Sojourner Truth. Susan B. Anthony. Elizabeth Stanton. Gloria Steinem. Sandra Day O’Connor. Sally Ride. These women, among countless other heroines, have fought long and hard for something that never should have been a question: equal rights. They helped us win the right to vote, implement Title IX, hold high-powered positions, and fuel confidence and #girlpower. They’ve inspired us to raise strong, successful, confident daughters who know they can do whatever their hearts desire. They’ve shown us that we should settle for nothing less than equal rights for our girls.
Women are proving time and time again they are a force to be reckoned with, but in some instances it seems we have gone a bit too far. What about our boys?
Gender inequality has flipped the other way.
I saw the looks and eye rolls my son got when he wanted to wear pigtails to look like his twin sister. I felt the judgment as my sweet little boy enjoyed dance class alongside his sister with a smile plastered on his face. I opened the pink princess gifts she received in contrast to the rough and tough trucks and “boy” toys he was gifted. I saw my other son get stereotyped simply for being a boy before he even knew what that meant. On the flip side, I’ve watched my daughter roll in the dirt, dress as a super-hero, and play baseball with looks of admiration headed her way. Tomboys are cute, but not the other way around.
Why are girls allowed to do “boy” things but it is so much less acceptable for boys to do “girl” things?
As my children grow, I’m becoming more and more aware that perhaps we have taken equality a bit too far and are doing our children a disservice. When it comes to sports, for example, we are seriously hindering our children’s potential. It has been proven that physical differences in athletic ability don’t appear until age 10-11, when puberty sets in. So why are children being divided into gender-specific sports teams at the age of six? Growing up I was often the only girl on my soccer team and I was better than most of the boys. It made me the athlete that I am — more aggressive, fast, and fearless — and it taught the boys to respect female athletes among other advantages. My heart breaks when I watch or coach girls’ teams. All it takes is to observe a seven-year-old boys’ practice vs. a seven-year-old girls’ practice to see what I’m talking about. There are certain things you just can’t teach and we are depriving our children of these experiences by dividing them into gender-based teams way too early. Of course some children prefer to play with all the same-gender, but you and I both know that it will be much easier to place a girl on a boys’ team rather than a boy on a girls’ team.
Which brings me to one of the hot topics these days: Scouts.
Without saying whether I agree with the Boy Scouts’ decision to accept girls and change their name to Scouts BSA, I will ask this: Why is it okay for girls to join the Boy Scouts, but boys can’t join the Girl Scouts? However you look at it, the decision as it stands is absolutely not equal. In situations such as these, when you are taking away a “boy” club but leaving a “girl” club, we are essentially telling the boys that they have to concede, but the girls never do. Either they should both be allowed their own space to grow with same-gender peers, or they should be allowed to be involved in a general scouting experience. Equality means fairness; this is hardly fair.
Girls can have it all, but boys can’t.
Our young boys didn’t do anything wrong. They aren’t the ones who started all of this. However, in a lot of ways we are taking away their voice, their chance to be anything they desire as well. They see and hear that they can’t dress or play a certain way. They observe that rules get bent far more often for girls. They are learning that they have to be the ones to give in, but girls don’t. That they, in fact, can’t have it all.
Teaching our girls that they can have everything and be anything they set their minds to is essential. That should be the same goal for our boys. In the end, don’t we want all of our children to have every opportunity to grow up knowing they can do and be whatever they desire as long as they are responsible, respectful human beings? Women fought hard for equal rights. We continue to fight certain battles and will continue to do so to ensure that women AND men are treated equally.