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How do we raise our sons to treat girls and women respectfully...?

(82 Posts)
SpeedyGonzalez Thu 19-May-11 00:19:49

...no matter what they look like, what they're wearing, etc?

This thread is inspired by AnyFucker's thread about how her teen DD wants to dress, but it's about inculcating our sons with an inbuilt respect for women and belief that they are their equals.

Goblinchild Thu 19-May-11 01:59:55

Isn't there a thread currently running about raising boys and starting the idea of a book club on the subject in the feminist section?

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 19-May-11 07:13:09

We start with ourselves. The level of respect we demand as mothers, the examples we set, the qualities we champion, the behaviour we fail to tolerate, the language we use... will be how our sons think women are. However, I think we should not be hypocritical. In the same way as we all judge people (men as well as women) by various criteria, we should also be aware that,we can't realistically expect our children never to judge or make comparisons.

Bumfuzzle Thu 19-May-11 07:31:11

Agree - start with ourselves.

My boys don't see me doing all the housework for a start! They see their dad doing just as much as me. Their father is as fully involved with raising them as I am. Hands on. There's no such thing as women's work in THIS house!

I have actually banned the music channels. I feel very strongly that music videos are horrible things these days, with fully clothed men lording it over half naked women thrusting their gentials forward. Who's got the power there is so clear to see! I think those videos give a warped view of women.

I teach respect for other people (male and female), to consider other people's feelings and to be courteous. To treat everyone equally.

My eldest son was doing a project about the suffragettes recently, and we sat down and went through it. He was horrified by the way women have been treated. so I have clearly done something right grin

RainbowShite Thu 19-May-11 07:33:38

It's really important for our boys to see our DPs treating us with respect, as well.

SpeedyGonzalez Thu 19-May-11 13:36:01

Goblin - I looked before starting this thread, but didn't see one.

I agree about starting with ourselves, and I'm also concerned about how we help them to deal with external pressures. Bumfuzz, I'm intrigued by your ban of music channels - how old are your DCs? Do you think at some point you might consider discussing the content of music vids rather than relying on banning - it seems to me that kids will be at more of a disadvantage if we don't help them to understand better what's being thrust at them.

AMumInScotland Thu 19-May-11 13:58:37

I'd agree that you start by setting a good example round within your own household, relationships etc. And then as they pick up things from outside - repeating what someone said at nursery, coming out with stereotypes - you challenge those and discuss the issues. Obviously how you do that when your 4yo says "girls can't be racing drivers/astronauts/doctors" is different from when your 13yo says "I don't want to continue doing physics because all my friends say its a boys subject", or if they comment negatively about someone on TV because of their clothing.

It can feel like you're climbing a mountain, but if you challenge things and get them to think about why people have picked up on stereotypes, then hopefully they will apply a bit more thought than otherwise.

By the time they reach teens, you'd maybe want to talk about why the girls in those pop videos feel they have to dress and behave a certain way to be successful, and why real life girls copy them, and how that doesn't mean they are any less deserving of respect.

TrillianAstra Thu 19-May-11 14:12:19

<lurking because it is interesting>

Bumfuzzle Thu 19-May-11 14:39:09

speedy - they are 10 and 12.

They know why they are banned. I won't have them on in the house. I tell them that it is because it is unacceptable to watch women being degraded.
even if they are, to many, seemingly complicit in that by agreeing to be on the bloody thing in the first place

I'm not sure that either of them understand that much at the moment (they both have autism) but I don't want them growing up thinking you can swipe your credit card between a woman's buttocks, or grope her, or that it is normal for a woman to writhe around half naked on you while you treat her like she's nothing. I won't have them growing up thinking of women as 'ho's'.

and if you look at music videos - when a man is the singer, he will be clothed (normally). and he may be dancing a bit or he may not. More often he'll be being danced in front of, there'll be half naked women around.

when a woman is the singer - she will be half naked, writhing around. with close up crotch shots. Maybe she'll be rained on, all wet, clothes clinging on. Maybe she'll be in some skimpy pants and bugger all else. Maybe she'll be touching and stroking herself as she sings. But she sure as hell won't be fully clothed, sitting down while half naked men thrust their posing pouched genitals at her.

I really hate these videos, can you tell? grin

My eldest is talking about girls quite a lot at the moment. he asks me if he is allowed to touch girls. (they have been doing work in phse or whatever it's called these days!) So that's a great opportunity for me (and his dad) to reinforce the message that you only touch with express permission and that he understands what consent is.

And that people don't have the right to touch him either. An important thing, cos he is vulnerable.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 19-May-11 14:44:29

I think we have to be careful when we get into the field of who to 'respect'. It's fair enough to start with the message about being polite, well-mannered and treating everyone as equally as possible. But I don't think that should be at the expense of teaching them to weigh people up and decide if they deserve respect. A bit of streetsmarts rather than complete trusting naivety. The big bloke in the corner of the pub with the copious tattoos, shaved head, missing teeth and a dog called 'Fang' might be lovely to his mum, but I'd be advising any son of mine to give him a wide berth and certainly think hard before copying his appearance.

Bumfuzzle Thu 19-May-11 14:58:23

I don't mean to imply that they should not respect the women who do choose to thrust their gentials about in music videos btw. (to stick with the music video example) But that they should not be part of the culture of treating women like they are a piece of meat. That a woman is not an object that a man uses for his own gratification. For me, that means disregarding the fact that some women choose to participate in that and saying that it is not acceptable to view women that way.

AMumInScotland Thu 19-May-11 15:05:32

I guess the difference is between respecting the person, and respecting what they are doing - you can respect a young woman who does that, without respecting the music videos they are in, or the people who choose to make them. You can still respect the person, and their right to make choices, even if you think the choices they make are a bad idea.

MoreBeta Thu 19-May-11 15:08:54

Great thread. Reading with interest as we have two DSs and rapidly approachng teenage years. Agree with pretty much everything on here. Pop videos get switched off in our house too.

Will come back later with more comments.

Bumfuzzle Thu 19-May-11 15:14:18

That's certainly true.

My fear is that young lads see women in those videos and think that it is acceptable to treat women they meet like - meat. Without clear guidance on that, what if they think that women like to be manhandled and called whores? (to be simplistic about it)

It just gives totally the wrong impression. It sends out the wrong message. It shows an idea of a power difference between the genders that I really don't want my boys absorbing.

I am - disappointed - that women choose to strip off and thrust themselves about. I'll be honest.

I would give anything in the world for every woman approached to say "you what? You want me to take off my clothes and shove my fanny in your face while you sing about how I'm a whore? Fuck off."

SardineQueen Thu 19-May-11 15:16:12

"The big bloke in the corner of the pub with the copious tattoos, shaved head, missing teeth and a dog called 'Fang' might be lovely to his mum, but I'd be advising any son of mine to give him a wide berth and certainly think hard before copying his appearance."

Aw poor fella grin I know people who look like this, I think teaching not to judge on appearance is very important. IME the massive tattooed geezers are often 10x nicer than the blokes in the suits with the nice hair!

<goes back to lurking as it's an interesting topic but I have no boys>

SardineQueen Thu 19-May-11 15:17:09

Although I agree that copying his appearance is probably a poor move for a young lad grin

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 19-May-11 15:24:05

Is that a good message, though? Respecting someone regardless of the choices they are making? We can tell our kids to treat people politely but if they don't like what they do or agree with their decisions... whether that be gyrating round poles on a music video or playing violent computer games... should we be saying 'respect them anyway'? Put your own feelings to one side?

I think feminist principles about respecting women have to be tempered with the reality that our sons will encounter some women that don't deserve respect. That's not to say they have to be unpleasant or abusive towards them but they do have to be wary that such people exist.

tigercametotea Thu 19-May-11 15:26:26

It starts from the home, from the environment in which the boys were raised. They can only learn from what they see. If they see the men around them treating women like dirt, and the women around them were aiding and abetting that sort of treatment (or at least allowing that to go on) then there is a rather good chance the boys will grow up to be men who also treat women the same way.

tigercametotea Thu 19-May-11 15:27:41

I'm not sure if there should be anyone out there who doesn't deserve any respect though. Shouldn't there a difference between respecting someone else's choices in life and agreeing with their choices??

DirtyMartini Thu 19-May-11 15:27:43

We have discussed this, in re both our kids (DS 3 and DD 1).

I don't know if banning things like music channels outright is what we'll do, as I worry that it will make them want to watch the banned stuff.
I worry that banning shuts down discussions sometimes, is all. I can totally see that I may have to eat my words at some stage though.

Not an issue at the mo obviousy, as we don't watch that crap ourselves and the kids are too little to ask for it, but ideally I would like to stop short of an outright ban whilst still making it clear that I don't like those depictions of women and don't want them on when I'm around; DP is of the same mind. If the dc disagree then hopefully it will spark some sort of discussion rather than a "but everyone else watches it" whinge <idealistic>

Other plans we have in the area of example-setting are (1) not bringing any woman-undermining crap into the home ourselves (for example, random copies of women's glossy mags; I used to occasionally buy them, but not any more) and (2) making sure that we have a lot of good, interesting magazines and papers and books lying around for them to stumble across.

I vividly recall that when I was a teenager I didn't admit to being hugely influence by my dad, but in fact lots of my views were shaped by his copies of things like Mother Jones, The Nation, random feminist books my mum had left behind when she moved out, etc etc. He probably didn't know I read half that stuff, but the important thing was that it was all constantly available to me via stacks of subscriptions cluttering up the coffee table. We lived in a small, not-very-diverse, quite socially conservative US town, so it meant I was exposed from a young age to a much wider range of viewpoints than I'd have known about otherwise.

In the online age I buy less media now than he used to, but I'm gonna make a point of reverting to hard copies as the kids grow and just leaving good stuff around all the time.

god sorry, my posts are always so loooooong blush

Bumfuzzle Thu 19-May-11 15:28:20

I think that you can respect someone as a human being and treat them with courtesy, while not respecting at all their actions.

I think for someone to not deserve even basic human respect, they'd have to do horrible, horrible things - hurt, maim, kill, beat kittens, etc

Mind you, not being unpleasant or abusive is giving a measure of respect to another human being, isn't it?

DirtyMartini Thu 19-May-11 15:32:48

And I managed to miss out the other important thing which is that we have been looking hard at our relationship too, and trying to ensure we practice what we preach; and I do think we will have to constantly check and re-check that we are not slipping into habits that set a bad example as the years roll by.

Like at the moment, I work p/t from home and DP works f/t with a big commute. He is always home for bath and bedtime and it's mostly his job; he also does a lot of housework, about half; but I do ALL the cooking, food shopping, meal planning, and laundry, which is actually pretty lame in the sense of making those things seem like "what mummies do", but it's just the way it's panned out with me being at home a lot more. We are both aware that we need to redistribute this stuff at some point so it's more balanced, and particularly so that DS can see that cooking is something everyone can/should do, not mum's work.

sunshineandbooks Thu 19-May-11 15:42:53

Well I can't model the good relationships side of things as I'm single and so are most of my friends. grin

However, DS sees me doing DIY just as much as the washing (well, not quite, otherwise I'd be constantly knocking the house about, but you get the gist). I do a lot of 'typically male' activities as well as female ones.

I used to worry that I would inadvertently teach him that women do everything and therefore he can either sponge off one or feel obsolete for the rest of his life. Fortunately, I have now got over this nonsensical worry by realising that as long as I teach him personal responsibility and ensure he pulls his weight in a group situation, it matters not. As long as he is taught that men and women are equal, and all his role models are good, it doesn't matter if those role models are male or female.

I also challenge sexist assumptions whenever I come across them.

sunshineandbooks Thu 19-May-11 15:43:52

Agree with the music channels things too. Horrible stuff!

frantic51 Thu 19-May-11 15:46:05

Well, I had a "traditional" marriage until divorced. Ex went out to work and brought home the bacon and I did all the household bits as a SAHM. I never banned pop videos and didn't flip when I found porn on DS's phone aged 14 (I wasn't snooping, he lent me his phone to take a photo of an absolutely dire hotel room when we were staying away and then disappeared into the bathroom - I was just trying to see if the photo I had taken had been saved) I put it down to a natural curiosity.

All that notwithstanding his girlfriend's parents, especially the mother, think he is wonderful! I got a lovely text from her after his first stay and she waxed lyrical about his good manners, respectfulness and helpfulness (he cooked a meal while he was there as he has been avidly learning to cook in preparation for going away to college in September).

So quite what I did "right" I don't know. hmm grin

He has always been very concious of girls as people, probably owing to having two sisters, one older and one younger, of whom he is VERY protective. He says he treats girls as he would wish his sisters to be treated. Maybe that has something to do with it?

On a quite anti-feminist note though, he was very upset last year when he was trying to date another girl. Walking back to boarding houses one Saturday evening, it became suddenly very cold, as he was wearing a jacket and a fleece, he offered said girl his jacket as she was just wearing a strappy top. She later said that she couldn't possibly "go out" with him as he was just "too wet". sad

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