Is this a reasonable argument?
Babble blogger Laura Mayes made an interesting point the other day with her column, “Someone To Look Up To,” by discussing a potential girl power backlash. With full knowledge that we still make less, etc. etc., Mayes wonders if powerful girl messaging is possibly making her 6-year-old son feel inadequate–she sites an overrun world of female educators, business women and pop messaging like Beyonce’s Run The World (Girls).
Mayes explain that a lot of this has to do with her son’s age and his purity. She writes:
Remember, this is coming from a kid whose only understanding of the world began in 2005…and let’s be honest, he’s only started to understand a PBS-Kids-version of the world since about 2008. So he has no concept why one gender would need to be encouraged over another.
Mayes’s piece is a beautiful tribute to her son (and my father took me to see the Harlem Globetrotters when I was a kid too–awesome, I tell you) and more, her son’s sensitivity is lovely and commendable. That there is a boy out there who thinks he’s less powerful somehow… well, that would make me concerned as well. (My son was just telling me the other day that boys are always stronger than girls and I reminded him that I could take him down at any time. So there’s that.)
But for me, the lesson in this isn’t What about me, Mom? when your boy asks about girl empowerment. It’s about explaining the historical–and, let’s face it, current–fight for gender equality. That Mommy wasn’t always allowed the same rights as Daddy. Granted, yes, boys are struggling in their own way. We’re seeing this from all sorts of reports that boys are more likely to drop out of high school. That in the home, women are making all the decisions and in the workplace, despite the wage gap, which still continues, women have a higher employment rate than men. Hannah Rosin’s ubiquitous 2010 Atlantic Monthly article “The End of Men,” argued that women and girls have not only become preferred sex, but that we’re holding more powerful postions than ever–and more that we might be better suited to those positions than men are.
Says Rosin in that article:
But what if men and women were fulfilling not biological imperatives but social roles, based on what was more efficient throughout a long era of human history? What if that era has now come to an end? More to the point, what if the economics of the new era are better suited to women?
Here’s a story you might like. In my kids’ bathroom above the toilet, I hung a poster called “The 19th Amendment” by artist Michael Albert–it’s a collage that features the text of the 19th amendment and was given to me by my sister-in-law who is a friend of the artist. I didn’t conciously hang it over the toilet–honest–the space simply fit. But in retrospect I realized the poster, with its hundreds of images of women (including Dora, the Statue of Liberty and, uh, Pebbles, though I’m not sure how the offspring of Fred and Wilma fit in here, but she’s cute nevertheless) and the actual quote from the constitution, that the poster acted as a daily history lesson.
Every time my son pees standing up, he’s reminded that women didn’t have the right to vote until 1920. Now put down the lid on that toilet. Thank you, honey.
I don’t talk to my son about all of the ways that women and girls are over-sexualized or treated differently from men and boys like this, or this or this or this. (Why would I? He’s 8.) But I think the messaging of girl power can be enlightening without taking anyone down–that includes young boys.