Can being girly be good for boys?

Pink kids' bicycle standing in front of blue wall.

How would you feel if someone said to you...

You run like a girl.

You have such a girly laugh.

You're emotional, like a girl.

It's most likely you read these as insults. Why?

Because in our world, 'girly' things are undervalued.

Using girly as code for saying something is negative, teaches all children that femininity and girls aren’t valuable. This limits our kids when what we actually want is to give them options.

The challenge becomes how to resist problematic gender stereotypes without devaluing roles and activities traditionally associated with women and girls.

The problem isn't the 'girly' things themselves – it's how our society undervalues them.

Watch this great campaign, which says so much without actually saying much at all...

Men can struggle with 'girly'

Our Watch's 2017 research found that dads are less comfortable than mums with their sons doing things like playing with dolls or even crying. Which we understand, given dads have all been socialised in a world that undervalues things associated with women and girls.

We know that 72% of fathers reported they want to challenge gender stereotypes that surround their young children. Which is excellent!

The overarching issue here is that gender stereotypes and roles limit our sons' options – they carve off a whole bundle of things and put a big red ‘NOT FOR YOU’ on them.

Why boys need 'girly'

This is particularly limiting for boys with interests and ambitions that don’t fit into traditionally ‘masculine’ roles and stereotypes.

Boys interested in 'girly' things learn very early on that they’re wrong, abnormal or weird – all things none of us want our kids feeling.

So here are some tips for broadening the options for your sons:

  • Let your sons cry it out
  • Talk about sadness, fear and disappointment with your son – let them know these are all valuable emotions
  • Show your sons physical affection – hugs, kisses, hold hands
  • Let boys choose things from the 'girls aisle' (hopefully less stores label their aisles by gender… but that’s a whole other topic!)
  • Tell your sons you love them
  • Dads and men, tell other people you love them in front of kids
  • Stand up for 'girly' things – rock pink, celebrate the princess' bravery, praise caring behaviours
  • Invite your sons to join in traditionally 'girly' activities – painting nails, craft, baking, caring for the baby doll
  • Ask your son if he wants long or short hair, don't get it cut just because.

Want more? Have a read of why Boys must be more than just boys .