Raise your boys like you raise your girls

I have spent a lot of my life wondering what on earth is wrong with men.

Whether it was watching my father or my brother, talking to my male friends, or piecing through my own romantic involvements, I have, more often than not, been left thinking; what happened to them?

We can argue that men are from Mars as much as you like, but I call bulls**t on that entire discourse. It feels too much like a copout, and it’s way past time we took some responsibility anyway.

They’re not from different planets, we’ve just always acted like they were, and therein lies the problem. It’s why we have such miscommunication between the sexes, and why we still don’t live in a gender balanced world.

The idea that ‘boys will be boys’ has permeated our society for as far back as anyone can remember, and so we’ve quite happily raised a generation of men on that basis, and in doing so, we’ve effectively ruined things for the women of today. Because the word ‘boy’ is so very narrow in its definition. Flick through the history books and boys hunt, and gather, they kill and take, play with sticks and stones, and their masculinity depends on being strong and providing for a woman. That’s pretty much all there is to it. They have their role as provider, and there’s no expectation beyond that.

In comparison, the word ‘girl’, isn’t limited, but rather, all encompassing. Girls were raised to be nurturers, careers, protectors, soldiers, freedom fighters, mothers, providers, leaders, fathers, sisters, warriors, queens and rebels. We were told that girl power was our thing and we could be a boss if we wanted. We were raised to fight for everything, take what we wanted from the patriarchy, but we were also raised to care. To give and receive love, and to nurture life. There was so much expectation placed upon such small shoulders, whereas our male counterparts were free to be simply boys playing in the mud.

The biggest difference in our upbringing, and quite frankly the most problematic one, is the way we taught children how to love. When girls grew up, and experienced their first heartbreak, our mothers picked us up, dried our tears and told us to go again. And again, and again. They told us that we would find love one day, that we would heal, that we would love again. They told us to keep our hearts wide open, despite the many men who would try to close them.

The same isn’t true for boys growing up. The heartbreak they encountered, and of course there were many, wasn’t talked about or discussed. It was often wrapped up in aggressive behavior while mothers silently let them ‘get it out their system’ before adamantly proclaiming that no one was good enough for their son. They weren’t encouraged to talk about their pain, sift through broken hearts, because after all, a man doesn’t care about emotional stuff like that, and nor were they encouraged to get up and love again.

It might seem like a small thing, but it’s a fundamental difference to the men they would become. We’ve raised a generation of men who are one dimensional in their abilities, and who aren’t expected to step up to their emotions, or the multiple roles modern society needs them to play. We’ve essentially raised them to lay food on the table and not discuss emotions.

Now I appreciate that back in the day it was harder to be a provider, and you had to be strong to go out and kill a deer, but things have changed, and what good are your hunting abilities to me now? The corporate world is the new hunting ground and I go out and slay my metaphorical deer every day to put food on my table, so really, your bow and arrow, and your silent words, are no good to me.

There’s a real lack of courage around men today, and we like to call it ‘commitment issues’, but actually, it goes far deeper than that. We’ve spent so many years boxing men into such narrow roles, told them they didn’t have to be anything but boys, and given them permission to easily break from heartache, that it’s no wonder you have such misunderstanding between the genders today.

If, after my first heartbreak, I had told my mother I was done for life, she would have promptly given me a smack around the head, while informing me that she didn’t raise me that way. My older brother didn’t get that treatment after his first breakup. We watched it quietly from the sidelines, didn’t really talk about it, and let him deal with it in whichever way he wanted. His ex girlfriend, forever the one that ‘scarred him’. We didn’t expect much more from him, and nor did we tell him that he had a responsibility, to himself, to open up and to love again.

Boys will be boys, unless we start demanding something more from them. Unless we give them permission to be multifaceted, and allow them to define themselves outsides the paradigms of money and strength. We should be raising our boys to be nurturers and carers, as well as protectors and fighters. The world has changed so dramatically, yet we’ve left boys and men far behind somewhere in the dark ages. I care little for the size of his muscles or his paycheck. Instead, I need a man who has the ability to switch between various roles, from father to mother, and nurse to fighter. I need a man who has the courage to care for another heart beyond his own, without fear of vulnerability or pain. That’s a strength I value far beyond your ability to drag home a carcass.


Salma El-Wardany