A couple things have happened over the past few weeks that caused me to reflect on how I should raise my son to treat women. Inherently I know that he will develop a lot of thoughts, actions, and attitudes based on my words and examples, but it dawned on me that I will not be the only source of influence that shapes his behavior. I’m really interested in feedback from other parents of boys, so please feel free to comment.
One: Photoshop Advertising
We were at the mall a few weeks back and I was holding T. as we waited for the rest of our party to finish up in the restroom. On the wall behind me was a large advertisement for women’s make up that featured a very pretty woman with big eyes staring out at the world. T. was absolutely transfixed by the poster, grinning from ear to ear. This came as no surprise to me since he’s a huge flirt with all the ladies, but I realized that he was staring at a digitally-altered image that represented some marketing firm’s perception of what natural beauty looks like to the most popular audience. Even at this age what he sees is shaping his views of the world. Of course he liked the image, but I don’t want him to limit his scope of beauty to what the advertisers are feeding him. (NOTE: This digitally altered perception of beauty also applies to advertisements of men, so if T. happens to be gay I believe this still applies.)
Despite our best efforts, he is going to be bombarded with the highest concentration of marketing and advertising of any generation – and this is coming from someone from someone who lived through MTV, the advent of the Internet, Myspace, Facebook, Nickelodeon, and Saturday Morning Cartoons. Looking back I know my generation was a marketing cash cow, but my son’s generation will be a marketing wet dream! I want him to be able to differentiate what is real from what isn’t, and the lines are so blurred now that it’s difficult for even me to tell. At the very least I want to teach him that true beauty lies on the inside. Oy.
Two: The “Sexy X-ies”
I “follow” our local commercial rock radio station on Facebook. Just like every other corporate rock station in America they have local women in the 18-25 age range that dress up in skimpy outfits and appear at promoted events with the sole purpose of increasing participation from their target audience – males between the ages of 18 and 29. Now to this station’s credit, they do a decent job at selecting a wide variety of women instead of pulling an Abercrombie & Fitch and trying to sell a particular “image”. But that certainly didn’t stop the haters on Facebook from coming out full force. The radio station posted an image of their latest group of “Sexy X-ies” and some of the comments were jaw-dropping. Some verbatim examples:
“Looks like a bunch of butter faces.”
“They look like the [local strip club] rejects lol.”
“2 outta 5 ain’t bad.”
“Ugly ass girls lol.”
“Man this is all false advertising.”
I could go on and on with the vitriol but you get my point. Most of these comments were made by the radio station’s target audience – again males age 18 to 29 – and they certainly didn’t mind their names being out on display in a public forum such as Facebook. What kind of boys are we raising if this is their level of judgment against women, and let’s remember that these women are someone’s daughters? More disturbingly, what kind of men will these boys turn into if we deem this acceptable? This has all sorts of implications for the self-esteem and self-image of these women, rape culture, and chauvinism, yet the voices who spoke up against it were batted down and rendered irrelevant. This is NOT how I want my son to behave towards ANYONE.
Such are the challenges that await me and my wife as he develops. I can’t help but feel this world is very, very different from the one we grew up in, the one in which our parents raised us. And while I passionately look forward to raising him right and teaching him about love, beauty, and respect, the fact remains that it will be an uphill battle against the fabric of society. Oy indeed.