Saturday, January 7, 2017

Some New Years Resolutions For Boys

Happy 2017! It's time to make some personal resolutions to get the year off on the right track. So here's a little something we concocted for school-aged boys about some resolutions (plans or changes) they can make with themselves and with others to improve their chances in life (and survival!) in the upcoming year. Some are funny, some are important, and some are just totally random, but all are good resolutions to make (and even better ones to KEEP). Mind you, these are but ten suggestions just to get them thinking, so they should of course feel free to add their own. Fair warning though, this post is targeted for boys, so it's going to get a little, well, boyish. But nothing wrong with that!

1. Get off your hinder! Just in case you were that one kid who didn't play Pokemon Go! last year, you spent enough time just sitting around wracking up points and unlocking new achievements. It's time to get some circulation back in your legs and move. This winter, get out and huck a snowball. In the spring, go climb a tree. In the summer, go splash in a pool. In the fall, go hike a trail. Think of the stories you'll have to tell by this time next year. Get a parent's permission and then go explore. Go have a real adventure while the sun's still shining. Don't worry, your tablets and phones will still be waiting for you when you get back. Pokemon Go! anyone? 

2. Stop saying "that's so gay." Because it's not okay. Some people identify as gay and it's disrespectful to them, especially when you're using it to say something is bad. If you want to say something is bad, whatever happened to "that sucks" or "that's stupid"? Also try avoiding words like "retarded" or "lame" to describe things you don't like. Some people do have mental retardation, and some people can't walk. So if you don't want to be called a "loser" or a "jerk" in return, don't act like one! 

3. Dance daily. Break dance. Hand stand. Jump around. Twirl. Spin. Air guitar. Pirouette (if you know what that is). Shake. TWERK! (That's right, guys can twerk too!) Treat your energy like you treat your farts... whatever you gotta do, just let it out. Be loud and proud! If you got to do it in private because you're embarrassed, that's okay, go in your room and rock out. If you want to do it with your friends, show 'em what you got! If you're sad, you'll feel much better. If you're getting lazy, you'll be getting good exercise. And newsflash fellas, girls love a great dancer.

4. Learn to say "girls rule too." That Star Wars movie rocked, right? Of course it did. Did it matter that a GIRL was the main hero? Heck no. You know Rey was as badass as any Jedi in training ever was! So next time you find yourself losing to a girl at something, remember this and your training will be complete young padawan: girls rule too. So never say " a girl" like it's a bad thing. Anything boys can do, girls can do, and sometimes often better. Remember that, and you'll have fun, even if they're "making it look easy." Let the girls play along, and may the better man, or girl, win. Sometimes the Force is just strong with her!

5. Read an awesome book. Yes, even if that means reading one on your tablet. Also, the ones with real paper pages aren't bad either. Visit a bookstore, because there's no telling what you'll find. It doesn't matter what you read as long as you read something, because reading is how you learn things, get new ideas, and get silly, whether it's a comic book, a game novelization, or Homer's Iliad! Whatever your pleasure be, reading stuff shows you all kinds of new things and puts all kinds of new ideas in your head that help make you more awesome. If you're not reading, you're not being as awesome as you could be.

6. Stock up on new jokes. Those old jokes you've been telling all year are getting, well, old and stale and smelly. Now's the time to restock your supply of yucks. We're not talking "knock knocks" and "a man walks into a bar" stuff. We're talking memes, caption this, animal macros, epic fails, youtube challenges, and of course, using your phone for its intended purpose. Okay, some jokes never get old, they just get funnier with the internet. Shall we say #pullmyfinger?

7. Do your homework. Remember back in September when you said "This school year's going to be THE year"? Now's the time to start saving what's left of THE year. This sounds like your mom talking, doesn't it? Well, like they always say "mother knows best." You want a nice job someday right? This is the year to get your butt in gear and stop slacking!  You'll thank yourself later when you're thinking about college, and your mom will thank you too.

And remember, if you work hard, you earn the right to play hard, which leads us to number 8:

8. Learn a new hobby. The English have a saying: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." Well, whether your name is Jack, or Bill, or Nick, or Phil, please, don't be a dull boy this year. Fly a kite. Ride a bike. Learn a craft. Learn a sport. Learn to carve wood. Make a bottle rocket. Learn gymnastics. Buy a drone and take it for a spin. Lift some weights. Take up skateboarding. Learn to cook. Tinker with electronics. Go fishing. Learn to paint. Learn to play an instrument. Take up karate (just give yourself some room when watching the videos). Join scouting. All you need is some adult supervision (and permission), and you're good to go. Yes, learning to burp on command counts.

9. Speak out! Alright, time to get serious for a minute. Remember that thing that's bothering you, whether you've heard it's "nothing to be a crybaby about" or not, this is your time to speak out about it. If you're dealing with bullies, whether at school, at home, or online, speak out! You're not being a crybaby, you're being brave! If you're dealing with rough stuff at home, speak out. If you have a friend who's dealing with some rough stuff, speak out for them. There's all kinds of people and places who can help. Nobody worth your life should stop you or guilt-trip or embarrass you into staying silent. Don't put that stuff off another year. It's important, man stuff, and it's time to "get it off your chest."

10. Stay clean. Stay safe. This goes without saying. Basically, make a resolution to always wash your armpits, brush your teeth, wipe your uh, personal card swiper, and eat healthy. Also, make a resolution to not do anything too stupid this year, okay? A little stupidity here and there is fun (and may come natural at times!), but a little always goes a long way. Be silly, be bold, be goofballs, be gross, be funny, but remember, it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt. So please, no hitting below the belt!

Follow these suggestions and you'll be happy and at least remain in one piece for next year!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

5 Ways Girls Should Respect Boys

We've talked before on this blog how boys should always respect girls. It's one of the most important things we can teach our sons. But part of ensuring that boys will respect girls is making sure they are being respected by them in return. Yes, respect is always earned, but it's also always a two-way street. It should be obvious that ALL of the following points apply to both boys and girls equally, but media portrayals often perpetuate double standards that render boys as "fair game" for girls, often under the notion that they are promoting "girl power" by doing so, or being funny.

Example from "Good Luck Charlie"
While the responses of boys who are randomly asked to "slap a girl" often show us very encouraging results, the reverse may not always be true about whether girls or boys can even recognize disrespect or abuse against boys for what it is. Sometimes, instances of girls overtly carrying out acts of malevolent aggression or pychological threats against boys can be so commonplace within society and the media that they will often be overlooked by both sexes. This is not healthy, and breeds further animosity and retaliation.

Here are five ways we can empower girls (and boys) to reverse this phenomenon: 

1. No hitting: This should go without saying (like everything on this list), but aggressive bullying isn't just a "boy thing." Double standards on this issue, perpetuated in the media, can sometimes teach girls that it is "okay" to hit boys, just so long as "boys can't hit girls." Such behavior is never acceptable (unless the victim is acting in self defense), and kids should not get the impression that physical violence is acceptable for anyone, and certainly not on the basis of gender-coded acceptability. This includes "below the belt" hitting, which kids can sometimes get the idea is "funny" based on images they're exposed to in the media and seek to imitate. Boys should never hit girls, and girls should never hit boys, and consequences should be equally enforced against those who do. In stomping out "boys will be boys," let's not inadvertently create a "girls will be girls" culture. This includes girls "slapping" boys out of frustration, and also using just the threat of physical violence even when no overt physical abuse has transpired. Girls and boys should also report acts of violence they witness, whether the victim be male or female. 

2. No teasing: Another one that should go without saying. It's no surprise that girls can be very mean-spirited when it comes to non-violent or verbal aggression. Sometimes because of various standards perpetuated by the media, boys can be viewed as targets of this kind of "girl power!" harassment. This type of teasing is distinguished from healthy "girl power" expressions by being primarily about bashing or belittling boys, rather than being about empowering girls. Boy-bashing shouldn't be acceptable. "Boys are Stupid! Throw Rocks at Them!" and other boy-bashing slogans fall into this category. Joking and gentle-ribbing is one thing, as long as it's generalized and genuinely observational, but should never be used as a taunt to demean or demoralize someone. Basically, a boy's biological status as a "boy" shouldn't be something used against him personally for other's enjoyment. 

3. No stereotyping: This kind of continues from "no teasing," but it involves the more specific stereotyping of boys that girls can be just as capable of doing as boys can be about girls. Often we hear about why boys shouldn't use phrases that are disrespectful of girls and their capabilities, such as "you throw like a girl!" Just as well, girls should be taught to avoid phrases that are disrespectful of boys. For example, girls can sometimes be as dismissive or derogatory of boys who choose to wear pink as other boys can be toward those boys. They can also exclude boys from toys or activities that are typical of "traditional girlhood" and make fun of them for preferring them, either calling them "girls" (when they don't identify as such) or "gay" (when they are not). This shouldn't be any more acceptable than boys who make fun of girls for being into any activity that is traditionally boyish. Girls can be just as intolerant as boys, and this is a form of bullying regardless of which sex is doing it. 

4. No manipulating: There is another form of "being mean" that some girls can fall into against boys, and that is to take advantage of them. The girl in this case may not be overtly violent, verbally abusive, or condescending toward the boy, but may be simply taking advantage of his kindness, shyness, or, let's face it, his "slower cognitive maturation" (or the assumption of such) in order to gain some kind of material or personal advantage over, from, or through him. Girls can be quite manipulative at times and try to play boys like pawns for one reason or another, or just use them for their own advantage in a social situation. Sometimes this behavior is regarded as "girl power" and encouraged. It may or may not be directly harmful (and sometimes the boy may not even be aware of it!), but it's still very disrespectful. Girls and boys should be able to be upfront and honest with each other, because using someone else to gain some kind of personal advantage can be hurtful, and mostly, it's just not nice. 

5. No patience: This one is easy. One way girls can respect boys is by not tolerating boys' bad behavior when boys are the ones being mean to them. Girls don't "owe" boys respect, because respect is always earned. Remember, it's a two-way street! If a boy hasn't earned it, or has abused a girls' good will towards him, then she has every right to put a stop to it, either by demanding it be stopped or bringing it to the attention of those who can intervene before it escalates. By standing up for themselves, girls are ensuring that bad behavior coming from boys doesn't go unnoticed. This not only has the benefit of stopping the behavior, but also forces boys to recognize that "boys will be boys" should not be an excuse for it. Better behaved boys are better boys period, and that's a win win for everyone. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

"Beautifully written! For a Boy!"

A mother looks over her third grade son’s homework and notices an alarming bit of teacher feedback. "Beautifully written! For a boy!" it reads. The mother tweets: "Pointlessly gendered comments. Actual teacher feedback to my 3grade son."

While it is true that boys overall don't do as well as girls in terms of literacy and the fine motor skills it takes to develop their writing abilities, these comments do nothing but but reinforce certain lower expectations for boys along gendered lines. Imagine if a girl’s math homework was graded in this way – “Excellent calculations, for a girl!” What were they thinking?

Whatever teacher wrote this, two words: not cool. 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Sexually Abused Boys Often Miss Out On Help

Sexual abuse is a tragedy that affects one in every four girls AND one in every six boys. Despite these horrific odds, boy victims of sexual abuse are more likely to miss out on getting help, and for a number of reasons. They are less likely to report the abuse they suffered, less likely to have the symptoms of their abuse observed or explored by professionals, and are less likely to be believed when they do report it. Why is this the case? 

Menna Thomas, senior policy research officer for the charity organization Barnardo's Cymru and co-author of the report, I Never Spoke About It, says boys have "additional barriers which prevent them from being identified and, more importantly, from being able to speak up about their abuse."

The report highlights many of the barriers that prevent boys either from reporting their abuse or being believed once they have reported it. Often it comes down to nothing short of deeply ingrained cultural prejudices and stereotyping that allow professionals to spot the symptoms of abuse in girls but not in boys. When boys act out negatively, it tends to be taken at face value, as natural or normal, or as some kind of behavioral disorder -- "boys will be boys" etc. When girls act out negatively, there's more of an impetus among professionals to locate the potential causes of the behavior and explore whether it's manifesting as a response to potential trauma. This is because boys are seen as more "together" than girls, when in reality, they are not. The proof is in the statistics: behavioral and psychological problems are more common in boys, and more often the first intervention they receive for them, sadly, involves a judge and a jury.  
"For example, boys' negative or criminal behaviour is often interpreted and responded to in a way which overlooks their status as victims of exploitation and abuse. There doesn't seem to be sufficient awareness of the possibility of boys being vulnerable to sexual exploitation and, therefore, insufficient messaging to boys that they will be believed and offered suitable services."
Deeply troubling is the fact that because of this, boys don't expect to be believed even if they do come forward. Just as well, the toxic culture around masculinity these days not only seeks to put down boys who report being violated, it has a way of celebrating their victimization. To report becomes an admission of weakness, of having been vulnerable and injured. Many boys therefore seek to delegitimize their own victimhood by celebrating it as some kind of badge of sexual prowess, even if it was deeply unwanted and emotionally scarring:
Males tend not to report their victimization, which may affect statistics. Some men even feel societal pressure to be proud of early sexual activity, regardless of whether it was unwanted.
While those who commit acts of sexual violence against boys are mostly male, the report indicates that female predators do exist, and the same grooming tactics often used by male perpetrators are often used by female perpetrators as well. Unfortunately, it is much more culturally acceptable for female predators to sexually victimize young boys than for male predators to carry out these same tactics. This is a clear double standard and one that has huge ramifications on boys and young men who essentially get culturally coerced into accepting that sexual violence perpetrated against them by females was "for their benefit" as "men." Not only is this sick, but it ruins the lives of far too many males in our society. 
‘The problem is there has been a general perception that boys can look after themselves better than girls. The reality is they are all equally as vulnerable, and I don’t think there is any kind of shying away now from the fact that historic child abuse cases have demonstrated that boys have been equally targeted.'
The most important takeaway from a report like this is simple: boys suffer sexual abuse too, and suffer as a result, and though the symptoms may (in general) be harder to spot, it is no less devastating on them and on society as a whole. One in six boys is far too many for our cultural standards to ignore. The consequences on society for every abused boy that falls through the cracks are too great. The costs alone are too great. 
There was a strong view that boys are more likely to communicate emotional distress by externalising it in behaviour, rather than by internalising it or talking about their problems.
Research has found that all victims of abuse give hints of their abuse in various ways, especially child victims. Children may not give detailed accounts of it or even talk about it, but they give off "hints" to test the reactions of those around them. Girls may be more likely to give off verbal hints, partly due to the cultural expectations that allow them to do so more openly. Boys more often have to resort to giving off "non-verbal hints," to get their point across, which can include acts of aggression against themselves or others or social withdrawal. These actions are obviously harder to pair with abuse than verbal hinting would be, so they more often go unnoticed. It's also true that boys are more likely to deny having been abused, even if they are verbal about it. This is owing to the fact that they perceive it to be a cultural hazard to them should they admit to it.  

The results of this are predictably horrifying. Barnardo's reports that as sexually abused boys move into adolescence, they are at a greater risk of mental health problems, substance abuse, sexual addiction and promiscuity, homelessness, and offending behavior. They are also more likely to be loners who may not exhibit all the classical signs of abuse or may not fit the stereotypical profile of a "victim," but are victims nonetheless.

How we reach boys is also important. Since boys are less likely to be vocal about their abuse, traditional, formalized means of outreach may not always work to engage them not just in reporting abuse but also in healing from it. Reaching victimized boys may require more creative outlets than those traditionally used for helping girls, for example:
‘How you talk to young boys is different. Boys… aren’t going to sit down and tell you about their feelings straight away, but if you go and play pool with them or do an activity and get them engaged in something, you can start talking to them a lot more.’
On the whole, the report indicates how it's important that: 
  • professionals, parents, teachers, and mentors of boys recognize sudden acts of aggression or withdrawal as potential symptoms that something is wrong, and not simply gloss over them or explain them away as "boys being boys;" 
  • boys receive educational materials on sexual violence that don't reduce "victims" to females and "perpetrators" to males, because narrowing the scope like that fails to reach victimized boys;
  • boys are granted more safe spaces to openly talk about abuse, relationships, and struggles with their sexual development, with the recognition that a diversity of approaches is what may be required to reach them.
  • communities, schools, and organizations raise awareness about male victimization, sexual or otherwise, and offer programs of support, for the good of boys and for the good of society.
One organization seeking to do just that is: 1in6.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Boys May Need More Time in Bed

Researchers scrambling to figure out how to better serve boys and decrease the educational gender gaps they have with girls may have just stumbled upon one potential solution. Long has it been said that part of the problem is that boys are just plain lazy, but perhaps all those sleepy boys out there are on to something! At least one study has found that more time in bed may actually help boys do better in school. According to this study from economists at the University of California, Davis, a later start to the school day was correlated with higher GPA's among the kids, but boys saw the biggest benefits. It wasn't enough to erase the gender gaps, but it did decrease the gap they have with girls by 12-16 percent:

As the National Post reports: 
What caused boys to catch up to girls in the afternoon blocks? The researchers have a provocative theory. They believe that it has to do with sleep habits. Psychological studies show that girls tend to perform better than boys when sleep deprived. Girls also run on slightly different schedules than boys. Surveys find that girls are more likely to be “morning” people; they are more likely to go to bed earlier and get up earlier.
This new paper, which was recently released by the Institute for the Study of Labor and is still undergoing peer review, seems to be the first to observe that starting school later in the day helps boys more than girls. Previous studies might not have picked up on this fact because they looked at relatively minor changes in class schedules. This study is unique because students sometimes weren’t getting to school until the afternoon.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but perhaps all the boys need is a good night/day's sleep.  

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Boys Don't Just "Catch Up Later"

Boys' Scores Matter. Everyone agrees that the education of boys is at least as important as the education of girls. However, we can't continue to believe that and pretend all is well in boydom. Just because grading statistics seem confirm our suspicions about the cleverness of little girls, doesn't mean we've also been right about assuming that "boys catch up later." Recent studies indicate that, while our suspicions about the aptitudes of little girls may be true, our assumptions about the resilience of little boys most likely aren't. So what can be done about it? 

The charity organization Save the Children recently ran a study entitled "The Lost Boys: How Boys are Falling Behind in their Early Years" consisting of England's schoolchildren, and found that children who fail to reach the desired standard of their age group are four times more likely to continue to miss their targets by the end of primary school. As such, they become disadvantaged in competition for work and maintaining relationships, and even suffer more mental and physical health related issues as a result. Now, this is a concern for struggling girls and boys alike, but the story doesn't end there. The study also found that boys in particular are twice as likely as girls to be among the ones trailing in many aspects by the time they start school, and therefore, are more likely to be disadvantaged later on as a result. 
The charity says that a "whole generation of boys is being failed" from the start on the assumption that they are "doing just fine." In reality, boys are not doing just fine. They're coming into school already behind girls in a number of critical areas on average, with a lack of basic language skills being the most prominent issue. If nothing is done, nearly a million boys will be left behind in England's schools over the next ten years. In just the last year, the report says, "80,000 boys in England started reception class struggling to speak a full sentence or follow simple instructions." Being behind on the first day of school is a good indicator of being behind for life. 
Is this just an issue of girls being smarter than boys on average? Even before the outset of school, that would appear to be the case (sorry boys, it's generally true). The report indicates girls do better than boys from the start across every ethnicity and socio-economic level, although poverty is also highly correlated. All other variables aside though, girls currently outperform boys in early language skills everywhere in England before they even get to school, at every level and within every demographic. Other than the fact of there being an abundance of very clever girls, one reason for the boys' disparity may be that they are less like to engage with activities that are often used to develop language skills, both in the home and in the school, such as story-telling and nursery rhymes. They are also not as capable of concentrating for those long periods of time, lack the motivation to sit still as required for those activities, and have less self-confidence to learn these materials as presented. New methods may be necessary therefore to reach them. 
A report on the study by Nursery World, excerpted below, quoted an educational authority on why it's important not to put so much emphasis on the biological explanation for the "problem of boys." Namely, it doesn't do much to inspire innovation in the learning environment: 
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said the report ‘rightly acknowledges’ that blaming the gender gap on biology is ‘too simplistic’, and called for more research on the causes and a way forward for properly addressing the problem.
The report claims that to help keep boys from falling through the cracks on day one of school, investment should be made in producing a high quality workforce of early childhood education teachers that would be prepared for the influx of kids who start out behind, especially for those in more impoverished areas. 
Commenting on the charity’s findings, Dr Elizabeth Kilbey, a clinical psychologist who appears as an expert on Channel 4’s‘Secret Life of Four Year Olds’ series, said that quality early learning offers ‘a genuine chance for children to catch up. "And it really doesn’t have to be complicated,’ added Dr Kilby, ‘simple word games, encouragement and reading is often all it takes to make a lifetime of difference."
She added, ‘Boys need different learning opportunities to girls to ensure they fulfil their potential. Without supporting their natural abilities and interests, they could be switched off from learning. Boys learn when they are active and tend to be in constant motion.’
That boys benefit and take very well to "games" and "challenges" within a learning context is almost self-evident at this point. Boys thrive on being challenged and rising to the occasion. Also crucial for all children: 
‘It is vital to attract more men into the female-dominated sector as positive role models for boys and to support them in their learning,’ added the director. 
Last year, the organisation introduced a new training course and book called Brave Boys geared towards instilling boys with a love of learning from an early age.
Also recommended is an increase in outdoor learning, infused with activities and themes that interest them, such as "sports or superheros." And far from this being a shift toward a "boy-centric" view of education, it's hard to argue how any of these suggestions would not also benefit girls as well! Boys in particular though seem to thrive on exploration and hands-on learning: 
"Give boys clay to make shapes, numbers or letters or encourage them to use their limbs,’ added Ms Ziolkowski, explaining that some boys respond better to non-fiction books rather than stories, particularly those involving science, animals or sports."
Furthermore, the assumption that boys just "catch up later" has detrimental effects on the resources expended for boys early on. This is an assumption that recent research is showing to be hugely untrue and one that has actually in fact "failed a generation of boys." 
‘This report highlights that the gender gap at age five often has a longer-term negative impact on boys’ lives, limiting their future prospects,’ added Ms Flint. 
Do boys need to be "treated more like girls" in order to experience greater gains from their education? Perhaps not, but they certainly stand to do better when their educational needs are given the same level of attention as girls' needs.  Part of that requires us having to abandon the notion that "boys catch up later." If these reports are any indication, they fact of the matter is, they more often don't. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Defining Boyhood 2.0

Ah, boyhood. Snips and snails. Huck Finn and Beaver Cleaver. Cap guns and slingshots. Baseball and tree houses. Dirt and bugs. Rough and tumble. "Boys will be boys" and "boys don't cry." There's only one problem with all these boyhood tropes: they are painfully outdated. To speak of the culture of boyhood is to inevitably invoke imagery of 1950's black-and-white Americana, and that simply won't do in high-tech 2016. This is a brave new world in which girlhood has effectively been culturally re-branded to embody all that is progressive and cutting edge, the way of the future, and it's high time boyhood follows suit. The question is can it? And what would it look like? 

True, some things never change. Some things are in their genes. Their anatomy is still what it is. They still surge with testosterone and thrive in competition. They are still as distracted, fidgety, and risk-taking as ever, and farts are still funny. It's a mistake to think we can take the "male" out of the "boy." But how we define "boy" can change. In the last hundred years, the word "girl" has come a long way, from that image of docility, fragility, and homeliness, to the do-anything, be-anything kick-butt culture of "girl power!" After all, girls too can play baseball, build tree houses, get dirty, and own a cap gun. Anything boys can do girls can certainly do better. Now it's time to start thinking about expanding the possibilities for boys so that, indeed, "anything girls can do, boys can do better." 

But does this mean that boys have to start wearing princess dresses and pink frills, or play with dolls and host bedroom tea parties in order to be shining examples of progressivism? Do they have to be necessarily effeminate just to be more rounded? Not at all. While there would be nothing wrong for boys to engage in that if their hearts desire, it's not necessary. For boys, the "pretty princess" aesthetic can make way for the "handsome prince." The "playhouse" can include a garage. The affectionate hug can include a headlock. Just as girls can take on the traditional culture of bruised-knee boyhood and tweak it for pink knee pads, boys can take on the traditional culture of sugar-and-spice girlhood and inject it with a distinctly masculine flavor.

Here are six attributes we think more or less re-define boyhood in 2016:

1. Real boys can cry: Yes, boys can cry, but it goes deeper than that. Crying is ultimately a call for help. When we say that "boys can cry", we don't mean that they need to be crying for the mere sake of getting teary eyed. What we mean is that boys can and should feel like they can call for help when they need help, that they don't need to "suffer in silence" or "tough it out" to maintain some kind of facade of strength. Real strength comes from being able to name-check one's own weaknesses and bolster them with external remedies, not in simply ignoring them until they can no longer be handled. Far too many boys fall through the cracks trying to maintain only the "facade of strength" and not the real thing. Real boys can cry. 

2. Real boys can wear any color: It's time to get real about the color pink. We're not suggesting boys need to be wearing pink frilly dresses (not that there's anything wrong with it), but there's no reason either gender should "own" a color in the visible spectrum. There are plenty of ways boy fashion can include the color pink that emphasize a boy's masculine nature, should he want to. Wearing pink doesn't make a boy a "sissie" or "gay." Strip it from all social context, and pink is simply a vibrant, energetic color. It's bright. It pops. It's just like boys. 

3. Real boys always respect girls: Are we going to tell you that girls deserve special treatment now? Yes and no. What we mean by "boys should respect girls" is that they shouldn't look down on girls, nor put them on a pedestal, but regard them as equals. They should never assume anything about girls as a group, or tease or harass girls simply for being female, or make slurs about them like "you throw like a girl." Neither should boys ever be violent towards girls for any reason. Boys should also know not to talk over girls and to consider girls' opinions on their merit, not on the fact that a "girl" is making them. Of course boys should respect other boys as well, but the reason we emphasize "girls" is because boys are more often fed imagery that is violent and demeaning and girls and women are often perceived as targets. 

4. Real boys are affectionate: Allow us to suggest the radical notion that boys can be just as affectionate as girls, but we just don't see it because we tend to think of affection as being gentle, delicate, and "comfy." On the contrary, for boys, things like roughhousing, wrestling, and other various backyard competitions, are just as reflective of genuine intimacy and affection as a "hug" or a "kiss" is. Know the difference between violence and roughhousing! Just because many may refrain from the "group hug" doesn't mean they lack the ability to be affectionate, especially when they're often very visibly (and audibly) fighting, burping, and farting their way to friendship! Clearly, boys are built for bonding, over anything and everything. Boys should be allowed to bond however they want as long as everyone is having fun and nobody's getting seriously hurt. Sometimes all a few boys need to start showing their need for affection is a video game, a friendly sparring match, or some kind of competitive play. 

5. Real boys are gracious: Don't believe the hype. Boys can be just as good at gymnastics as girls. Oh yeah, and ballet too. There is nothing delicate and dainty about these sports (as any gymnist who's come home with torn skin can tell you). If girls are supposed to be "graceful and beautiful" and still be able to block a goal in soccer or ride an ollie on a skateboard, then boys must also be every bit as "graced" to handle the uneven bars or a contortion stretch. Once again, that doesn't mean that boys need to don frilly tutus and hair buns in order to be "poised and pretty" any more than a girl needs to don ripped jeans and dirt stains in order to climb a tree. Some things do come with the territory, yes (spandex and dirt stains respectively), but  neither of those territories have a genital requirement for admittance. 

6. Real boys play house: They live in homes. They eat, sleep, do homework, and clean themselves in the home. This string of obvious statements should clue one into the fact that just because boys are seen as more adventurous and outdoorsy, doesn't mean they don't intimately relate to games and toys focused around domestic life. Another obvious reality? Boys like food, and cooking food. Boys like nice clothes. They have favorite stuffed animals. Almost all men can admit to having played with dolls, dollhouses, or outdoor house play sets at some point in their childhoods, and those who can't are either lying or were sadly deprived. It doesn't make a boy a "sissy" or "gay" to play with toys that traditionally belong to girls, it just makes them normal. Once again, does it mean boys need to don the maternal apron and pick up "Little Sally Wets-a-Lot" in order to be "true to themselves?" Not at all. It just means that maybe boys like to bake (and eat) cookies and muffins too. There's nothing saying they can't play "garage" either.