On the back of my van I have a bumper sticker which declares, ‘I run like a girl. Try to keep up’. It’s my little tongue-in-cheek way of displaying my own version of ‘girl power’. I know darn well that most men my age can’t keep up with me, which I am proud of. I was one of those people whose heart soared watching the ‘Run like a Girl’ commercial which aired during the 2015 Super Bowl, which sought to reinterpret the insult that ‘like a girl’ has become.
That girl power stuff – I eat it up.
Like many people, I detest the images magazines constantly project of smooth-skinned, flawless-faced, perfectly toned women with long flowing blond hair. I know they don’t exist; at least not in reality. That doesn’t mean I didn’t (or don’t) still try to obtain that level of perfection, which was always allusive to me.
And while I truly believe beautiful people are those with compassionate hearts and intriguing minds, it doesn’t mean I don’t put my make-up on in the morning and spend more money than necessary on skin creams and lipgloss. I, with millions of other women, watched and shared the Colbie Calliat music video which reminded girls and women that we don’t have to try so hard to gain worth; we already are valuable.
If I had daughters, I’d want them to see those types of commercials; those types of videos, because I’d want them to grown up into women who are comfortable in their own skin. I’d want them to know their voice is important. I’d want them to know that they are ‘enough’ exactly as they are.
But I don’t have daughters.
I have sons. Three of them.
And I want to know where all the videos are that tell my sons (and all the boys and men out there) that it’s okay to cry; that being the star football player isn’t all there is in life; that real men don’t have to drive pick-up trucks (but they can); that they are valuable just as they are.
If girls are growing up with this idea that they must be sexier, smarter, and prettier because of what they’ve seen, heard, and read, then it stands to reason that our boys have seen, heard, and read these same things.
How do my sons know that most men carry six packs in their hand on the way to the summer barbecue and not tote them on their abs, if they’ve been told that real men do? And how do my sons know that pouty lips, firm breasts, and bedroom eyes aren’t a reality if they’ve been inundated just as much as our girls?
The question we should be asking is what affect those glossed images of women and men are having on our girls and boys.
I know it’s scary to raise girls, but it is just as scary to raise boys.
We’ve set our boys up in a fantasy land, just as much as we’ve peddled it to our girls.
So to my sons who are growing up faster than I thought possible [actually to anyone – boy, man, girl, woman]:
The sexiest thing you will ever do is hold someone’s hand and cry with them – no cowboy boots necessary.
The strongest thing you will ever do is stand up for someone other than yourself – no bulging triceps needed.
The most beautiful thing you will ever see is yourself in the mirror looking back at you – no pornography or pin-up required.
The most courageous thing you will ever do is embrace the life you’ve been given – no video game will ever come close to that.
I don’t care if you ‘run like a girl’ or ‘fight like a man’; my only dream is that you grow into the men you want to be.