Empowering boys and young men 

from all walks of life

 Empowering boys and young men 

from all walks of life

 Empowering boys and young men 

from all walks of life

#7: Christie Carson-Ginger: Why my daycare apologized for referring to the boys as ‘boys’

Why my daycare apologized for referring to the boys as ‘boys’

I am the mother of an almost 3-year old son. Or at least that’s what I think he is. I call him a he. He has a penis. On my ultra-sound, the tech told me it was a boy. There may come a day when he tells me he wants to be a she or a they or reaffirm his he status, or go back and forth as young children often do and adolescents and adults less often do. And I will happily continue to love him/her/they when that comes up, but for now we are going with he and he hasn’t told me otherwise.

So a few weeks ago, my son in all his two-and-three-quarters attitude, was upset with me for interfering with his mess-making and told me to “Go to sleep, boys!”. His way of saying “Get lost!”. I can only assume he repeated it from daycare. He goes to a small, family-run home daycare where the 4 children that attend all happen to be boys. I thought it was pretty funny and later told his daycare teacher about it. She apologized and mentioned it was probably one of the other teachers and she would ask her to correct her language. They use the term ‘children’ to refer to the kids, or some other affectionate terms like ‘you silly monkeys!’. But definitely not boys.

Why? Well, she doesn’t want to assume the children’s gender. I’ve learned that schools in our district are going this route as well. It’s “children” not “boys and girls”. Seems a lot of effort for a group of toddlers who I figured, probably don’t know the difference. However, it’s a lot of baggage to project an entire gender on such a small child and all the stuff that goes with that, especially if they feel otherwise.

My son knows he is a boy, or at least that’s what he says he is, based on what he thinks that means. Penis? Check. Ok, you are a boy. What else makes a boy? According to him, it’s having a penis, not wearing dresses, and not having a menstrual cup (he has taken a slightly unsettling interest in mine after seeing it in the bathroom). The rest, he has not yet said is boy stuff, but he has strong, STRONG, preferences for cars, trucks, airplanes, garbage trucks, pickup trucks, tractors, trains, helicopters, cherry pickers, street sweepers, front-loading bulldozers, combine harvesters, hay bailers and any other kind of motor vehicle has can imagine. Yes, he knows all the names. I gave him a baby doll 2 Christmases ago, which has gone largely ignored, much to my disappointment. He hates My Little Ponies, even though I try and push it on him because of the friendship message. The treatment of the child as a boy or a girl starts from even before they are born, that it’s impossible for him to not have strong feelings about it one way or the other. I like to think I try to present gender-neutral norms or a mix of traditional boy and girl norms, but I’m not perfect and he likes what he likes.
In the event that a boy feels like a girl or girl feels like a boy, a change in language goes a long way. But with boys and girls who feel like the boys and girls they’ve been called since birth, it can go a long way, too.

Here’s what I’m imagining to happen when a classroom is divided by girl and boy labels:

“Boys, settle down!”

Message: Boys are disruptive and rowdy.

“Girls, can you please help put away the art supplies?”

Message: girls are helpful, especially with arts and crafts

So then let’s assume you, amazing parent, are reading this because you want to do things differently for your own children. However, given your own bias of gender roles that probably started from before birth and every day since then through no fault of your own… can you promise that when you are referring to a group of boys you are only going to ever refer to gender-neutral activities? Or that the teachers can, every single time? No? Me neither. Saying ‘children’ instead is easier.


Christie Carson-Ginger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More about Christie:
Christie is a marketing professional who lives in Toronto and is a mother to one son born in 2014.
She joined Boys Will Be Boys in 2017 when she spotted the very first blog post and knew this was something that fit her parenting values. Coming from a very large family of many strong women, she found she lacked both personal knowledge and online resources of guiding principals for boys. She was determined to raise a self-assured son with a strong social conscience, emotional intelligence and someone that knows that whomever he is in life, his mom has got his back.

A semi-crunchy-granola mom, Christie embraces cloth diapers and homemade laundry detergent. When not working or raising her son, she can be found running, trying to introduce friends to her favourite podcasts or snuggling with her dog, Batman.

Share

Read More

#6: Nick Petrella: From Mentally Ill to Mental Illness Advocate


From Mentally Ill to Mental Illness Advocate

Like many people in the world, I have always operated under the premise that “it won’t happen to me” and “it can’t happen to me”.

At the age of 30, I learned the hard way that I can no longer think like that and since, my life has never been the same. When I tell people this, they often think that my life is not the same because of the age milestone I had reached, but in my case, there were different reasons. I truly believe that my life began seven years ago because that is when I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety. I have likely had anxiety and depression my whole life, however, I just did not know what it was. As a child, I had signs and symptoms of panic disorder and as a teenager, if you told me you did not want to kill yourself, I would have thought you were crazy. I thought everyone felt that way.

Following my diagnosis, for the better part of four years, I lived minute to minute, trying to find reasons not to give in to the voice in my head telling me to kill myself. I was in battle with that the overwhelming thought that the world, my friends, my family and my students would be a better place without me. After seeing a dozen of different therapists and counsellors, I was lucky enough to find one that I was able to relate to and she was able to help me begin the process of recovery. For people living with mental illness, recovery is a scary word. Recovery involves time and energy every day, dedicated and committed to the tasks that help a person overcome the crippling emotions and feelings they struggle with on a regular basis.

I began my recovery almost four years ago and one of the most memorable steps in my recovery was when I stepped in front of an audience and publicly told my story for the very first time. At that point, I felt something I hadn’t felt before. I felt relief, I felt strong and I had found something that helped me feel better about myself and be comfortable in my own skin. That opened a door that I have kept open for the past three and a half years where I travel around and speak to anyone who is willing to listen about my journey and most importantly, the process of recovery.

That brings me to where I am now. I still have really bad days, weeks and months but they aren’t as bad as they were at the beginning. I am the happiest I have ever been because now I know how to deal with the emotions and the dark thoughts and I can work through them.

To get where I am now, it has a unique recipe that works for me. That recipe consists of my fiancé, friends, my dogs, professional help, a lot of hard work and never quitting. I am lucky that I have lived to tell this story and now more than ever, I have realized that in my darkest moments, I was not alone. Even though I felt alone and like no one would ever understand, I was wrong. I was wrong because I have met many people like me that even though they have no idea who I was, they would have done anything to help me, and that is who I am today.

If I can leave you with any words of advice…. You are not alone, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and recovery is possible. If I can do it, so can you. Recovery is not easy and it takes time but it is worth it. To recover, you have to be ready to get help, accept help and most of all, you have to realize that you can’t do it alone. Commit to getting better, and you will begin the process of recovery. You will face many challenges and hurdles and obstacles, but never give up because it is very true that every mistake or wrong turn you make, you can learn from it.

Get up, dust yourself off and keep going. #yourenotalone

 

Nick J. Petrella; MSc., TSCC., PTS.
Coordinator/Full Time Professor
Health, Wellness and Fitness
School of Justice and Wellness Studies
Mohawk College

Contact Information
Email: info@nickjpetrella.ca
Website: www.nickjpetrella.ca
Facebook: Nick J Petrella
Twitter: @nickjpetrella
Instagram: NickJPetrella

More about Nick:

Nick earned a Master of Science degree from Brock University in 2006 with a focus on human performance and exercise physiology. From 2006 to 2009, Nick attended Western University as a PhD student until he was offered a position by Mohawk College.  Choosing to leave the PhD program without completing the requirements, Mohawk College hired Nick to assist with the development of their Health, Wellness and Fitness program. Nick has been employed as a Professor in since 2009 and has since been named the 1st year coordinator of the program. A two-time recipient of the Instructor Appreciation Award at Mohawk College, Nick is a passionate educator who is always trying to impart his knowledge on other people. Aside from Nick’s passion of fitness, he is also a Keynote Speaker in Mental Health and earned Mental Health First Aid instructor status with the Mental Health Commission of Canada in November of 2014. Nick instructs Mental Health First Aid courses regularly and speaks on behalf of the Talking About Mental Illness program through the Canadian Mental Health Association. In 2016, Nick was awarded the St Joseph’s Hospital Spirit of Hope that is awarded to an individual who is making strides on reducing the stigma surrounding mental health.

Nick earned a Master of Science degree from Brock University in 2006 with a focus on human performance and exercise physiology. From 2006 to 2009, Nick attended Western University as a PhD student until he was offered a position by Mohawk College.  Choosing to leave the PhD program without completing the requirements, Mohawk College hired Nick to assist with the development of their Health, Wellness and Fitness program. Nick has been employed as a Professor in since 2009 and has since been named the 1st year coordinator of the program. A two-time recipient of the Instructor Appreciation Award at Mohawk College, Nick is a passionate educator who is always trying to impart his knowledge on other people. Nick has been working in the health and fitness industry for 15 years with his most notable appointments being; TriggerPoint Canada Master Trainer, the current Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Mohawk College Women's Varsity Volleyball Team and formerly for the Men’s and Women’s Hockey Team at Brock University, Conditioning Coach at Total Package Hockey in London Ontario and Launch Performance, Wellness and Nutrition. Aside from Nick’s passion for fitness, he is also a Keynote Speaker in Mental Health and earned Mental Health First Aid Instructor status with the Mental Health Commission of Canada in November of 2014. Nick instructs Mental Health First Aid courses regularly and speaks on behalf of the Talking About Mental Illness program through the Canadian Mental Health Association. In 2016, Nick was awarded the St Joseph’s Hospital Spirit of Hope that is awarded to an individual who is making strides on reducing the stigma surrounding mental health and was the recipient of a YMCA Peace Medal Nomination in 2017. Nick is also a co-founding member of the Mohawk College Mental Health in Motion peer to peer support initiative which has been operating since January 2015.

Share

Read More

#5: What Exactly Is Toxic Masculinity?

What Exactly Is Toxic Masculinity?

Toxic masculinity is idea that our culture has certain strict beliefs around what it means to be a man, and these beliefs are harmful to all genders. A few examples:

  • Men are far more likely to commit suicide than women. This is in part because men are often reluctant to appear weak and do not seek help to manage mental health issues.
  • Men face social judgment when they enjoy non-traditionally masculine pursuits. This not only limits men's opportunities for growth and enjoyment, but it also limits them from pursuing certain professions often dominated by women. When professions are dominated by either gender due solely to social barriers, we lose perspective, insight, and intelligence that would be brought by those not represented.
  • Men statistically earn higher wages than women. Due to this economic imbalance, men often do not take parental leave (in countries where this is an option) as it is financially not feasible for families. This continues to contribute to an imbalance of childcare responsibilities and often relegates men to a position of a secondary caregiver.
  • Certain professions are dominated by men and are often hostile to women. This results in limited female participation in some sectors and therefore limits innovation driven by genuine competition.
  • There is sometimes a prejudice against fathers that results in a mother receiving full or primary custody of children, despite evidence that this is not in the children's best interest.
  • Pop culture frequently portrays fathers as inept, bumbling fools who need strict supervision by their female partners to be able to raise their children with any degree of competence.
  • Rape culture tells us that men are out of control, their desire so base and primitive, that they are overwhelmed with the urge to violently sexually assault women wearing clothing seen as provocative.

 

And for every example of toxic masculinity above, there is a corresponding attitude of misogyny that feeds into it.

It's a vicious cycle, really, and one that is millennia old. But by examining these cultural ideas of masculinity and stripping them down, we might be able to slowly move forward into a world that is not so poisonous for all genders.

 

Amber Pohl
Founder

Share

Read More

#4: Can we Change the World?

Can We Change The World?

Like millions of people, I was aghast at the outcome of the US election in November 2016. As a Canadian, it might seem nonsensical to have such a strong reaction to a foreign election. For me, it wasn't, as many people would have you believe, about liberalism or conservatism, left or right. It wasn't about a reasonable difference in political ideology or garden variety disappointment in an election outcome. It wasn't about being sad that a female candidate lost; far from it, in fact.

It was that for the first time, my worst fears about the existence of hate had become really and truly evident. I knew that it existed, of course, but I had underestimated the scale of it. There's a lot of discussion and analysis about the election results and not all of them point to misogyny and racism and xenophobia. But I don't think it can be denied that these were a major factor in many circles. And for the first time, I felt real, genuine fear: fear that the enormous American cultural influence will negatively impact billions of us around the world.

And what I also realized, as truly humbling as it was, is that my privilege in life had largely insulated me from this fear for so long. The fear that so many other people from less privileged backgrounds see and feel on a daily basis had largely bypassed me until now. I'd felt anger, I'd felt injustice, and I'd seen and experienced firsthand how misogyny operates. But I'd never felt fear before, and I'm ashamed that it took this fear to really wake me up.

This project is overwhelming in its scope, and I suppose the pessimist would say that it can't be done, that it's too big: reshaping our culture by tackling attitudes of toxic masculinity. This attitude was so obviously a factor in the American election and is serving as a catalyst for the rise in outspoken extremism and hatred. This extremism was always there, but it seems like it has now been given legitimacy.

And it's true: this is a huge and daunting undertaking. But we have to start somewhere. And if this project can help change the conversation, can help be a positive light in a darkening world, or can help someone, somewhere, then I think it's worth it. If we've challenged the status quo in some small way, we've changed that tiny piece of our world.

 

Amber Pohl
Founder

Share

Read More

#3: Help Wanted!


Help Wanted!

As this is a grassroots, community-driven site, we are always looking for new contributors. If you are interested in finding good quality, evidence-based resources for the library and social media pages, we want to hear from you. We also need writers to create original content.

And if you're an educator, we will soon be launching lesson plans and other educational resources for teachers geared at boys. We would love to feature your contributions, and we would love for you to use our plans.

Please email us to find out how you can get involved.

Amber Pohl
Founder

Share

Read More

#2: Why Boys Will Be Boys?

Why Boys Will Be Boys?

"Boys will be boys" is the old adage used to excuse or explain behaviour by boys and young men, whether as something as innocuous as rowdiness to something as serious as impaired driving or sexual violence.

I don't agree that boys will be boys in that sense, and this phrase has justified so many destructive behaviours over generations. I believe that boys need to be able to see that there is a huge range of diverse behaviour, experiences and identities that make them boys beyond this. Among many other things, boys will be:

Funny

Serious

Active

Still

Quiet​

Loud

Happy

Sad

Angry

Loving

Confident

Uncertain

Playful

Reflective

Laughing

Crying

Outgoing

Introverted

Athletic

Artistic

Human

I wanted this site to turn the traditional meaning of the phrase in its head. Boys will be whoever they may be. And being a boy must never be used to excuse violent and dangerous anti social behaviour. All boys are worth so much more than that.

 

Amber Pohl
Founder

Share

Read More

#1: Welcome to Boys Will Be Boys!

On July 11, 2013, I gave birth to a son. After the dust settled (does it ever really settle with small children?), I began to notice that there was a wealth of wonderfully empowering resources for girls and young women, which is absolutely necessary.

But I started to realize that there is a major gap in comparable resources for boys. I'd often notice something geared to girls on, say, sex education or gender roles, and I'd think that this is something that boys need to see, too. If we want to move to an equitable and just world, we really need to focus on educating boys and young men on a range of topics that seem to focus mainly on girls while boys get left behind. Toxic masculinity is so pervasive and it harms everyone, not just men, just like misogyny harms everyone, not just women. I believe that educating boys is a big part of this equation.

And so I decided to create this site, and its associated social media pages, in the hopes that it might help change the conversation around toxic masculinity and to provide positive and evidence-based resources to help boys and young men. It's intimidating in many ways, and I have a lingering fear of getting it wrong. But I've decided that it's important and that the project's possible value should be greater than my fear. Our fear of making mistakes or not getting it right all the time shouldn't stop us from trying to make a difference.

I'm actually somewhat reluctant to present this as a project created by a mother, because I find that our society actually often devalues the contributions of moms: they're often seen as cute or light or overly earnest or worrying or what have you. And I think that toxic masculinity is much, much deeper than something that stereotypically silly mommies worry about, as it impacts every single one of us, mothers or not. We have a long way to go.

I sincerely thank you for visiting this site at its launch, and I also gratefully thank our community contributors. I must also thank the talented Bianca Smalley, who designed the look and feel of the site and whose input on this project has been invaluable.

I hope that you find something useful in the site's contents as it continues to grow.

Amber Pohl
Founder

Share

Read More