He said he was going to be Wendy…

As we pulled up to the halloween party, #1 blurted out: “Oh there’s Tobias. He said he was going to be Wendy.” Wendy who? I wondered. Should I recognize this Wendy? When I hazarded to ask, #1 schooled me on the finer points of Tobias’s costume. Clearly I had missed the visual clues—bright red wig, braids sticking out to the sides tied with baby-blue ribbons, freckles on the cheeks, baby-blue-and-white striped dress, red stockings, etc.—that made it obvious who Wendy is: “Ya know. Wendy from Wendy’s.” Oh, the burger chain. Got it.

# 1 jumped out shouting “Great Costume Tobias.” Another friend, dressed more stereotypically as a monster, patted Tobias on the back and complimented him on the costume. I stood with some other parents and watched the three of them wander up the street to the party.

While the parents were supportive of Tobias’s costume, I was interested to hear how they talked about it amongst themselves: “He was brave to come dressed as a girl.” or “It takes courage to dress as a woman.” or “That’s an unusual costume for a boy.” or “I guess if we don’t mind girls dressed as boys, we shouldn’t mind boys dressed as girls.”

I kept thinking as I listened to them: Don’t worry about it. Don’t impose your fears and limitations on these kids. These kids, maybe not all kids, but at least these kids are making a better world.

I am proud of those three boys and their community of friends and classmates. They didn’t worry about a boy dressing as a girl. Tobias’s costume was just a great costume.

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Lessons to learn …

As the parent of a son and a daughter, I find What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid disheartening for different reasons.

On the one hand, no father can read this and not worry about the prejudices, discrimination, societal expectations, and cultural norms that define and limit women’s opportunities today. Whether it’s silencing their voices in classrooms or reinforcing stereotypes about their skill sets and possible careers or compelling them to cover their faces with makeup. As a father I am trying to raise #2 so that she deliberately, explicitly, and regularly rejects such limitations.

Teaching daughters to reject societally imposed limits is not enough. Daughters are the victims of those prejudices and that discrimination. How perverse to oppress them further by requiring our daughters to remove the chains that society has shackled to them.

That is why, on the other hand, no father should read this and not worry that his son will be complicit in reinforcing the prejudices, discriminations, societal expectations, and cultural norms that define and limit women’s opportunities today. Whether it’s silencing their voices in classrooms or reinforcing stereotypes about their skill sets and possible careers or compelling them to cover their faces with makeup. As a father I am trying to raise #1 so that he deliberately, explicitly, and regularly rejects such limitations.

If we are going to make this a better world for our children, fathers have some lessons to learn from What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid.