The recent act of terrorism in Toronto, Ontario has been on my mind relentlessly. In this attack, a lone man used his van to cut down several citizens of the city, as well as some visiting tourists. Shortly before the man set out upon this path of bloodshed and violence he released a post praising another man who had killed women in a separate terrorist attack. The man claimed to be a member of a group called Incel. They call themselves this due to their involuntary celibacy.
I will never be able to sympathize with the idea that such an action of violence and chaos could be justified in any way. I cannot grasp the concept that just for turning down a man, any man, a woman could deserve to die.
This inspires me to instigate a change.
I grew up with my brother, and three male cousins. We were close, and spent every day together, only parting on the weekends. Although the boys were quick to remind me that I was a girl, and therefore different – this didn’t mean that I was a different class of person.
I was right there, standing with them as they were taught all the responsibilities of being a gentleman in today’s world. We were all taught; with no exception – that should you have the chance, you were to open and hold a door for passing lady. We were all taught terms of respect, and fair treatment to all other people. We would line up at the kitchen door like a small sentry, waiting for Grandma to go first.
Even still, in the early years there was a defining line between what was acceptable male and female behaviour. I was praised for sensitivity, told it would make me more caring and compassionate. My younger cousin was taught to hold it in, to act like a man. Even when faced with physical pain, like a migraine – my older cousins were taught to lock down their emotions. They could feel pain, but never cry.
My brother and my cousins have grown into fine men. They treat women well, work hard, keep good jobs and neat(ish) homes. They are strong, in many ways. In a way, they are very much like most men today. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with them, in fact I am so proud of the men they have become.
Being who I am, I naturally gravitate towards friendships with men. I sympathize with them, and we share similar interests. A common thing I see among my male counterparts is that at the first sign of emotional distress; they lock down.
Rather than meet the problem head on, and attempt to understand the warning signs they are receiving in their emotions – they ignore the signs. They would sooner drown issues in a few cold drinks with the boys than confront an issue.
It’s my belief that we need to teach coping skills and emotional stability to all kids, earlier in life.
We can’t continue to praise girls for their emotions and chastise men. We need to start early, and teach all children how to be active in their mental health and well being. We should encourage boys to play house, and to nurture dolls. We should teach girls to play fight, and to defend themselves.
Above all we need to teach our kids how to communicate, and to truly listen to those around them. How many times have you heard the phrase “He picks on you because he likes you!”
When you teach your kids how to look for affection in healthy ways, and how to accept or refuse that affection – you prepare them for real life. You make them an even better partner. When you ask your child for a kiss, and back down when they say NO, that teaches them how to handle rejection.
We are teaching women to step out of their conventional boundaries to rise up in life. What we should be doing is teaching everyone how to life an effective, balanced life – on their own. We need to stop devaluing the conventional female role, and to start praising a sense of pride in the home. It isn’t any less manly to take care of your house or to cook, and it isn’t a feminine quality to take pride in the condition of your home.
We can’t devalue the traditional female role at the same time that we encourage men to fulfill it!
Imagine what it is like for the young men today. Their fathers were workaholics. Men’s men. Stoic and reserved with tough skin. Their grandfathers were the sole breadwinners and ruled the house. In this generation we have effectively rewritten the entire male role from that of sole provider and protector – to that of an equal partnership.
Now, in addition to the ever-present pressure to work long hours they have an entirely new list of household expectations.
If we take the time from childhood, to raise all children as if they are going to be living on their own – I think it will make the difference. Raise boys to really talk to their friends. Speak with them about their expectations, and teach them how to handle feeling let down.
We need to teach all children to rely on themselves for emotional satisfaction. No spouse – no matter how wonderful they are – can be solely responsible for their significant other’s self esteem.
In closing I will leave you with this. Raise your children, girls or boys the same. Teach them to be solid as stone, but as giving as the water. Encourage your kids to speak openly about their emotions in a safe space. Let them see your emotions, and how you handle your problems in life. Show them responsibility for their actions, no matter what emotions they have. Don’t limit them to a a range of only a few emotions. Help them to define as many feelings as they can, and to experience them fully. The range of emotions is only limited by our ability to define them – so why would we want little boys to only know how to be happy, mad or silent? By giving our children the means to define themselves and to express themselves, we give them the tools to emotional stability.
Maybe your child will be the one to change the world. Even if they just manage to change the world for one person.