Category Archives: Girls/Women

8 Things I Want to Teach My Sons About Women

love women

As the mom of two boys,  I often have to remind them (and myself) that I’m a woman first, a mom second. I remember when my teen son was little and he said he wanted to marry a woman just like me. I was flattered and scared at the same time. On one hand,  he must see good qualities in me that he would want in a future wife but on the other hand was it fair to expect his future wife to be a  Star Wars, Pokemon, Hot Wheels, Lego, SpongeBob loving ninja?  I now realize that at that age, the thought of his wife being like his mother was the coolest thing in the world. Now that he’s a teen, he sees me through different lenses and I just pray that I’m giving him (and now his little brother) a balanced view on women.   Here are some things I want to teach my sons about women:

1. All Women Are Not The Same

The last thing I want is for my sons to make the assumption that all people are the same.  It’s easy to make judgments about others when you don’t have all the facts. Appreciate the differences in women based on their character, talents, personality, and interests.  Don’t try to change a woman because of your unrealistic expectations or preferences.  If you can’t accept her for who she is, find someone else who is more compatible.  Also, be mindful that there are good and bad people in the world, regardless of gender. Don’t let a bad experience with one woman influence your perception of all women.

2. Women are Funny

Tina Fey, Aisha Tyler, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Wanda Sykes, Mo’Nique, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Amy Sedaris, Loni Love, Kym Whitley, Betty White, Carol Burnett, Whoopi Goldberg, Margaret Cho, Roseann Barr, Chelsea Handler, Amanda Seales,  Kathy Griffin, Lisa Lampanelli, Sarah Silverman, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Sandra Bernard, Sommore, Jennifer Coolidge, Gilda Radner, Rachel Dratch, Joy Behar, just to name a few.

2. Appreciate a Woman’s Strength, Don’t Use It Against Her

Both genders get mixed messages about strength. Don’t get caught up in archaic views of traditional male or female roles. While men are expected to be strong, assertive and fearless, these same qualities are not always valued in women.  Be confident enough to admire a woman’s strength and not see it as a threat to your masculinity.

4. Listen but Don’t Rush to Solve a Woman’s Problem

Sometimes when a woman is talking, she is venting to release her frustration, anxiety or anger. She just wants you to listen. It doesn’t mean that she wants you to solve her problem or save the day.   If you’re unsure if a woman wants your help, just ask.

5. Don’t Call a Woman Crazy Because You Don’t Understand

Most conflicts arise because of miscommunication. What is spoken or written can be misconstrued. If you’re unclear about what a woman is saying, ask for clarification. Don’t dismiss what she’s saying as irrelevant or “crazy talk” because it doesn’t make sense to you. Feelings are real and just because you don’t understand or can’t relate doesn’t mean she’s being overly sensitive.

6. Be a Gentleman

Being a gentleman is not just about chivalry. At the core of being a gentleman is respect and love for self and others.  Treat people the way they want to be treated.  It takes a man of integrity to be a gentleman, so say what you mean and mean what you say in all forms of communication.  Your words and actions reflect your character, so think before you speak and act.

7.  If You’re Unsure, Ask

It’s the lack of clarity that can get you into trouble.  If you’re unclear, ask for more information. Asking questions helps you to set boundaries and helps you to better understand a particular situation. Respect the response and don’t  use manipulation or pressure to get your way.  As a follow-up, be clear in your responses.

8. Show Your Appreciation

A simple ‘Thank you” or acknowledgment of a gesture goes a long way.  Don’t take for granted what anyone does for you. Also, don’t let people take what you do granted.

Above all else, I want my sons to have self-love so that they are true to themselves.  Yes, it’s important to me that my sons are strong, loving, compassionate companions in the future but I also want them to be appreciated and loved for who they are as men.

Photo: Flickr

Are You Raising a Man Who’ll “Lean In” or “Lean Back”?

Men-And-Women-Double-Equal-Sign-Gender-Equality

“Mom, what’s ‘lean in’ ?”, my teen son recently asked. While I was tempted to make a joke about it being Sheryl Sandberg’s response to Fat Joe’s 2009 hit “Lean Back”, I knew that I shouldn’t make light of his question. Instead of floundering through our conversation with second hand information, I told my son I’d get back to him while I searched Google for answers. What I found was an overflow of blog posts and articles either dismantling Ms. Sandberg’s credibility or praising her courage to empower women to be more ambitious. The more I read, the more I realized what has been missing from the conversation: boys and men.

While I applaud Ms. Sandberg for not discrediting men, I do have an issue in which some women depict boys and men as villains or the enemy. If we are to change the thinking of our  society, we need to make boys and men our allies. One of the problems I see with improving gender relations, is that we believe that teaching boys to behave like girls and teaching girls to behave like boys will solve the problem. Even Ms. Sandberg suggests that women take a cue from men in asserting themselves in leadership roles. We can’t make the assumption that boys and men know our needs or our struggles. Why aren’t we having honest conversations about gender stereotyping and gender norms in our society with our sons?

When I worked at The Source Magazine, a primarily male dominated office, I was unprepared for the disrespect and chauvinistic behavior of most of the male staff. I was pregnant while employed there and when I approached my sales manager about my maternity leave, I was told that I would have to create a maternity leave plan. I couldn’t believe that this thriving magazine did not think about the needs of their female employees.  What made the matter worse is that the HR Manager was a woman.

As a mom of two boys, I partner with my husband in raising our sons to be tolerant, strong, compassionate, loving men. While my husband talks to my sons about the implications of a man, I help them better understand gender roles and how to interact and engage with girls and women. I want my sons to have a better understanding of what it means to be a woman in this world. I want to raise sons that appreciate what women contribute to this world. I want to raise sons that nurture and support women’s rights while preserving their confidence. I think what we need is to have continuous conversations with our sons and daughters about the importance of respecting each other without conforming to gender bias.

If we want to change the way men and women interact and engage in personal and professional settings, we must raise them to understand that gender bias is a hindrance to both men and women.

The Real Talk We Need to Have With Our Sons About Rape

The past few weeks, I’ve been troubled by how some adults are reacting to the rape case in Steubenville. Making generalizations about teens doesn’t help other teens to understand the severity of rape. We need to address the “boys will be boys” attitude that permeates our society and we need to be honest about how much we really don’t tell boys about self-control and respecting boundaries.

Our first mistake is rushing to tell boys what rape is instead of asking them “What is rape?” Once we know what they’re thinking we can proceed to have a conversation about rape. We have to let them ask questions no matter how much we want to avoid answering them.

As parents of boys, how may of us have in-depth conversations with our sons about rape. Yes, it’s an uncomfortable  and complex subject but we can’t just keep telling them that “No means no”, “Respect women” and “Don’t rape.”

We have to teach them self-control and not to use their power or strength to over power a woman who is weak, vulnerable, promiscuous or inebriated. We have to let our sons know that under no circumstance is it ever okay to use words, physical force, drugs or alcohol to rape a woman. It starts with teaching boys at an early age to have self-control.

It’s not about just raising our sons to be gentleman, because there are men who by society’s standards are gentlemen, that rape women. There are nice guys that rape women. Let’s stop projecting an image of a rapist as an feral animal or a monster.  A rapist can be cleverly disguised as a friendly, well-respected neighbor, co-worker or associate. Boys need to know that no matter how popular, good looking, sexy, well-liked or charming they are, no matter no much money or time they spend with a girl, they are NOT entitled to sex.

I was almost raped by a “nice guy” who I thought was my friend. After he helped me move into my apartment, he tried to rape me. The thought that ran through my head as I was fighting him off was”No one would believe me because he’s a nice guy.” He never gave me any indication that he had this side to him. I never flirted or led him to believe we were anything more than friends. This is why it was so painful. I thank God that at some point he came to his senses and realized what was happening and left quickly. The next day he called to apologize but the damage had already been done. He crossed the boundaries and broke a trust. There was no turning back and our friendship was over.

Years later, what I learned about that night is that it was about control. He tried to use physical force and persuasive words to convince me that I led him on and I wanted this. This is what we need to remind our sons that no matter how charming, good looking, wealthy,  educated or successful they are, they have no right to take away a woman’s dignity, her self-respect, her pride and her trust. We have to remind our sons that no woman “asks for it” because she is promiscuous, flirty, sexy, or confident.

Rape is a sexual act that is sometimes violent in nature. Anytime someone is forced to do something against their will, it’s not mutual and consenting.We have to teach them that they may face a situation in which a woman is sending mixed messages and she is enticing him.  I don’t care if she’s buck naked and waiting, once her lips say “No” or “Stop”, you have to control your urges and stop. Only “yes” means yes.

We have to tell our sons that just because a woman is giving him signs that she is interested in having sex, these signs could be misconstrued.
If at any point the message is unclear, don’t try to proceed with sex. Alcohol played a major role in the Steubenville case and we have to let
our sons know that alcohol inhibits your thinking and reasoning. A “nice guy” can make bad choices when he has been drinking.

We need to teach our sons that if they witnessed another guy trying to coerce a girl into sex or is taking advantage of  her weakened state to speak up and do something. Let’s stop with the “boys club” and “no snitching” mentality. Let your son know that if he sees something and doesn’t take action, he is just as responsible. Sharing pictures and videos or making comments about the victim is also something we need to discuss.

Our conversations with our sons about sex and rape are not one shot deals. They have to be continuous and unabridged. No matter how often we talk about it, the message should be clear: “It’s about respecting boundaries and getting consent.”

Image Courtesy of Flickr