth, and if we as a society really wanted gender parity in these fields that are heavily dominated by males, then we should be teaching girls that it’s okay to be interested in these types of things.  Which is true.  While I think there’s nothing wrong with girls being interested in Barbies and tea sets and ruffles, I also think that it’s important to show them that it’s fine to be interested in other things, too.  I was very fortunate to have two very supportive and science-y parents and a tolerant older brother, so that when I was a little more interested in playing ball and climbing trees and building things, I was indulged and encouraged to pursue my tomboyish inclinations.

I know what you’re thinking: Jen, this is all well and good, but you’re having boys, you don’t have to worry about this sort of thing now.  But really, don’t I?  Isn’t it just as important to teach our boys that they don’t have to be ultra-aggressive or good at sports or fight in order to be “real men”?

I want to encourage my sons to be their own persons.  And I fully accept that this might mean allowing them to pursue behaviors or career paths that are not stereotypically male.  Maybe one of them will want to teach elementary school.  Maybe one of them will want to be a poet.  Maybe one of them will take up knitting.  Maybe one of them will want to be Tinkerbell for Halloween one year.  Who the hell knows?  I certainly don’t.

But the point is, why are we so hell-bent on modifying the way girls look at the world while allowing boys to keep on as they are?  Yes, we should encourage girls to pursue “manly” goals like becoming engineers should that be something they’re interested in.  But no matter how empowered we raise our girls to be, it’s not going to be especially helpful if we don’t also teach our boys to be respectful and accepting.  If our boys grow up to be men that are fine with excluding women or looking down on women or refusing to believe that a woman can be just as good as (if not better than) a man, then we have continued to do our girls a terrible disservice.

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