Encourage your sons to be better allies to women
Encouraging sons to be better allies to women is an important step in fostering gender equality and promoting respectful, healthy relationships.
Andrew Tate, a self-described misogynist, is awaiting trial in Romania for rape and human trafficking. But despite this, he still exerts influence over huge numbers of teenage boys. As of August 2023 his videos have been viewed 11.6 BILLION times. Take that in. 11.6 BILLION.
For many boys he is an icon and his messages resonate with insecure and vulnerable teenagers. His interpretation of masculinity is even the topic of school assemblies which are trying to address the issue.
I am frequently asked by parents for advice on how they can raise their sons to be allies to girls and women to counteract the toxic masculinity which is embedding itself in our cultures like fleas in a blanket. The question was raised again last week, not by a parent this time, but by a teenage boy, son of long-term contact Irene Janssen at Robert Baker’s, Founder of Potentia Talent Consulting session on Male Allyship at the smart women’s club The Nine, Brussels.
The question was:
“What advice would you give to parents to raise sons who will be better allies to women?”
This gave me the much needed nudge to pull together many 3Plus resources.
I am not going to link Tate to give him any more exposure. Some of his philosophies include statements suggesting that women belong in the home, shouldn’t drive, and are a man’s property.
He also thinks rape victims must “bear responsibility” for their attacks and personally dates women aged 18–19 because he can “make an imprint” on them, according to videos posted online. He talks about “hitting and choking women, trashing their belongings and stopping them from going out.”
So an all-round nice guy. But researchers estimate that Twitter (X) profits from his account to the tune of $10 million.
Toxic masculinity is, therefore, a big money spinner, so with such an extensive reach to teenage boys, what advice can we give to parents to encourage sons to be better allies to women?
How to encourage sons to be better allies to women
Encouraging sons to be better allies to women is an important step in fostering gender equality and promoting respectful, healthy relationships for future generations. Here are some strategies that parents can use to help their sons become better allies to women:
1. Be role models
Parents should lead by example and form respectful and equal relationships in their own lives. Treat each other with kindness, respect, and equality, so your children will learn from your behaviour. Tate is said to have taken some of his views from his father who has publicly stated that he was able to hit women “withour leaving a mark” and was also diagnosed with narcissstic personality disorder.
2. Challenge Stereotypes
Gender stereotyping starts early and are extremely harmful, not only to boys but to families and society in general. Boys are discouraged from displaying emotions, seeking help or showing any sensitivity for fear that they might be perceived as weak. Vulnerability can be expressed as anger or even violence.
Talk to your sons (and daughters) about the damaging traps created by gender stereotypes. Encourage them to question and challenge these stereotypes when they encounter them in the media, culture, or daily life. More importantly, teach them how to speak up and call out when they see them.
3. Create a gender-balanced household
Both parents should participate equally in housework, preferably avoiding traditional gender stereotypical splits. Mum and Dad should also split the second shift or the invisible workload.
Encourage the boys to participate equally in household chores and responsibilities. Make sure they know how to do the basic life essential daily tasks. Also teach daughters how to do chores historically assigned to boys in previous generations. This helps them understand that gender roles should not dictate who does what.
Research from EIGE suggests that even in 2023 gender roles around housework are still the norm in Europe.
4. Open Communication & Emotion labelling
Create a safe and open environment for your sons to ask questions and express their thoughts and feelings. Listen without judgment and encourage them to share their concerns.
Teach your sons to name their emotions (sad, frustrated, lonely, scared) and avoid having a “no talk” household where certain sensitive topics are brushed under the carpet.
5. Teach Empathy
Help your sons understand the experiences and feelings of girls and women by encouraging empathy. Discuss women’s perspectives and challenges, and ask your sons how they would feel in similar situations.
This is particularly important around issues such as mensuration, menopause, birth control, and other topics that some families avoid.
6. Discuss consent
Teach your sons about the importance of consent in all relationships, both romantic and platonic. Discuss what consent means and why it’s crucial to respect boundaries.
This video from Thames Police is great at conveying an important message with some humour:
7. Teach respect for personal boundaries
Instill the value of respecting personal space and boundaries. Teach your sons that no one should ever feel pressured or uncomfortable in any situation. Give guidance on which parts of the female body are off-limits at any age.
Also make sure that “no” means “no” in any context, even in play. Avoid the “boys will be boys” trap to excuse poor or uncontrolled behaviour. We also have to get rid of the idea that it’s not necessary to behave inappropriately to show a girl they like her – just as it’s not necessary for girls to accept it. This normalises abusive behaviour as a form of affection.
8. Encourage gender-neutral interests
Avoid limiting your sons’ interests or choices based on gender. Encourage them to explore a wide range of activities and interests without judgment.
It is particularly important around toys, sports, movies, and books which tend to be riddled with gendered messages – even the old-school “fairy tales”.
There is no such thing as “boys’ activities” and “girls’ activities” or around the choice of academic subjects in school.
9. Supervise online activities
Be aware as you can be around your sons’ online activities,if possible setting clear limits and employing age-appropriate parental control buttons. This is supposed to be a minefield I have heard.
Discuss the implications of online behaviour, such as cyberbullying or harassment. Encourage responsible online conduct and reporting of harmful behaviour.
Educate your boys on the dangers of toxic masculinity. Currently only 20% of young people support Andrew Tate’s views but the percentage grows with underepresanted groups. That is still 20% too many.
10. Discuss Healthy Relationships
Teach your sons about the qualities of healthy relationships, which include mutual respect, communication, and support. Talk about warning signs of unhealthy, manipulative or abusive relationships as he enters the dating world.
11. Encourage diverse perspectives
Encourage your sons to engage with diverse media, literature, and experiences that highlight the voices and stories of women and underrepresented groups.
12. Support gender equality initiatives
Engage in or support community and school initiatives that promote gender equality. Involving your sons in these activities can help them see the importance of gender equality in society.
13. Be supportive
Let your sons know that you support their efforts to be better allies to women and that you’re there to help them learn and grow.
Remember that these conversations and actions should be ongoing and tailored to your son’s age and understanding. Encouraging empathy, respect, and equality in their interactions with women is a process that continues throughout their lives.
Make your organisation an equal space for all genders with 3Plus Unconscious Bias Training Workshops.