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29th Oct 2016

How To Teach Our Little Boys About Locker Room Banter And Respect

Ciara O'Shea

With thanks to Donald Trump, we really need to talk about ‘locker room banter’.

His comments tell of a scary reality where misogynistic rhetoric attempts to make it okay to sexually assault or disrespect a women and even brag about it afterwards.

As Boy Mamas, can we raise men who will challenge this talk? Will our boys always strive to respect women and see them as equals? We certainly hope so.

Little ears are listening

We don’t need reminding that our kids become what we are; they listen to us and mimic our behaviour and our attitudes, then they carry these out into the world. Dads should always be aware of the powerful role they play here. They should be mindful of the comments they make, particularly about women, near younger ears. As Mums too, we should be aware of our own commentary, both about our own bodies and those of other women. Boys believe what their mums tell them and our criticism of women can powerfully undermine gender respect.

Be as open as you can about sex

This applies more to kids above the age of eight (or thereabouts), but attitudes can form early around sex. We need to teach our boys that although sex is the most natural thing in the world, it must always be respectful and it must always be mutual. Talk about the importance of consent and definitely consider having a conversation early about pornography. The thought of that may fill us with dread, but it needs to be discussed, especially as our kids are online at some point every day. Boys need a healthy and realistic attitude towards pornography, which in turn will give them the confidence to form their own opinions in relation to sex, particularly if they differ with those of their peers.

Speak up!

If a family member or friend is being sexist in their chat in front of smaller ears, call them out on it. Speak up! If we fail to do this, the silence that prevails will send a powerful message to our boys that it is okay to make demeaning and disrespectful comments about women, all in the name of fun or ‘banter’. And it is never okay to do this. Never.

Fearsome women

Surround your boys with strong and positive older female role models as they grow; aunties, grannies and friends can all play their part. These are women who will teach them important life lessons from a female perspective and who will, by their very presence, teach them how to respect other women.

The F-Word

Teach your boys the F-Word – the one they probably haven’t heard their friends say during a game of football after school! The word ‘feminist’ shouldn’t be seen as a word that can only be used by women. Being a feminist today can simply mean acknowledging that we live in a world where, for now, women and men are not treated equally but we can commit to working together to change that. Be a proud feminist for your boys.

Everyone’s contribution is equally important at home

Some of us work in the home, others outside. But everyone’s contribution matters and should be seen as equal. It takes many hands to keep a household running happily. If Mum is working hard at home keeping everyone safe, happy, washed, fed, driven about, educated, comforted and so much more besides, Dad should be seen by his boys to thank their mum regularly for all the hard work, effort and creativity she puts in to running the household.

Just because Dad leaves the house in the morning to go to work, comes home late and is able to ‘buy everything’ that is needed, doesn’t make him more important or powerful. And the same should go if it’s the other way around and Mum leaves the house every day to go to work and Dad remains at home to work his butt off for no pay!

Boys and girls should both be made to regularly contribute to household chores and take responsibility for keeping their own spaces clean and tidy. They do not live in a hotel and Mum is not a maid. They should learn that household work is real work too.

Power does not equal importance

Being physically stronger doesn’t give you the right to yield power over someone else; male or female. Our boys must learn that ‘No Means NO!’ Under no circumstances should that phrase be seen as a grey area. Our boys deserve to fully understand about consent and respect from an early age, even amongst siblings and friends. If someone doesn’t want to play or get involved in a game, they have the right to choose to say no. Respecting privacy and personal space is another important lesson for boys.

Be a good man

Our boys should learn that how you treat a person stays with them for the rest of their days. How many of us remember the person who called us names and made us feel like crap growing up? We all do. Let’s teach our boys that being a gentleman is something that should be aspired to; not laughed at. They can build on their good character as they grow and should always try to make themselves proud.

Be a good friend

As women, we understand the power of gossip and rumour. It can destroy people. Teach boys this, and help them learn that spreading gossip about a girl is dangerous and wrong, especially if they are doing it to seek revenge. They should always strive to protect their female friend’s reputation and defend them when needed. But no shiny knights on horseback are required nowadays, thanks all the same!

Don’t be a Trump

It’s okay for us mamas to tell it like it is. There are enough bad examples of manhood knocking about this world, that we can use to prove our basic point to our boys, which is ‘don’t be an asshole’. Don’t try to be the big guy in front of your mates by demeaning a girl publicly because you can. Being funny at someone else’s expense is never funny, especially when it is sexist or bigoted. Don’t think that having lots of money ever makes it okay to grope women and force yourself upon them.

And don’t for one single second think that women are going to accept your bad behaviour. You may think you’ve gotten away with it, at the time, but a girl will eventually find her strength and your past has a way of coming back to bite you on the bum, or worse.

Ciara O’Shea is the brilliant MamaBaker blogger. Catch up with her for honest musings on life as a baking mum.