I’m guessing by now everyone has seen the Gillette advertisement about toxic masculinity. I get why some people are uncomfortable about a brand profiting from the #metoo movement. But for me, the more this is talked about the better.
If you are one of the men that finds this advertisement offensive, I do have to question whether you are part of the problem. I believe that toxic masculinity and gender equality go hand in hand. They feed each other, and you can only stop one by stopping the other.
It’s about language
My boys are nine and almost five. The day to day language they hear shapes the rest of their lives and their view about the world around them, and the people in that world.
As a parent I worry lots about all sorts of things. Big and small. Two of the bigger things I worry about are how to raise boys who don’t feel being a man means bottling things up and hiding their emotions. And how to raise boys who see women as their equals.
On the whole I think the husband and I are doing a pretty good job with these issues. Firstly my husband has views that belong in this century. We are equals in our home, and we treat each other with respect. We talk about things and we label our emotions. But the language other people use around them often infuriates me.
“Don’t be such a girl”
Normally said if the boys are screaching or squeeling from being tickled, or chasing each other around, or being to scared to go somewhere dark. I’ve heard it said to them on so many occasions by different people and it really makes me angry.
What does it tell them about themselves? That being scared is a bad thing. That they should conceal their emotions. “Man up”
What does it tell them about girls? That they are weak. That they are different? That being a girl is a bad thing.
“Boys don’t cry”
This one has normally been said by old ladies in the street. But you know what boys do cry, men cry, everyone cries. It’s a perfectly normal emotional response. And actually a good cry does wonders to make you feel better. It’s when you don’t cry and bottle it all up that it all starts to go wrong.
And again it’s applying that only girls cry because girls are weak.
“Boys will be boys”
Normally said when their disagreements turn physical. And whilst I get that this is a normal part of growing up and learning, it is our job to discourage it. To teach them that violence against anyone, male or female will not be tolerated. We shouldn’t be making excuses for unacceptable behaviour because of their gender.
Be the positive change
So much change is happening with regards to equality and challenging everyday sexism. And rightly so. But change has to start with the language we use around children.
I want my children to grow up and fight for positive change in the world. But I would like it to be a different fight to ours. I don’t want them to still be fighting the same issues we are now, because that would mean nothing has changed.
So please watch your language around children.
Let’s end toxic masculinity and create gender equality.
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My guest post on the brilliant Island Living 365 as part of her Mother Feminist series called Half the Equation.
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