One of the best things about being a mom is the annual opportunities to engage and celebrate in traditional childhood moments. However, each year I am reminded of the many subtle ways in which we perpetuate gender norms and miss the mark on the simple concept of raising humans that live and lead with integrity and kindness.
If you’re wondering about the events leading up to this post, let me provide you with some context. Imagine me looking at superhero costumes for my three sons and trying to figure out why all of them need muscular padding. As I stand there holding a 2T Superman costume with bulging fake muscles I’m wondering how people would feel if the corresponding Wonder Woman or Captain Marvel children’s costumes had breast padding. Seriously, what would you think?
I know for some this may be a stretch, but as for me, and the children I made, I feel it is my duty, and right, to critically think through every aspect of their life. And even though I recognize the many ways in which society has mistreated and stifled the potential of young girls, I also find myself sharing similar frustrations that we have not found more inclusive ways to empower and affirm children, including boys, through through their development.
I have the hardest time understanding why during back to school I can only find composition books, spiral notebooks, and folders for “boys” that include images of cars, sports, and action figures. Or why the bulk of shirts with text most often includes language that suggests one’s success is achieved at the expense of someone else’s demise? And even when you do find items that have great messaging, there aren’t many color option available.
I could go on and on about the many examples of lost opportunities to plant seeds of compassion, integrity, positive self image, healthy expression, mental well-being, and many others into the messaging we send to our young boys and men, and my assumption is that I’m not alone. Like so many of you, I will find ways to incorporate these messages into their lives, but I hope that one day we’ll come to a place where we follow the same movement that has transformed messaging to young girls and refine the messaging we’re sending to both boys and children in general. The next time you visit the children’s section of any store, I dare you to compare the messaging, both direct and indirect, to our children and see how they compare. I know the world’s busy trying to address the present, but if we don’t take time to cultivate and nurture the future as well, we have no one to blame, but ourselves.
For those of looking for your next side hustle, consider this a call to action. I guarentee you there’s a market willing, able, and eager to support empowering messages to all children. Do you have ideas? Share them in the comments!