Elke Govertsen believes we need to show the same respect for boys that we do for girls by pushing people to stop using the harmful words in our language like “wimpy”, “sissy” and “be a man”.
The campaign to Ban Bossy has really taken off. There is momentum, discussion and PR.
Sounds great, but please, please don’t stop there. Please take a few other choice words that we somehow have determined have a gender affiliation. Take on “wimpy,” “sissy” and “be a man” and whatever the hell that implies.
I am the mother of sons and am in full support of encouraging better ways to speak to and about girls. But I watch my sweet sons faces as people crack jokes at them like “Stay away from my daughters,” and “lady killer” about their looks, and “wimpy” or “man up” when they cry. The implied threat of their future sexuality, the messaging that they will somehow become something that fathers need to protect daughters from, is not only confusing, but also frightening to them. What have they done wrong? What will they become? On the flip side, they are squeezed out of expressing themselves. The rock and the hard place for boys needs to be part of the “bossy” campaign. Ban Bossy, while it is focusing on equality it is missing the opportunity to be gender equal.
But there is more…
While you have the national stage, let’s talk about name calling and shaming in general. I am not just talking about kids; I am talking about adults who are talking TO kids. And how we speak to each other.
Feeling bad about ourselves takes an enormous amount of energy, resources and time. And it is a vicious cycle, because when we feel crummy about ourselves, we often take it out on other people and makes them feel small too.
Shame and name calling are insidious and contagious epidemics.
So today, my challenge to myself if this:
• Listen to my words. My own words.
• Catch the names, labels and shaming.
• Then listen harder, to my mind talk.
• Be unflinchingly honest about the words I attach to people and their actions, even the ones I don’t say out loud.
• Be particularly aware of my words to my kids. We have a tendency to speak to kids in ways we would never an adult.
• Once we get over the shock of our own contributions to name calling, make a point of catching it before it comes out of your mouth. Before the words cannot be unsaid.
• Work backwards and start at the source of our own bias and judgment.
• Quiet that awful part of our own minds, but looking deep enough to see that our own self worth is the root.
• Work every day to build up the people around us. Girls, boys, ourselves.
Take the momentum and use it to make some fundamental changes. Seismic shifts happen on fault lines — see our own faults in this and sure up the foundation. Dig deep.
Start with bossy, but don’t stop there.
Originally published on Huffington Post
Photos: [top] C.S.V. flickr, [bottom] Holly Andres