Recently there was a headline that there are now more young women in college than young men. Many cheered noting how women are starting to get their due recognition and advancements. I, for one, am a woman who benefited from an increased focus on young girls’ scholastic advancement. Growing up I fought the powers that be, namely my Puerto Rican family, that wanted me to grow up knowing how to cook steak for my husband. I let them know I was a vegetarian and didn’t plan to learn to cook anyway; especially just to please a man. I have unequivocally always believed I could do anything a boy could do, including peeing while standing up. I cheered on both Hilary Clinton’s first run for president and Sarah Palin’s VP run. I myself am contemplating a city council run one day.
When I found out I was pregnant, I prayed for a little boy. I stopped eating all sweets and willed my uterus into having a boy. yes, I know how reproduction, biology etc works, but I am Puerto Rican and we have all sorts of superstitions we subscribe to. Particularly, when the gender of a baby is concerned all reason flies out the window. I always said that if I were to have a child I wanted a boy. I wanted to nurture a strong boy into manhood who would respect and honor women. I wanted to contribute to gender equality by rearing a boy. And that is what I am doing. I have to say however that I wish people wouldn’t be putting boys on the back burner.
It seems, at times, that in order to lift girls up, many are forgetting about the boys. They still need lifting and it should not be assumed that because they are boys they automatically have a leg up onto the world. Also, at times it seems like we are trying to dampen down boy’s rambunctiousness so that they are more calm. Or rather we are probably over-medicating boys in the guise of noting they have ADHD, and any other alphabet soup medication.
Let me give you a few examples. In my son’s classes from kindergarten through first grade, he was only one of 6 boys. The teacher complained about how the boys palled around and how my son wouldn’t eat cupcakes (that was seen as disruptive). Although, it didn’t happen, it seemed like had he continued at that school, teachers would have recommended that several of the boys be sent for counseling. The boys were just being boys. Yes, I believe that girls and women can do anything boys and men can do. However, I do believe there is a slightly different energy level between boys and girls. Do we have to medicalize that energy level?
Let me give a much more recent example. This past weekend, I took my son and a girl of his same age on a hike down to a lighthouse. We had to wait till the park volunteers came to open the gates. One volunteer got there and she started chatting with us as the two kids were typical 6 years olds anxiously waiting to be let in to run around. Now let me state that the little girl was not a very well behaved girl in private. She kicked and bullied my son overall. As the two kids talked to the volunteer as well as others around us, the little girl got encouragement to keep talking while whenever my son chimed in as well, he was readily dismissed. It got to the point where the volunteer kept noting to the little girl that it was great how curious and talkative she was and how girls can do anything and they can be stronger than boys. My son, the little “boy” in this interaction received no such encouragement. Luckily he kept himself entertained and kept exploring on his own and we were there to hug and kiss him.
I just shook my head and smiled at them all and squeezed his hand. Just because he is a little boy doesn’t mean he doesn’t need to know that he too can be anything he sets his mind to. In a way it seems a bit condescending to talk to little girls like that in that girls are always singled out that way. And when they are acting out, it is often seen as charming -to which I want to say acting out is acting out regardless of gender.