There is something inspiring about watching the Olympic Games. I have always been a fan of many of the events, but the U.S. Women’s Gymnastic Team has particularly caught my interest this year.
One of the women is from my home state and not only is each athlete amazingly talented on her own, but the team seems so supportive of each other. These athletes are everything that I envision a team to be and I truly admire their athleticism, because first and foremost these women are athletes right?
It infuriates me when I read or hear comments about these women and other women athletes reduced to their appearance or the way they are talking on the sidelines or their hard work and accomplishments within the sport are trivialized.
As a mom of two boys, I am acutely aware of the fact that I need to point out that these women are athletes and should be viewed as athletes by the skills that they show. I repeat often that girls can do anything boys can do and that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. As a mom of two boys, I know that this is extremely important and, as a mom of two boys, I realize that we must start changing the message we are sending.
There are many campaigns out now aimed to empower girls such as the “Play like a Girl” campaign and I think it’s wonderful. It’s a great start but it’s not enough.
In order to stop the sexism we also need to pay attention to the messages we are sending boys.
Take for instance the whole “dust it off and be a man” phrase. What does being a “man” entail exactly? Why is showing emotion such a bad thing? I hope that as my sons grow older, they will be able to relate emotionally to other people and that they will be compassionate towards others as well. I think this is extremely important. I don’t think that would make them “soft” as some people might believe. I believe it makes them human.
If they decide that they want to raise a family when they are grown and they play with their children, they shouldn’t be praised for it. It’s not “babysitting”. It’s called being a Dad. This notion that husbands are completely clueless when it comes to raising kids or not helping around the house is also extremely frustrating. There are stay-at-home dads and moms who work full-time. There are parents who both work full-time and there are those parents who work from home.
Gender roles are not a one-size fits all. Roles change based on the particular needs of a family. Roles change as the world continues to change and evolve. A relationship should not be based on one person “completing” the other, but rather two people “complimenting” each other and having respect for one another.
So while I will never be an Olympic athlete, I will take joy in the fact that if I’m parenting right, someday I will be able to watch the games with my sons with tears in our eyes as the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team takes gold.