When I read the headlines, I often wonder when we are going to stop shaming girls and teaching boys to respect them.
First Monica Lewinsky, then Kristen Stewart, now Amanda Todd. It’s the age-old double standard and it’s only gotten worse now that we’re online. When guys experiment with sex, they’re heroes; when girls do, they’re sluts.
Here’s a question. While everyone was busy shaming these girls for their mistakes, where were the guys who thought it was perfectly OK to inappropriately engage them? And closer to home, what are we teaching our boys about how to treat women?
Sometimes, I feel afraid for my sons. Boys are growing up in a culture where girls’ actions are under scrutiny, not theirs, and parents are buying into that double standard. I, for one, am guilty of sending my teenage son out for the night with a simple “be careful” while I lecture my girl half to death about the dangers of the big, bad male world.
Girls get this message loud and clear: Make a mistake (send a sext, dress provocatively, give in to peer pressure from the guy you like – all mistakes that teens make every day), and you’ll likely end up with a reputation you can’t shake, or worse.
But where are the boys in all this?
Of course, we parents need to protect our girls, but we also have to start teaching our boys how to do the same – both online and off. No matter what they see in the media, “boys will be boys” is no excuse. It is never OK to disrespect girls, and it is their job, as gentlemen, to see that doesn’t happen.
It’s tough bringing up the opposite sex with kids, and especially with boys. But when they hit puberty, we have to teach them how to behave with girls – not just for the girls’ sake but for their own, too. As a mom, I couldn’t find this subject more awkward and I challenge you to find a Dad who can’t help but do a little backslapping along the way. But the discussion is so necessary, and it can’t be confined to a simple warning about VD and unplanned pregnancy.
It’s our job to spell out the basics, as in Son, you respect girls when you:
Remember she is a person, with feelings.
Look into her eyes and talk to her directly, not just by text.
Ask her how she feels, and listen.
Respect her limits when she says no.
Don’t pressure her to do things she is hesitant about or not ready for.
Don’t try to be the big guy in the eyes of your friends at her expense.
Don’t spread gossip or rumors about her. Protect her reputation.
Remember that people change as they grow and they don’t forget how you treated them.
Never forget that your reputation as a gentleman is part of your character. You build it as you grow. Make yourself proud.