I grew up in a house that was determined to be “gender neutral.” My mother was adamant about insuring that my brother and I were not forced into societal roles, but ones that we actually developed on our own. Nature vs. nurture — it’s great in theory, but my mother was devastated one shopping trip to the toy store when my brother and I were given free reign. I, of course, chose the dolls; my brother, the cars. She tried to force our hands in suggestion — “Jason, you don’t have to get the cars” ... But in the end, nature prevailed.
My house is starkly different. First off, there is not one shred of pink to be seen except for my jacket hanging in the closet. The toys around are in bright, primary colors — Legos with instructions to build space ships and cars. Helicopters, airplanes, bows and arrows; shovels to get their hands dirty when they play outside, footballs, basketballs, air hockey, science experiments and lots of books about all of these things as well. I live in a house with boys. I am surrounded by testosterone.
“Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition,” Marilyn Monroe said.
Boys will be boys
I adore all of my boys and respect them tremendously. I simply find myself in a conundrum of what to do with them and how. Truth be told, when my oldest son was 3, he came into my bathroom while I was getting ready for work. He had put on my heels and was carrying my purse ... I freaked out a little. My mind told me, this is not what boys are supposed to do. I called my mom who has a master’s degree in child development, and she talked me off the ledge. This is how all kids play. It is part of their development and why would I be more comfortable if he were to have dressed up as super man instead of as super mom? At 3 years old, he didn’t have the innate understanding that boys don’t typically dress up in their mother’s clothing; he was just playing. It took some time for me to calm down and let go of my own stereotyping which obviously did not come from my upbringing.
So how do we, as mothers of sons, raise them to be different? The responsibility is in our hands to make the change in the world. Back to Marilyn, I feel 100 percent the same way. But my world is a man’s world. In all of my jobs but one I have worked for “the man.” I can’t tell you how many meetings I have been involved in where I was the only skirt in the room. I also know that even though I had the title, I wasn’t given the same treatment. I have never been asked to play golf with the boys. But, I have always been the largest revenue producer. I know that I have made less money than my male counterparts. But, I have always been the largest revenue producer ...
“Mankind ought constantly to be striving to produce Great Men — this and nothing else is its duty,” Friedrich Nietzsche said.
Bridging the gender gap
With all of my own consciousness about stereotypes, I still fall prey. Somehow I feel that we need to break the cycle. We need to learn how to demand more out of our men, and work to evolve the nature in them. Women have come a long way, and I believe that so too can the men in our lives. I adore my husband but can’t believe how often I hear myself saying “well, he’s a man...”, “I think it’s just a guy thing ...” and I will note that he is an exceptional male. But still — a man; still wired to think differently, act differently and behave differently. And that is what I am so attracted to and so frustrated by all at the same time — the yang to my yin.
But with the lives of two young gents in my hands, it is now my responsibility and opportunity to make that change. Not just for them, but for their future girlfriends and wives, colleagues and bosses, children and grandchildren.
I am on the precipice of change. It is my job to raise these boys to learn to treat the women in their lives with the same respect that I expect to be treated. For them to know that women are not inferior (nor are they), and that women actually can do everything that they can do.
To be respectful of our differences, yet still invite women to play golf. To be kind, loving and honest; to be insightful, helpful and strong. To be independent, motivated and caring. To be good people. To be good boys so they turn into great men. Because after it’s all said and done, who doesn’t love having a great man around?
Gabrie Higbie is the publisher of online magazine GEM at www.go gem.co and host of GEM radio on KSKE and KKCH.
“Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.”