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Friday, 23 August 2013

Stronger Girls, Sensitive Boys

I've been thinking a lot about the way people raise or want to raise their children. So often I've heard my own peers talk about the way their treatment of their child would differ if they had a girl versus a boy, and sometimes I find it breaking my heart. In their remarks, there lies a subtle double standard that I'm not sure they always realize is there. Or even more astonishing is that sometimes they do realize it but accept it as a part of life; it is what it is and it can't be helped. Girls are more difficult to have because they are fragile and so easily hurt and taken advantage of, and so must be protected. On the other hand, boys are simple because they are not emotionally as complex, and therefore are not hard to understand or deal with. Both of these opinions trouble me a great deal because I find myself asking: What kind of people do we want to raise? And are we aware that our thoughts about raising girls versus boys can impact the way they view themselves and their own limitations and abilities?

It's always been my thinking that girls shouldn't be treated as fragile creatures that are at risk of having their virginity stolen. A girl should grow up with the understanding that she needs to protect her own body, but that taking certain risks and sometimes getting hurt are also a part of growing up. Recently I read a blogger's letter to his daughter, and I loved the sentiment of the letter because it was about setting a girl free to discover her sexuality and to understand that, no, she is not a victim to other people's sexual desires simply because she has a vagina. The idea of constantly watching over girls, pampering them, setting stricter rules and curfews is ridiculous to me. If it's a tough world out there, then a girl deserves to experience it and learn from it just as much as a boy. This builds character, confidence, and a sense of control. It's also always bothered me that when two heterosexual teenagers engage in a sexual act, we view the girl as the one who is being taken advantage of. How are you so sure that she isn't also taking advantage of him? Why is it not viewed as a learning experience for the both of them? The boy is getting what he wants, and the girl is oblivious and too naive to understand what is going on. *rolling my eyes*

This is the solution: Just mix them all up
in a genderless pot.
On the flip side, the double standard created between girls and boys isn't fair for boys either. It's insulting to think that a person is incapable of being emotionally complex simply because he has a penis. I understand that sometimes, due to hormonal changes, males and females have different reactions to situations, especially as teenagers. I simply mean to highlight that the way we view them to be that extremely different from birth also has an impact on how they will react and grow. "Oh a boy needs to be toughened up" Sometimes yes, as I have argued that this is equally necessary for girls, but sometimes no. A boy also needs to learn to be sensitive and to respect the importance of communication in a relationship. These are tools that are extremely important for his future when he decides to engage in a more intimate relationship with a partner(s). I don't think fathers and sons have enough heart to heart conversations. "Boys don't do that" But why? Communication and being in tune with your emotions is a part of being an adult because that's the only way that most problems can be solved in a mature and civilized way.

I suppose it all comes down to balance. I understand that it's easy to have an opinion about such things when you're not a parent, but these thoughts are important to me. If I do ever become a parent I want to have a girl who knows that she is strong, and whose strength I can see in the way that she stands and looks people in the eye. I want a boy who is able to be sensitive and nurturing when it's important, a boy who knows how to share his feelings at a time when his partner needs to hear it most. But most of all, I want to have children who know who they are, and do not feel limited by their physical appearances, understanding that a person's anatomy will never determine what they can and cannot accomplish.