Teach Your Girls to Get Dirty, Your Boys to Be Soft
Many years ago, I worked in an area with construction everywhere. Flat tires were a regular occurrence. Of course, you never realize you have a nail in your tire when it’s convenient. It’s always when you have no time and someplace to be.
I had watched my boyfriend change my tire before. I saw what he did. I knew where the jack and the spare tire for my little Chevy S-10 was located so I did what I needed to do. I changed my tire all by myself. It felt good. I felt strong and capable.
Every woman I know that has to do something they don’t necessarily want to do, without the help of a man, feels the same thing afterward. Empowered.
I read an article last week about a football coach out of Athens, AL who has what he calls “Manly Mondays.” He teaches his players how to do basic things like change a tire or make a simple plumbing repair. How to “look a man in the eye and give him a firm handshake.”
Not how to look a person in the eye. How to look a man in the eye. It’s subtle. Most people won’t notice that. I did. I’m willing to be a lot of other women did, too. Somewhere inside that will register with those boys. They heard it, too.
I love the concept of teaching life skills but can’t get over what he called the class. It doesn’t sit well with me. It’s well intended but, like the comment on the handshake, it sends the wrong message. There is an undertone that is easily missed in the good intention.
Changing a tire or knowing how to make simple household repairs should have nothing to do with being manly. It should have everything to do with being a functional adult. Regardless of gender.
I love the fact that I have raised my daughter in a manner that, if this was her school, she’d show up. She’d elbow her way right into that group of football players and just say, “What’s up?” That coach would let her stay because woe be to any man that would tell her she couldn’t. She’s fierce.
I am incredibly self sufficient. I taught myself how to be that way. I’m a single mom. When something breaks in my house it’s all me. When my tree fell on my wall, I grabbed the chainsaw. When my irrigation broke and a fountain erupted in my front yard, I taught myself how to fix PVC. I can use a Kreg jig. I built my own shelves this weekend.
This coach means well. I appreciate the work he is doing. But it reinforces gender stereotyping that helps no one.
Girls need to know that they don’t have to be the damsel in distress. Boys need to know that we don’t need them to fix things for us.
Girls can be tough. Boys can be vulnerable. That’s what we’re not teaching our kids.
Consider what happens if we switch the roles. What if we had a class for girls on how to change tires? What if we had a class for boys on how to actually talk about your emotions? This is where good work would be done.
Boys don’t need yet another man in their life telling them that their worth to the world and to women hinges on whether or not they can fix something.
I feel bad for any boy growing up in a culture where his value is based on what he can fix, earn and do in a household instead of that emotional value he can give to his partner.
The coach noted that he can also make jewelry. Women like when you give them little things and do stuff for them. We do. I’m not going to lie. But you can serve boys and girls better by teaching them other skills.
I don’t want trinkets. I don’t want someone to fix the leaky pipe under the sink. I have YouTube and Google to help me with that. I want someone who can sit down on a couch next to me and be there for me when I am overwhelmed and hear me.
Please teach boys to be wholehearted human beings. Please teach girls to be self sufficient. It’s not even a matter of leveling a playing field. It’s a matter of understanding that physical and emotional survival is a need of all humans.