Dr. Jennifer Shewmaker

Boy-vs-World

In my last post I talked about the Greatness Book for Boys. One of my pet peeves is when children are told that there is a certain range of interests that are for boys and another for girls. This limits the way that children of both genders can express themselves and share their talents with the world.

Just as girls who like dinosaurs or race cars are told, “You can’t like that, it’s for boys,” boys who like arts and creativity are often told “You can’t like that, it’s for girls.” One of the most touching things I’ve ever heard was when a college senior stood up in front of a large group of students during chapel and talked about the journey he’d taken learning to accept himself. He has a wonderful, fun, bubbly personality that makes him a joy to be around. But, as he was growing up, he was often told that he shouldn’t “act that way,” because being enthusiastic and caring was perceived as unmanly. Finally, as a college student, he learned to love and accept the beautiful spirit that he was born with and to see it as a blessing.

He’s not the only boy who gets this message. Just as our products and media messages are telling girls that to be feminine they must focus on their looks and sexual attractiveness; these messages are telling boys that their worth lies in physical strength, material possessions and money, and often in being romantically involved with attractive females.

For boys in early adolescence, this can be very confusing. Developmentally, it’s very normal for early middle school boys not to be that interested in girls. But, when the TV shows and movies that they’re seeing depict success as a male tied to romantic relationships and with attractive females, they feel pressure. We see boys at this age being told that if they’re not involved romantically, then there’s something wrong with them.

Those of us who live and work with children need to keep sharing a different message with them. We need to let boys know that they have a set of talents that is all their own. If the world doesn’t get to see that, because they’re hiding it behind a façade of pseudo-masculinity, then everyone loses out. We need to let boys know that there is no pressure to be involved in romance until they’re ready. There’s plenty of time for that! Let them enjoy their childhood and learn to accept themselves as the amazing person they were made to be. We need to help boys embrace the beauty of their individual spirits as unique and important, whether they like sports or dance, cars or painting, dinosaurs or fashion design. If they like it, it is for boys! Let’s help them proclaim this.

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3 comments on “Boy-vs-World

  1. Phillip Page
    June 15, 2010

    Once again, well said!

    It is so important to be yourself! I find the most inspirational individuals are the ones who manage to break through the boundaries and limitations that our society has set! It is more important for you to be comfortable with yourself than it is for the world to be comfortable with you. When you are comfortable with yourself you are able to better understand what makes you unique, in turn you are then able to realize your true potential and use your unique gifts to empower others. Once you share yourself with others they are able to see that what makes you different also makes you valuable and that difference isn’t negative but positive. If everyone was the same, and everyone liked the same things, we would lose our ability to grow; we would hit a plateau where everyone simply did what was required to fit the mold society created.

    I feel that it is not enough to simply encourage individuality. Anyone who directly influences our youth should promote individuality by pursuing their unique passions and exposing their personal differences and strengths. By leading the way, we will all be doing our part to lead the world to a more understanding tomorrow.

    • drshew
      June 16, 2010

      Phillip, that is so true! You’ve inspired me to write another post1

  2. Jeramy
    June 18, 2010

    Not too long ago I was working as a pre-k teacher for a few days and it was my job to introduce the new segment all about dinosaurs. Every one of those children were excited to get to hear me read stories about the T-Rex or Stegosaurus. When I brought out the toys they were even more excited, girls and boys alike.

    I think it would be a horrible thing to take away that joy from any one of them. Childhood is an amazing time for self discovery, and the stereotypes children feel they have to conform to take away so many great opportunities.

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