When his son was born, people told LZ Granderson it was easier to raise a boy
Boys are more likely to be dropouts and go to jail, he says, less likely to go to college
Parents have to fight a culture that encourages boys to be sexually active, he says
Girls can be tomboys, he writes, but boys are bullied if they aren't "male" enough
Editor’s Note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com and the 2009 winner of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation award for online journalism. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs.
My son had barely taken his first breath when the people in the hospital started telling me how lucky I was.
Not because he was healthy, mind you, but because he was a he.
“It’s easier to raise boys,” I was told.
And for a while I actually believed them.
Then I started paying attention.
Did you know boys are more likely to drop out of high school than girls? Or that there are more female college students than male? And did you know the imprisonment rate for men is roughly 15 times higher than the rate for women?
If this is what boys being easier to raise than girls looks like, coul`d you imagine how many men would be in jail if raising girls got any harder? We worry so much about girls getting hurt – and justifiably so – but interestingly enough, the stats show it’s our boys who are more likely to get robbed, attacked or even murdered. We see girls as fragile orchids and boys as plastic plants. But let’s face it: At the core of this line of thinking isn’t safety – it’s sex.
When someone offers this piece of advice, it’s with the thinking that girls have to be protected from boys who will say and do just about anything to get in their pants. What’s typically missing from this discussion is the challenge to parents – particularly fathers – not to raise a liar and a cheat.
True, parents of boys do not have to worry about them coming home pregnant, but does that mean an unplanned pregnancy can be considered “the girl’s problem”? After all, a boy’s girlfriend did not get pregnant asexually. That’s why I’m Tebowing day and night, hoping my 15-year-old has the will to stay away from sex – even though the world all around him tells him there’s something wrong with him if he does.
Easier? Ha. Try different.
A little girl who likes to play sports is called a tomboy. A little boy who doesn’t like to play sports is called weird. A teen girl who says “no” is called a good girl. A teen boy who says “no” is called a sissy. A lot of words describe what it’s like for parents who are trying to teach their teenage son how to be his own man in a high school setting that demands conformity, but “easy” is not one of them.
I know, I know, “boys will be boys” is the accepted rule of thumb. But given that we have a federal department that hunts down and sometimes arrests deadbeat fathers, doesn’t that raise the question: What kind of boys are we raising? And if they’re dropping out of high school at a faster clip than girls, why do we think raising them is easier?
Last year, I wrote a piece with the headline “Parents, don’t dress your girls like tramps.” I received a lot of e-mails from offended readers who told me I had no idea how hard it was to avoid buying sexy clothing for their little princesses. I usually responded by reminding them I never said it wasn’t hard.
And then I asked if they’ve ever seen the words on many of the T-shirts aimed at young men. They may not be blatantly inappropriate, like a cut-off shirt that reveals their bellybuttons, but if I had a dollar for every T-shirt I’ve read that sexualizes the words “balls,” “sticks” or “size,” I could retire.
I guess if parents don’t care if their son thinks being a man begins and ends with his penis, then yes, I can see how some would think raising a boy is easier. But if you’re actually trying to raise a gentleman, and you hear LMFAO rap “I’m running through these hos like Drano” – as they do in “Party Rock Anthem,” the second most popular song of 2011 – then you’re not breathing a sigh of relief because it’s so much easier to raise a boy. Instead you’re wondering how much of what you’re trying to teach him soaks in, versus what our culture says is OK.
We’ve made so many advances as a society in terms of gender equity, and yet we still hold on to this nonsensical double standard that celebrates sexually active boys while demonizing their female counterparts, as if we can have a lot of one without the other. This kind of thinking is handed down from generation to generation almost as soon as the umbilical cord is cut.
But how can we continue to believe boys are easier to raise than girls, when only 42% of custodial moms received all of their child support payments in 2009? Some see loose women in that statistic. I see some men who are punks.
Perhaps if we stopped viewing raising our boys as easier, we wouldn’t have to deal with so many men who still behave like boys later in life.
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.