What I Want My Boys to Know About Girls

As the mother to three teenage boys, I sometimes feel outnumbered in my house. It’s a constant battle, for instance, to get them to put the toilet seat down but we’re getting there. No one will ever watch Downton Abbey with me either; they’d rather have me watch Breaking Bad with them. (No thank you.) And forget about clothes shopping. They’d rather go to the dentist than wander around the mall with me. 

While all that kinda sucks, overall I do love having a house full of men. They appreciate everything that I cook, for instance, and eat with abandon. No one would ever turn up his nose at my homemade lasagna by saying, “Just a sliver. I’m watching my weight.” There’s very little hormonal drama either. Teenage boys don’t give the cold shoulder or the silent treatment. They tell each other the way they see is—often with a shove or a well-pointed word—and then it’s over.

But as the mother to all boys, I also feel an enormous sense of responsibility towards guiding them to becoming good men. I want them to grow up to be the type of men that I would want to be around. Not macho men or metro-sexual men obsessed with their looks but rather, Renaissance men. Men who are strong and hard-working yet not afraid to roll up their sleeves and change a diaper or take their three-year-old daughters to a ballet lesson. I want them to treat women with great respect, too. I want them to open doors for women, wait for their wives or girlfriends to be seated before they start to eat a meal, or to give up their seats on a crowded subway for women.

But most importantly, I want them to know that women are their intellectual equals. I want them to know that a woman can be feminine yet savvy in business at the same time. Women can wear heels in the bedroom and in the boardroom. I want them to know that women are smart, compassionate and emotional, and that women are pragmatic and practical.

Women have fought long and hard to be on the same footing with men. Don’t believe me? Try Googling “women’s suffrage violence” to see what women endured in the past—the lives that were lost—just to secure the right to vote. For all women. Or, check out the first few episodes of Mad Men to see how women were treated in corporate America back in the early 1960s—the very dawn of the Women’s Movement. It will not only make you shudder with disbelief but you’ll also be thankful for being born in the latter half of the 20th century.

Yes, women before us fought long and hard so that we could enjoy more choices. Thanks to the likes of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, we can choose to work full-time if we wish, to rise up the corporate ladder, or we can choose to stay home and care for our children full-time. We are no longer confined to just one role. We have choices.

So when I see young women making questionable choices—and today I’m referring to Miley Cyrus’ provocative performance recently on the MTV Music Awards—I find myself at a loss for an explanation. I honestly don’t know what to tell my sons. Did it feel liberating to twerk in front of millions? (And yes, I had to look up the word.) Was grinding on a foam finger a statement of sexual freedom? 

It makes me sad. So this is what nearly 100 years of the feminist fight has brought us? The right to be sexually inappropriate for millions to see? And by the way, you didn’t see Robin Thicke strip down to a plastic Speedo and simulate a sex act on stage. Why is that?