Talking to boys about being a boy

Article here. Excerpt:

'Since my sons were born, I’ve tried to speak openly about gender. I’ve taught both of them, now ages 5 and 9, how to spot the ways the world holds girls and women back. I’ve also taught them about gender norms in toys and clothes, and why it is OK for both boys and girls to break them.

I thought I was being proactive in my approach until recently – when I realized there was a large, hiding-in-plain-sight, missing piece in everything we discussed. We never once spoke directly about masculinity or dug into what it means to be a boy or a man.

A big reason for this failure was inadequate vocabulary. Parents and caregivers to girls can rely on the word “feminism” should they want to frame girlhood as both positive and dynamic. Calling one’s daughter a “feminist” allows for change and progress without limiting girls or criticizing femininity.

With boys, there was no such term until recently. The closest runner-up was the phrase “toxic masculinity,” which refers to the parts of the male identity that are bad for men, boys and everyone else. These behaviors include things such as suppressing emotions or resorting to violence for self-expression.

The problem is my boys and their friends are lovely, sweet and not at all toxic. Why would I start a conversation with my boys about “boyness” on such a critical note? Doing so might result in silencing or shaming my sons for behaviors or traits they don’t have.'

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