Don't leave the boy children behind

2012-10-11 15:02

Georgina Guedes

I had the privilege of sharing a podium with the Reverend Doctor Wesley Mabuza, the chairperson of the Commission for the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities on SAFM on Monday night. I was elaborating on a News24 column I wrote a couple of weeks ago on four issues we shouldn't still be debating.

We had been brought together on Masechaba Moshoeshoe's show to discuss the points where progress conflicts with culture. The debate was interesting, and I was pleased to find that there was more common ground between me and the Reverend Doctor than I expected.

One thing that he said has rung true for me – that on the days of the year where we recognise women and girls, and provide them with opportunity to expand their horizons, we should be giving the same exposure to boys.

This is not so that they must also be made aware of opportunities for themselves, but that they should be educated from an early age that women are equal partners and participants in the home, the social space and the workplace.

International Day of the Girl Child

Today has been declared by the United Nations as International Day of the Girl Child, a day when we are supposed to address the issues facing the population group that is the most marginalised on earth – because of age and gender.

Activities have been planned in observance of this day around the world, and I fully support its intentions to cast a spotlight on the myriad issues confronted by girl children – like child marriage, circumcision, neglect and marginalisation.

I hope that the relevant issues raised on this day will continue to be addressed, rather than having it deteriorate into another excuse for spa treatments and chocolates, like Women's Day.

But I agree with the Doctor Reverend's view that girls cannot be educated in isolation and taught to claim their basic human rights without bringing their brothers along with them. And while this obviously applies to all those areas in communities where girls and women are marginalised, it should also be considered in all the subtle ways that we educate our privileged sons about their roles in the world.

Our message to our sons

I was in the paediatrician's waiting room earlier this week with my son Henry. He was playing with another baby, a little older who squeaked and hid behind his mother when Henry looked a little too threatening. The mother said to her son, “Oh, come on, don't be a wimp!”

She seemed a very loving and attentive mother, so I don't imagine she'll whip her son up into a frenzy of after-school violence as he gets older, but I wondered at the time if she would have spoken to a girl child in quite the same way.

From a very young age, boys are taught that to be male is to be strong, not to show weakness, to be brave and not to come running to mummy. Some of this messaging is good, if it's applied to both genders of children to foster a degree of independence and self-confidence.

But often, mothers and fathers unconsciously push their boys into becoming exactly the kind of men who will continue to demean women, because we don't know how to think any differently. I've seen girls instructed to clear the table while boys sit idly by, or boys told to “hit him back” while girls are helped to debate a solution to a playground altercation.

I've even seen boys prevented from playing with their sisters' prams and dolls for fear that they'll become sissies. Shouldn't we, as parents, instead be encouraging their interest in the hopes of breaking the cycle of fathers who are disinterested in their babies until they are walking, talking beings?

So, while there are broader, more significant issues that should be addressed on International Day of the Girl Child, today, I'll be treating both my children equally, teaching them to love and share and coexist regardless of what gender they are.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

Send your comments to Georgina

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

  • ninetiethowl.ourvow - 2012-10-11 16:05

    An anti-White male article from a liberal. Unsurprising. The only thing noteworthy is that the title gives it the appearance of supporting boys, when it's in fact written as an attack against them.

      sheda.habib - 2012-10-11 20:23 is bad enough that every girl wants to be a boy (a la, do whatever boys do or wear) but please stop talking on behalf of us boys. We are happy with who we are and DO NOT want pee sitting down. In fact we were very happy with who girls were before a few bra burners tried to convince them otherwise. And we still love those who love themselves enough to admit that being a girl beats being a boy anyday.

      sheda.habib - 2012-10-11 20:28

      and BTW a girl child day implies that the other 364 days of the year are boy child day. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

  • neo.mokami - 2012-10-11 16:10

    No son of mine will be caught playing around with pink flowery doll prams.

  • vaaldonkie.visagie - 2012-10-11 16:20

    When will you people realise that boys are not broken girls? Were it not for men, we would still be living in grass huts, like those tribes who live under a matriarchy. But keep on queering up your little boy. It just makes it so much easier for mine to beat him in life, form getting prettier girlfriends to succeeding in the classroom and the boardroom.

      lydonmcg - 2012-10-11 16:41

      Your use of "queering up" is quite ironic considering gay people are statistically wealthier and better educated than straight people. Whilst that's in no way an attack on straight people, in future you should think before running off your clearly flawed attempt at logic. Hopefully your son possesses an ounce more intelligence if he's to live up to any of expectations you've outlined above.

      davorin.dobrovic - 2012-10-14 22:41

      How long have you been openly gay vaaldonkie?

  • afrikeni - 2012-10-11 17:37

    Loving equally boys & girls does not equate to force them living their daily life chores, likes etc in the same way. There will always be things that boys like but girls hate & vice versa. Think deeply, is the difference between man & woman only be to the extent of their reproductive anatomy?

      rodney.louis.7 - 2012-10-12 14:05

      @ Vaal Donkie first time i see u posting a decent comment lol .. very impressed

      davorin.dobrovic - 2012-10-14 22:44

      rodney, you are incapable of recognising critical thought. I wish to congratulate you on your deliberate denseness as it is of a monumental standard. Well played Goon Sire. Well played.

  • stirer.kathray - 2012-10-11 17:56

    You can see from the comments above, that some bloggers are either uncomfortable or afraid of their own sexuality. Brings to mind a Shakespearean quote: "Methinks thou dost protest too much." Mugabe is an excellent example, with his outbursts against Gays. There is a bit of male and a bit of female in every person born. Learn to live with it.

      vaaldonkie.visagie - 2012-10-12 08:55

      The quote is "the lady doth protest too much, methinks" and you should really read the rest of it before you make yourself look even more ridiculous.

  • grant.callaway.50 - 2012-10-11 18:16

    Boys are boys. Girls are girls. They are not the same, so please stop pretending that they are... When you are willing to use the same public toilets as men, then you can say that everybody's the same...

  • vaaldonkie.visagie - 2012-10-12 09:02

    Funny thing is, I read the same arguments in Roman history. This was going on shortly before its collapse.

      davorin.dobrovic - 2012-10-14 22:48

      where do you get such utter rubbish from? You are an outright liar/idiot if you actually think that the fall of the roman empire was due to "blurring the gender roles". So I guess my question is why are you shamelessly lying about this topic? Homosexuality seems to make you quite vocal...

      vaaldonkie.visagie - 2012-10-15 09:53

      How do you get from feminism to homosexuality? Freudian slip? Grrl power was one of the symptoms of decadent Rome, not its cause. Learn history or be its victim.

  • rodney.louis.7 - 2012-10-12 13:57

    @ author .. yawn ..

  • john.zibane - 2012-10-14 14:26

    Any nation that neglects the boy child will have cultural issues for generations,the current drive of liberating women and the girl child will be useless if not matched by educating boys to be the foundation of tomorrows homes,any home and a woman for that matter,needs that male presence.

  • thulani.mahlalela.7 - 2012-10-14 21:36

    thats why the become criminals. take a girl child to work and aboy child to prison

  • thulani.mahlalela.7 - 2012-10-14 21:43

    i know how to raise my son like my father raised me.i dont need a court order.he does not need to play with dolls and wear hanna montana t-shirt.

  • thulani.mahlalela.7 - 2012-10-14 21:48

    let them play rugby together or even soccer not dolls.

  • davorin.dobrovic - 2012-10-14 22:41

    a really good piece which I enjoyed reading. The response of other readers ironically only further supports the views of the writer. ninetiethowl.ourvow has an especially strong victim complex over the issue of masculinity. I wander why?

  • thabiso.tsobane - 2012-10-15 08:47

    Bottom line is she's right. The quality of men in this country is diminishing, group of boys raping mentally disabled girl? School boys drugging and raping young girls. And to put salt in the wound....90% of the gender that had that video on their mobiles was boys/men. We lack better role models, men are suppose to be heads and at the rate we going we don't have a future because most of the youngsters go to prison and come out as matured prisoners or psychopaths. So maybe the debate should be what are we doing to shape the future of this society? There are probably 150 women programs that assist girls and groom them, and there are only 4 which assist men but their very specific to violence and substance abuse. So instead of trying to sound or look smart, rather introspect and check what role you are playing in society. Be a man and take up your position.

  • jppellissier - 2012-10-15 09:31

    Don't agree with this lady at all, you have it wrong. This article was not thought out properly and from a male point of view the writer sounds like an absolute feminist and has no clue when it comes to raising a child. Poor Henry. Whether he's gay or not it sounds like his mom has made that decision for him, no disrespect to either sexual preferences, but this chick is overdoing it.

  • pages:
  • 1