I usually spend my long commute home listening to a popular radio show. Every day the host poses a question for the “grown folks” conversation. He begins with a back story that explains what prompted the question.
Distracted by the traffic report (50 more minutes), the host recently asked, “so, is it harder to raise boys or girls, and why is there a difference?” As he gave the call-in number I thought about the Mother Goose nursery rhyme–
What are little boys made of?
“Snips and snails, and puppy dogs tails
That’s what little boys are made of/!”
What are little girls made of?
“Sugar and spice and all things nice
That’s what little girls are made of!”
Caller after caller gave his or her argument on which sex was harder to raise. It was clear that the majority of the callers and, I suspect, society believe boys and girls are to be raised differently.
So, my question is, other than the technical points of potty training, why do we continue raising the next new generation with these Mother Goose notions? And, how will boys and girls grow into equal women and men if society has separate emotional, spiritual and physical boxes marked “for boys” and “for girls.”
One thing I am sure of is this: it will take more than parents and those who do the day-to-day raising to shift this paradigm. While we celebrate gender equality we have become relaxed in actively observing cultural practices that promote inequality (the film Miss Representation provides a good example). We have to stir conversation that is committed to digging for what holds these practices in place. For example, why are girls the focus of most conversations about healthy self-esteem or body image? Are boys born with healthy self-esteem? And, ultimately, we must examine who benefits from the practice.
This “grown folks” question has raised many more questions for me around discipleship and leadership but for now, how can Women of the ELCA’s health initiative, Raising Up Healthy Women and Girls, help units in this conversation?
Valora K Starr is director for discipleship.
Top photo by Lexie Flickinger. Used with permission.
Bottom photo by Lexie Flickinger. Used with permission.
Featured image by Kyle Taylor. Used with permission.