Sexist language is deeply ingrained in our society's image in what it means to be a boy. As we learn and grow as a society we should also seek to redefine manhood. Let us throw away the old sexist stereotypes of what a 'boy' should be and move towards a more positive and affirming celebration of each child's individuality.
- You ___ like a girl
Probably the most common sexist thing we tell boys, that they hit/throw/run like a girl. This tells our sons that only boys can be good at sports and that girls are naturally non-athletic. Add to this the societal value we place on being part of a sports team, telling boys this can destroy their self-esteem before it has a chance to develop.
- Boys will be boys
No. We say this when boys are aggressive towards others, in particular whent they're aggressive towards women. Boys may be boys but that doesn't mean being an asshole is the measure of what makes a man.
- Man up
Telling our sons this is telling them that men aren't supposed to be vulnerable or show their emotions. This leads to emotional immaturity and an inability to connect with others on a deeper level. Worst case it leads to emotional instability and unpredictable outbursts due to an inability to control one's emotions.
- Boys don't wear pink
Gender isn't defined by a color palate. Period.
- Only girls wear dresses
Iggy pop. Eddie Izzard. Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Enough said.
- You need a haircut
Although to a much lesser degree, boys are subject to societal standards regarding looks. When men started wearing their hair longer in the 60's and 70's, the common retort was 'you look like a girl'.
Know Better - Do Better
If we're going to raise sons to be respectful, compassionate, empathetic, and leaders of the future then we, as parents, have to do better. We have to put aside the sexist ideals of the past and move towards a better future. The societal ideal that violence garners respect is growing and growing and we must turn the tide.
It starts with us and what we say to our sons.