The Manual to Raise Your Daughters, The Right Way
Thoughts on how we raise our sons and daughters differently.
“Momma continued, ‘Sister, I know you tender-hearted, but Bailey Junior, there’s no reason for you to set out mewing like a pussy cat, just ’cause you got something from Vivian and Big Bailey.’”
—Maya Angelou, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
There’s a boy named, let’s call him Fred, in my grade.
Fred is an Asian-American from Utah. He’s hard-working, loves writing poetry, knitting, and also a Varsity Lacrosse player. His senior year of high school, Fred peaked: he owned up to what made him happy. The social stigmas of joining the Knitting Club as a male or doing Stand-up comedy as an Asian American didn’t thwart him from doing what he loved. I look at Fred, the once shy kid in my Latin class, and now I think to myself: if I had a son, I would want him to be like Fred.
He defies the norm and assumed stereotypes of an Asian and male. An ideal, and rare, phenomenon.
My English teacher and I talk about this often: how we, as parents, subconsciously raise our sons differently from daughters.
“Be on your best behavior, and be polite to all your teachers,” my Mom would say dropping me to school.
But, would she have said the same if I was a boy?
In a study published by Behavioral Neuroscience, head researcher Mascaro and her colleagues would argue yes. They found that fathers used comparative adverbs such as “much” or “better” when sharing a conversation with their daughters, which implies more complex conversations shared. They also use more game-time and competitive language such as “win” or “top” with their sons. In addition, when mothers share stories with their daughters, they rely heavily on emotional appeal than they do when they talk to their sons.
This isn’t surprising: general characterizations based on gender are infiltrating how parents raise their sons and daughters.
However, the bigger question is how does this contrast in parenting manifest in the children? Are daughters raised to be emotional? Is this considered an Achilles’ heel for women who aspire to work in Tech or other male-dominating workplaces? And are sons raised to lack emotion thereof to fit the mold of a robust, masculine, and “stable” man?
Questions, questions, questions.
The study provides various hypotheses suggested by the study as there is certainly no one answer to the question. Ultimately, however, to be aware of the bias as parents — being careful of imposing society’s assumed gender roles and characterizations — can certainly go long ways in preparing our children in less biased ways and more like Fred.
At the same time, nowadays feminism has gone so extreme that some males feel as though they have to ask consent in everything, even outside the bedroom. For instance, my friend from my middle school takes “consent” to an extreme level and sucks out the beauty in what it means to a gentleman. At our middle school reunion last summer we sat next to each other. And in the midst of crackling and roaring laughter, our arms slid past each other. He immediately put down his fork, and asked “are you okay?”, “I am terribly sorry”, or“am I too close to you?”. And when the cute waiter smiled at me, he asked “did he just make you feel uncomfortable, I can go tell him to apologize”.
See, I don’t want my son to be like that.
I think that there are fine lines between being a one, dupe of toxic masculinity, two, a male who’s nuanced and aware to his societal privileges but also disqualifications, and three someone so hyper-conscious and determined to go against gender roles that it’s annoying. I think Fred fits the second. And as a parent in the far, far future, I hope that my son will be like that. And that I, myself, will be a good role model who is comfortable defying gender roles and not afraid to extend myself to try things that are deemed “for males”.
And if I fail as a parent, in the worst case I’ll just send them off to Uncle Fred.