Why Raising Strong Girls Is Not Enough

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Jeff Bogle argues that in addition to strengthening the core of our young girls, we need to make a more substantial attempt to soften our boys.

In a vacuum, the notion that we dads and moms and other parties involved in the childhood business will positively impact the world simply by placing more decent, kind, confident, strong, and loving girls into it is a fallacy. A utopian dream. A marketing ploy. A wish upon a star. Raising strong girls is not enough.

Raising strong girls is not enough because a strong girl, even the strongest of mind, body, will, and spirit, can too easily be fractured into a thousand unrecognizable pieces, a glass bottle of glitter shattered on a venetian tile floor, by a physically stronger, drunker, misogynistic boy. We can cobble together and restore some of the sparkle, but it’s doomed to be mixed with crumbs, dust, and dirt, no matter how studious we are. A dulling of the shine. A repeal of the magic.

The world isn’t pretty in this way and wishing it were won’t make it so.

It would seem imperative then that we, as a nation of dads and moms and parties involved in the childhood business must also, in addition to strengthening the core of our young girls, make a more substantial attempt to soften our boys. Maybe soften isn’t the proper word, not exactly. Does there exist a catchall word for “don’t rape anyone, asshole”? Maybe not. So let’s settle on “soften” for now. One gender gets stronger of mind, body, will and spirit, while the other gets softer, becomes more tender, emotionally connected, and gentle inside and out. We shall then all meet in the middle, in a clearing, and dance. If not dance, at least we might coexist with greater decency than we’ve managed from waaaaaaaaaaay back then until right now today.

It would seem imperative then that we, as a nation of dads and moms and parties involved in the childhood business must also, in addition to strengthening the core of our young girls, make a more substantial attempt to soften our boys.

Years of good parenting, thoughtful foundation building, and a childhood most beautiful can too easily be haphazardly stripped away with clothes and dreams and hopes and love in a single moment. A bitter squeal of an old tire. A rough tug on a frail arm. A tiny pill in a cold drink. And it doesn’t matter if her favorite color was pink, rainbow, mauve, or black. It doesn’t matter if she wore a “Girls Rock” t-shirt or a frilly dress. It doesn’t matter if she made high honors every month or struggled to keep up in math. It doesn’t matter if she built LEGO or played with dolls or both or neither. It doesn’t matter if she traveled the world with her parents or never had the disposable cash to take a proper vacation. It doesn’t matter if she was offered a lacrosse scholarship or spent her days painting landscapes en plein air. It doesn’t matter if she listened to Frances England or Katy Perry or Lorde or The Carpenters or L7 or Sleater-Kinney. None. Of. It. Would. Matter.

None of it would matter if a random boy decided that he wanted something, someone, anyone, to make himself feel a sliver of ecstasy for a split second, to make the pain and hurt and expectations and anger he has carried inside for longer than he can remember, feel a little less permanent.

So casually. He acts and he is gone.

Before the last recoiled staccato slam of a screen door and before the pound of boots fades from the floorboards of a paint-chipped porch and before the coach light is dimmed for the night and moths scramble to find a new dive bar, a girl, who only moments prior saw the promise at the end of a rainbow with twinkling eyes and a heart full of light, is gone too.

♦◊♦

Article originally appeared on OWTK.com;

Credit—Photo: KevinLallier

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About Jeff Bogle

Jeff Bogle is a stay-at-home dad who writes about parenting and All Things Childhood: kindie music, books, toys, gaming, & culture at Out With The Kids. He is married to an adorable redheaded gal and has two lovely little ladies under the age of 10 who provide him with countless hours of humorous in-home entertainment, and who get to do, hear, see and play with more cool stuff than you can possibly imagine. He considers himself one of the luckiest guys in the world, although he needs to be reminded of this fact from time to time. Jeff also blogs for The Good Men Project.

Comments

  1. Joanna Schroeder says:

    Jeff, thanks for writing this. We do need to get all of our kids thinking compassionately about one another.

    As a dad of girls, no doubt you have on your mind all the statistics about how likely it is for a woman to be raped in college – 1 in 6. That’s a startling number. And yeah, we need to start by teaching ALL kids not to rape, teaching ALL kids consent, and teaching ALL kids they deserve to be able to say “no” at any point, to anybody.

    Thank you for helping spread the message to parents that it’s not just about how we raise our girls, but also how we raise our boys.

    • 1 in 6 boys have been sexually abused by age 18 and 1/3 of campus sexual assault victims are male. Contrary to popular belief most of those who sexually victimize men and boys are female. You don’t see people suggesting we soften girls to prevent this. The sexism need to stop along with the gender role based modeling of who has to act what way. This article perpetuates anti male sexism and reeks of it.

      Boys are hard because we don’t care how they feel or if they are hurt. A culture that favors girls as victims over males who are victims is going to harden males.

      • Tom Brechlin says:

        I should also note that these are “reported cases” for men and boys. We all know that men are far less likely to report. Couple this with another article on GMP where the discussion is about an underage boy and an adult women as potentially being seen as “getting lucky.” We’re looking at a large block of males who don’t even have a clue that they have been raped or molested. If ya put all these factors into this, I would venture to say that the stats would put men/boys far closer in numbers.

      • Joanna Schroeder says:

        THis particular article is about a dad raising a daughter.

        Nobody is saying male survivors don’t exist or we shouldn’t teach ALL kids consent and not to rape.

        Please see the rest of our site for many, many, many ways we support all survivors of any gender.

        • Joanna: “THis particular article is about a dad raising a daughter. ”

          And thinking all boys are rapists and wondering if it’s possible to call them assholes in order to stop them:

          “It would seem imperative then that we, as a nation of dads and moms and parties involved in the childhood business must also, in addition to strengthening the core of our young girls, make a more substantial attempt to soften our boys. Maybe soften isn’t the proper word, not exactly. Does there exist a catchall word for “don’t rape anyone, asshole”? Maybe not. So let’s settle on “soften” for now.”

      • That can’t be.
        According to a 2010 report [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men (adults) in the United States have been raped in their lifetime. The actual number is likely higher, of course, but that would never match your claim of 1 in 6 boys.
        Also, most reports I’ve read point at males as the majority of male rape perpetrators. Usually more than 80%.

        • Greg Allan says:

          That CDC report classified forced to penetrate as not being rape. There are as many male victims as there are female if this sleight of hand is put aside. Lifetime numbers show eighty percent female perpetration for those males so abused.

    • Joanna: “As a dad of girls, no doubt you have on your mind all the statistics about how likely it is for a woman to be raped in college – 1 in 6.”

      I quote Toysoldier on this matter:

      “The 1 in 6 statistic refers to the lifetime rate, not the rate from college. The correct rate is 1 in 4, which is from study conducted by Mary Koss. However, the rate is misleading because Koss included a broad age range, counting acts that occurred when the respondents were as young as 14. The proper way to read the statistic is that 1 in 4 women report being sexually assaulted by the time they complete college, with the added caveat that Koss counts some acts as rape that legally may not count as rape and the respondents did not consider rape.”

  2. Maybe soften isn’t the proper word, not exactly. Does there exist a catchall word for “don’t rape anyone, asshole”?

    Ah yes, rape is something men do to women.

    Of course.

    • wait? then who is raping women?

      • Other women. Women also rape men.

        • Note that at no point anyone is dismissing that or saying the opposite. But because it happens, women raping men, we cannot blind ourselves as to the rape culture we live in or the obligation of men to stop other men from raping women. Hell, men AND women have an obligation to stop whatever kind of rape there is.
          Maybe if we work on attacking rape, instead of men dismissing what happens to women or women dismissing what happens to men, maybe things might start getting fixed.

          • We don’t live in a rape culture. We live in a culture where activist use issues like rape to get attention for their side agendas without much concern for victims considering they routinely ignore half of them because of their gender. The sexism from feminism is a real problem. The fear mongering and campaigns of hate against males is a problem.

            Sexual violence is a serious issue and I think it should not be exploited by people who think they can get something out of playing advocate who end up trivializing rape in the process by lowering the bar on what we call rape to something innate like being stared at.

      • Mostly_123 says:

        All rapists are rapists, but not all men are rapists, not all women are rape victims; but by implicity speaking of the problem in gendered terms, it leads to a gendered worldview, and thusly gendered action- If I believe that gender is the absolute axis of power in this world, it is incumbent upon me to frame society and its problems as such. It omits that men who rape have more in common with the women who rape than they do with the men who do not. Rapist or non-rapist, it presumes what must be fixed is an aspect masculinity.

    • Anonymous says:

      What?

  3. I agree with you completely on the fact that the solution is not found in making girls stronger to deal with a bad world.

    What I don’t agree is that making men “softer” is the solution. I actually believe the opposite. (emphasis on believe, basically my opinion and not the absolute truth.)
    I believe in making boys strong, strong enough to stand up against the social pressures, strong enough to confront men or women willing to abuse the weak, strong enough to stand up against themselves if needed, and strong enough to know when they are to weak to do it alone.

    I want my sons to grow strong and intolerant of the abuser, to hate the attitudes of hate so much they will stand up to it. I want them to learn how to use their rage and intolerance in a way that makes a better society.

  4. Thank you. Wise words. It is so true what happens to the girl afterward. Boys, men, please be careful.

  5. To truly achieve your objective of emotionally soft, connected men, you can’t assume that men inherently have more agency than women. There’s plenty of statistics out there to show that women are perpetrators as well: http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/nisvs/

    We need to have the courage to ask: what are “the pain and hurt and expectations and anger he has carried inside” that would make him feel normal in violating another persons autonomy? Was he also a victim of rape? Punitive measures won’t stop it, understanding what actually makes rapists will. And that requires showing enough empathy towards a rapist to ask ‘what happened to you?’

    I’m all for stronger women and more sensitive men. Gender equality is a high and worthwhile goal. However, if we’re going to talk about rape culture, and not even consider men as potential victims or women as potential perpetrators, or which direction the statistics are moving, or the epidemic rates at which men are sexually assaulted in prison, how exactly are we going to make more sensitive, emotionally vibrant men?

  6. If found this article to be very interesting. As a father to two adolescent girls myself I want to raise strong independent girls. Girls that know they have a voice and are not afraid to use it. There is an inherent issues with that; most boys don’t know how to deal with a strong, confident, independent girl.

    In my opinion the solution isn’t in raising boys that are “softer”. We are already raising “softer” boys than we were 20 years ago. It is my belief that the base issue is the number of fatherless homes.

    By in large children that grow up fatherless are more likely to be angry. More likely to struggle with issues of identity, more likely hurt and be hurt.

    Maybe it’s not about how we raise our boys. Maybe it’s about raising our boys! It’s time for Dad’s to be dads, to be engaged, to be men, warrior strong and sublimely sensitive.

    • Interesting article…my HS friend does not allow his HS daughter (a specialized HS student) to date…she got grounded for kissing and posting photos on FB….he says that boys at that age have only one thing in mind….she will attend college in the fall, so he will have to relent on his strict rules….I have met her and she seems like a very modern, strong woman….and fierce, like her dad (she’s an athlete)….she seems more socially adept than I was at that age…

  7. We can use the language of ***strength*** to teach boys to respect girls’ sovereignty over their own bodies. Strength to build strength of character, strength of right-and-wrong, if young men need to think of themselves more as “strong” than as “soft” (although the wise understand there is strength in vulnerability). We need to keep pedal to the metal on the wisdom that forcibly taking you want from someone not as physically strong is **cowardly**, not a sign of strength.

  8. What I find interesting is that the author exhorts us to raise our sons with the experience of women as their primary value. I’ve never heard anyone on this site suggest that we raise our daughters to exist with the primacy of men as a central theme. I reject both approaches.

    As a father of both sons and daughters I shall raise my all my children to be strong and complete men and women.

    • Exactly. Why does advocating for girls and women always seem to require a requisite about of male-bashing and gender-biased assumptions?

      Can we actually care ABOUT ALL CHILDREN INSTEAD OF MALIGNING AN ENTIRE GENDER AND TREATING THEM LIKE ANIMALS, ALWAYS READY TO STRIKE?????????

      • Joanna Schroeder says:

        James, with all due respect, most women are raped by men. That is statistically undeniable.

        You know as well as I do how much GMP does to support male survivors of both male and female perpetrators. We have an article by or about male survivors nearly every single day here on GMP.

        Just because this one father of only daughters wanted to write about how he feels about HIS daughters and their risks doesn’t automatically make male survivors invisible or not real.

        But the reality is that while female-on-female rape does happen (certainly more than we know), there is absolutely NO data suggesting that females are raping females anywhere near the rates that men are. Therefore, if a father is talking about daughters being raped, he’s probably not going to address the small possibility that a female may perpetrated it.

        Again, just because it’s not in THIS article doesn’t make it not real to the author or to us.

        • Most male victims are raped by women. Would an article about protecting our sons from rape that spoke of the need to raise young girls with the message “don’t rape anyone, cunt” be welcome at the Good Men Project? Or are only male children-including those who are rape victims themselves- fair game?

        • Joanna, with all due respect, you created a bunch of straw-man arguments, dismantled them and implied they were my own thoughts in need of correcting. That was fancy and a bit dishonest of you. It was clearly, NOT done with respect.

          I’m glad you took those strawmen apart though, as I’ve always viewed them as an abomination. They aren’t actual people or even real arguments.

          If you would like to discuss this in good faith, that would be a different matter. I didn’t see that in your response – at all.

        • Greg Allan says:

          “…most women are raped by men. That is statistically undeniable.”

          Correct, but only because male perpetrators are more inclined to commit same sex abuse than female perpetrators. It is not an adequate excuse for the extreme marginalisation male victims and victims of female perpetrators have been subjected to for decades.

  9. What would anyone expect from the good men project short of a call to a new honor killing of boys that look funny to jezebelians?

  10. Stephen Schaal says:

    As a father of a two year old son I find this very offensive. The notion that he requires a fundamental alteration or else he will rape someone is ludicrous, and an insult to me as a parent. How can raising them to think a strong, assertive man is just a rape time-bomb a good idea? If this sort of blanket accusation was leveled against any other grouping of society there’d be a public outcry. I’m tired of seeing this sexism.

    • It’s even worse seeing it in a site that purports to be about men. Gmp is nothing more than a regular feminist attempt to shame and demonize men while pretending to care abiut them.

  11. It’s good to see more and more people are seeing the disgusting ideology behind this site. The mere name suggests men are not good and need to be made good.
    also, it’s fun to see joanna’s desperate attempt to defend this horrible article and her terrible site.
    people are seeing this place is just an attempt to shame, control and apply feminist ideology to men while trying to make it look like you suppprt them.

  12. This website unwittingly proves just how marginalized men really are. Even animals get more empathy than men and boys.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Yet this desire to get men and boys to feel has nothing to do with helping them. Rather, it is only about keeping them from hurting women. So volatile is male behavior that only by “softening” boys can they be changed. Or as Jeff Bogle puts it: […]

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