I was skimming a woman’s magazine, killing a few minutes of time without technology. While flipping the pages in search of pictures for a project, I happened on an article about mothers and sons. Well, I’m a mother, a mother of sons, so I started to read it. (And here is where I should cite the whole things. Except in a fit of cleaning, I tossed the magazine before I remembered I wanted to write this post. Life can be so sad.)
The article was great. It was a mother defending her close relationship with her college-age son. She pointed out that it was fine for mothers and daughters to be close. It was expected that fathers and sons would be close. Our society cheered for fathers and daughters to be close. But there is an unspoken code that mothers and sons should not be close. Because we all know that would turn the boys into sissies. Or worse, gay! Or even worst of all, sissy-gay! The horror!
I’ve become a huge advocate of moms staying close to their sons and staying active in their lives since I read Raising Boys Without Men: How Maverick Moms Are Creating the Next Generation of Exceptional Men by Peggy Drexler. While the book is about lesbian moms and single-by-choice moms, I found a lot of it helpful even though, at the time, I was married. Like the article, the book talked about how moms can remain close to their sons and it doesn’t do any damage. And the book is written by someone with a PhD. Oooo.
So I’m finishing the article, nodding, saying “yes, of course” in my head, when the author starts closing the article with the challenges facing the modern male. In the middle of it she writes something like, “We have to teach boys to respect girls, even as we tell them they have to compete with them.”
(Hard brake sound)
I reread the sentence again.
Yup. Somehow we can’t naturally expect men and boys to compete with the fairer sex AND treat them with respect. I mean, goodness, we all know men do not respect the men they compete with in sports or at work or in school or playing video games. Follow that logic, men just don’t respect anyone, unless they’re dead. It’s really hard to compete with someone who is dead. (But there is that one Simpsons ….)
But I think men are better than that. I have this crazy thought that men CAN work with women. Men CAN be respectful of women. Men CAN compete with women. Men are not crazed, sexual beings who will hump chairs. (Looking at you, Victorians.) Men will not be distracted from their jobs because there is a woman working with them. (Looking at all those who tried to stop women from working in the workplace AND everyone talking about how women can’t serve in combat.) Men can even play video games and other competitive sports with women without name-calling and threatening rape. (Looking at you, video game culture. You know who you are.)
Being a good parent means I teach my boys to respect other people, even when they compete against them. They hold open doors for the person entering the building behind them. They don’t give their homework to the cute girl in lab to copy. They don’t leave a drunk friend alone, especially if the friend is a girl. They don’t make jokes that hurt people or belittle people. They will not be mean. They will be the good guys.
Besides “Respect Others” is family rule number 1 in this household.
And damnit, they will respect others.