I have an ongoing joke with my sister. Since she’s not married, I remind the boys that if my dad isn’t available and I’m not around, then they are in charge of their aunt. I’m not sure which she finds most amusing: that I’d say it, or the fact that the boys actually believe me.
Obviously, I’m kidding around. But recently, I’ve become more attuned to the fact that the little dudes are taking their cues about a lot of different aspects of being a man from me — how to conduct themselves, how to interact with other men, and yes, how to treat women.
Most boys follow their dad’s lead when it comes to women, healthy or not. But my kids will never see me interact with a wife. They do, however, witness me deal with other women every day.
To be honest, the topic of how I treat women never really crossed my mind too much in the past. But now Gus likes this girl — I know who she is, but I’ve sworn secrecy never to reveal her name — and suddenly I’m concerned about how he and Niko see women. I want them to view women the same way they do men: just people.
That’s when I realized that our society, and almost every society around the world, views women as being something lesser, something weak. Think about it: “You run like a girl,” “You throw like a girl,” “He’s crying like a girl.”
Whenever I hear someone throws like a girl, I’m reminded of this woman I knew in California, who had attended college on a fast-pitch softball scholarship. Once on an ill-fated date, she sprained a guy’s hand. He had insisted she throw as hard as she could, yet he declined to wear a glove because, after all, she was just a girl.
Actually, I started putting the kibosh on equating women to bad performance or weakness a couple of years back. There was this kid at Scouts, who rather adamantly expressed his distaste for removing the seeds of the pumpkins we were carving.
The other boys started good-naturedly teasing him about it by calling him “Emily.” There was no explanation for the choice of name, but the message was clear: Boys don’t mind sticking their hands into cold, slimy squash innards.
After a minute or two, I stepped in and told him that he could either clean the pumpkin himself or stand up and ask the other boys exactly why they thought girls were bad or weak. Several of the other dads got my point, and the teasing stopped. The kid returned to carving, his pumpkin immaculately free of seeds and strings courtesy of the gay dad.
So now when one of the boys’ friends or even one of my brothers uses “like a girl” in a derogatory manner, I simply add, “there’s nothing wrong with girls, they’re great.”
And recently I’ve started to take it a step further. I’ve started to make comments about all women being beautiful. I don’t want my boys to view women and beauty through the limited lenses forced on them by Madison Avenue. They’ve been hearing a lot of, “All women are beautiful” lately.
I think that’s one of the gifts of being gay. I can see the beauty, the power, the awesomeness of women specifically because they don’t rock my world in that physical way. Of course, there are plenty of straight guys that feel the same way about women as I do.
I just want to make sure that my sons grow up to be two of them.