#MeToo. Let Girls Learn. Girls Who Code. Girls on the Run. Girls can do anything. Who run the world?
While the patriarchy still has an undeniable clutch on the world, these days, finally, women are having their moment. We’ve reached a critical juncture in society in which women are speaking up and speaking out, demanding more for themselves, their sisters and their daughters.
Like that old saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats. And yet, as a mother of three boys, I’m starting to wonder if, in the process of lifting our girls up, we’re inadvertently sinking our boys.
Let me be clear. I love that we are opening up all kinds of doors for our girls.
Here are several STEM/STEAM-related programs built for you. You can play any sport you want, join any club. Here we are knocking down the old rules about who’s allowed in where. You can run for office, and please use the support of these various nonprofits developed to get you elected.
All of this is necessary support for propelling our girls and women towards gender parity.
And yet, amid all that, what are we telling our boys?
Sure, a boy can still become a scientist, an athlete, an elected official. But are we telling them they can take on more caretaking roles? Are we expanding the acceptable definitions of masculinity so that the burden of adulthood, of life, of maintaining society, falls equally across both women and men?
I worry that the result of all this focus on girls will be a generation of women who feel not as though more opportunities have been made available to them, but rather that they bear even more responsibility for running things. They’ll still be expected to be the primary caretaker within their household, still bear all the emotional labor of their families, and on top of all that will also be expected to run companies, run the country and yes, run the world.
If fashion is one indicator, we should be concerned. Just browse a children’s clothing retailer and you’ll see what I mean.
T-shirts for girls don phrases like, “This is what the future looks like,” “Future CEO” “The future is female.” And, still, you’ll find messages that reinforce the expectation that women be society’s caretakers: “Whole lot of love,” “Love first,” “Big heart.”
Over on the boys’ racks, you’ll see sports T-shirts — mountains of them — and other shirts that say things like “DUDE,” “Beach Bum,” “Smile”, “Rock On.”
If our T-shirts are tea leaves, we can anticipate a generation of women who will buckle down, study and get a good job (while still caring for everyone) and their male counterparts living life like it’s an endless spring break.
Our boys can — and should — do more. It’s our responsibility to show them how.