This Guide for Raising Sons Who Fight the Peer Pressure of Sexism is Causing a Big Debate

June 2nd 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

It's a common experience for men to feel pressure to be sexist.

Look no further than former NBC Today host Billy Bush — who featured prominently in President Donald Trump's "pussy tape."

In an interview published on May 21 in the Hollywood Reporter, Bush talked about his role in the infamous 2005 recording, which eventually cost him his job. In the interview, Bush said it was too difficult to stop the sexist and graphic conversation, in which Trump brags about moving on a woman "like a bitch" and grabbing women "by the pussy."

"Looking back upon what was said on that bus, I wish I had changed the topic," Bush told the Hollywood Reporter. "[Trump] liked TV and competition. I could've said, 'Can you believe the ratings on whatever?' But I didn't have the strength of character to do it." Bush was in his 30s at the time of the conversation.


So how can society raise men who will speak up in the face of peer pressure?

The New York Times' Claire Cain Miller talked to experts and created a guide for raising a feminist son, simply meaning a son who believes women are equal to men.

"Even as we’ve given girls more choices for the roles they play, boys’ worlds are still confined, social scientists say," Miller wrote in the article published Friday. "They’re discouraged from having interests that are considered feminine. They’re told to be tough at all costs, or else to tamp down their so-called boy energy."

Here's what experts told Miller about raising a feminist son.

  • Let boys cry.
  • Give boys good role models.
  • Let boys be themselves (even if that means wearing pink).
  • Teach boys to take care of themselves.
  • Teach boys how to take care of others.
  • Share the housework.
  • Encourage boys to have friendships with girls.
  • Require boys to ask before touching another child, and respect the word "no."
  • Teach boys to speak up if you see someone being harassed.
  • Don't use the world "girl" as an insult.
  • Give boys books with strong female characters.
  • Give boys confidence and celebrate being a boy.

The guide received some backlash for attempting to raise "feminist" sons, a label that is often misconstrued as "anti-men," despite its actual meaning of equality between men and women.









However, as other Twitter users pointed out, the guide is attempting to override antiquated ideas about masculinity and teach men to stand up for women.

"Raising a son this way isn’t just about telling boys what not to do, or about erasing gender differences altogether," wrote Miller.



Much of the advice is meant to fight the toxic masculinity that can keep boys stuck in gender roles and lead them to view women as inferior.

Society often teaches young boys and men that they should not display emotions, unless they're stereotypically masculine ones like anger, and they should be dominant over women by avoiding any qualities associated with "girliness."

Tony Porter, an educator and activist, gave a Ted Talk in 2010 that explained the damage those ingrained lessons can leave.

"Growing up as a boy, we were taught that men had to be tough, had to be strong, had to be courageous, dominating — no pain, no emotions, with the exception of anger — and definitely no fear; that men are in charge, which means women are not; that men lead, and you should just follow and do what we say; that men are superior; women are inferior; that men are strong; women are weak; that women are of less value, property of men, and objects, particularly sexual objects."

He called those lessons the "man box." Porter said it's time society truly analyzed and challenged what it means to be a man.

"Now I also want to say, without a doubt, there are some wonderful, wonderful, absolutely wonderful things about being a man," he said. "But at the same time, there's some stuff that's just straight up twisted, and we really need to begin to challenge, look at it and really get in the process of deconstructing, redefining, what we come to know as manhood."

You can read Claire Cain Miller's full guide in the New York Times.

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