On Gender Roles, Equality and the #BoyMom Hashtag

On Gender Roles, Equality and the #BoyMom Hashtag

On Gender Roles, Equality and the #BoyMom Hashtag

I’m afraid I’m on another soapbox today.

This time it’s about gender roles and equality. And why, as the mom of four exceptional girls, I hate certain uses of the #boymom hashtag.

Here’s the thing: I firmly believe that gender differences are real, natural and good. But those differences are hard to define and have very little to do with the activities kids choose or their skills and talents.

With four daughters, there is a lot of the 3 Ps {pretty, pink and princess} in our home. This is not about denying our girls’ femininity or pretending they don’t have a need to feel beautiful.

But while we embrace and encourage their girly sides, I refuse to pigeonhole them because of their gender. (And I feel the same way now that we’re raising a son as well.) The problem with trying to define gender roles or characteristics in concrete terms is that it inevitably leaves someone feeling abnormal for their innate personality, passions or interests.

On Gender Roles, Equality and the #BoyMom Hashtag

For example, Sean and I often get frustrated with marriage books/classes/etc. because so many of the stereotypes don’t fit us. I work, manage the money and am more likely to fly off the handle. He’s a stay-at-home dad, chooses our home decor and puts up with my Italian temper, often giving me a hug when I’m in the middle of a snit, because he knows that’s what I really need.

But he also handles all house, yard and car maintenance while I plan the meals and the homeschool curriculum. And while I’m the one who works right now, I’m also the one who is more likely to be up with unhappy or sick babies, not because he won’t do it, but because I want to.

I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a feminist (I happen to like the idea of being married to a strong man who makes me feel safe) but I also know that girls are capable of pretty much anything boys are…and vice versa.

On Gender Roles, Equality and the #BoyMom Hashtag

Our girls are about frills and fashion, but they’re also rough and tumble. They like archery, climbing trees (often in dresses), building forts, playing in the mud, collecting bugs, etc. They’ve gone through pirate and dinosaur phases. They fight over our Black & Decker toy tool set. And they love to race Daddy on his mountain bike and jump from the top of the swingset.

So when I see one of these activities labeled with the #boymom hashtag — as if they’re things that only boys do — I get more than a little annoyed. I don’t think “boy moms” would appreciate me labeling pictures of my girls cooking or painting as girl activities, but the #boymom hashtag is used liberally for activities that plenty of girls enjoy.

I’m sure the differences between raising boys and girls will become more obvious as our little man grows, and I’m not talking about ignoring our children’s gender altogether.

What I am talking about is letting our kids discover their own interests and talents without gender bias. Let’s not limit our girls by making them feel like they should stick with princesses and babies while leaving the bugs and dirt and science experiments to the boys.

This Post Has 67 Comments

  1. I’m with you. I think I get most annoyed when the #boymom hashtag is used only in conjunction with boys who are wild, unruly climbers who are perpetually dirty and turn every object into a gun. I have nothing against those boys, certainly. But I’m raising a boy who might be more likely to calculate the angle a tree is leaning than to climb it– his baby sister’s the most likely to climb it!– and he’s still very much a boy. He’s strong, competent, intellectual, and discerning. But who wants to see a picture captioned “Just sitting here creating an algorithm to determine how many more cans we need to raise to meet the community’s summer needs” with the hashtag #boymom? No one. We might all need to make more liberal use of the hashtag #awesomekidmom. 🙂

  2. This is so true, and it goes either way. Boys can enjoy decorating and cooking, and girls can have fun getting dirty and finding frogs!

    As the mom of a not-so-stereotypical son, I often feel like boys are a little bit pigeonholed. There’s kind of this expectation that boys will be large and loud and into sports and my son is just not like that.

  3. Not to start a debate but since I am one of those boy moms who has fairly stereotypical boys, this is what I mean when I’ve used the “boy mom” term…despite the intense focus on giving girls opportunities and allowing them the freedom to choose whatever interests they want (which is awesome), I sometimes think that girls really do have a wider range of options that are “normal” or “typical”. For instance, girls will just as freely choose Star Wars or dirt as princesses or manicures but the reverse is generally not true. It’s more unlikely for a rough and tumble boy to go through “dressing like a princess” phase or “tea party” phase in the same way that a girl will go through a “pirate” phase or love collecting bugs. There are a lot of activities that people classify as “boy” or “girl” that really are just neutral…cooking, painting, drawing, sports, etc. If a mom of all girls used the #girlmom hashtag with a picture of her girls wearing tiaras, frills and makeup, there’s no way I’m going to be offended. If, however, that hashtag accompanied a picture of the daughter coloring, then I would be annoyed.

  4. Mandi, I use the #boymom hashtag not to exclude others, but to include those who have a need to feel like they’re not alone.

    That’s why the MOB Society started. It’s a place for boy moms, and while girl moms often tell us they find comfort and inspiration there, too, it really is all about boys.

    For me, using that hashtag, and creating an entire community just for #boymoms is about just that…community. Erin Mohring and I felt a need for this community in our own lives, and have found that thousands of other mothers of boys need it, too. It’s about helping them feel like the things their boys do are more normal than not.

    It’s not about excluding others, or making mothers of girls feel left out (there’s a whole site for girl moms too), it’s just about loving on the people God has called us to love on. When I use that hashtag it’s because I’m reaching out to the very population God has called me to stand in the gap for. It’s about bringing people in to a group of like-minded people.

    I’m so sorry you don’t like it, and I know this post isn’t about the MOB Society, but I think that hashtag does so much more good than harm.

  5. I really do understand your point, Mandi, but I have used the hashtag before with pictures of me baking with my boys, not just with pictures of mud and bugs! In fact, my boys hate bugs! I’ve always seen hashtags like #boymom as a way for boy moms to connect and likewise with #homeschool – it is quite clear that not every homeschool situation looks the same, but using that hashtag invites community with other homeschoolers! I don’t want ANY child to be put in a box based on their gender, but I love seeing what other boy moms post using that hashtag because I often find myself connecting with what they post!

  6. So…your first sentence sounds like you’re going to disagree with me, but your conclusion is the same as mine. I certainly am not offended by pictures of boys peeing on trees or a mama and her boys cuddling that’s labeled #boymom. It’s really just those activities that we enjoy — or should be able to enjoy if we want to!) that ruffle my feathers.

    That said, since we’re not there yet, I hadn’t thought about all the ways that boys are pigeonholed as well, so I appreciate you pointing those out as well. I’m not sure how I’d feel about a dress or manicure phase in my son, but I certainly hope we’ll have plenty of tea parties, coloring sessions and cooking together in the future!

  7. You’re right; using the tag that way is just as unfair to the “non-typical” boy as it is to girls. I’d personally like to see the algorithm picture though — that’s my kind of kid! 🙂

  8. Hi Brooke!

    Let me start by saying two things: 1) I had no idea this tag was coined by or related to MOB Society, and my intention certainly wasn’t to criticize what you’re doing. And 2) In the places where I hang out — Instagram and my personal Facebook feed — the tag really doesn’t seem to be being used as a way to connect with other moms as much as as an “aside”, similar to how I label pictures of our sunset #wildwonderfulwestvirginia or add ridiculous hashtags like #airmattressattheinlaws to my pictures.

    Looking on Twitter and your Facebook feed, I can see how it IS used for conversation and community, so I have updated the post to clarify at the beginning that it’s only specific uses of the hashtag that bother me (which I then describe later in the post).

    I know we probably still won’t agree, but I did want to make sure that the post accurately reflected what I was saying (which seems to be resonating with mothers of boys and girls alike) and not coming across as critical of your ministry.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  9. You’re so right. I can’t speak to this part of it yet since our boy is still itty bitty, butit is just as unfair for the quiet, artistic boy as to the wild and adventurous girls. I like JessieLeigh’s idea of an #awesomekidmom tag!

  10. I love that, Erin — and I think if I had seen a picture of your boys doing stuff like baking followed by one of them digging in the dirt, I would not be offended in the least.
    Unfortunately, that’s not the way it pops up in my feed most of the time; it’s usually reserved only for the crazy adventures!

  11. Yeah I guess I didn’t really get that controversial. 🙂 I think I just get frustrated when I feel like it’s so taboo nowadays to say that anything is typical of boys or girls. Boy moms are certainly not (most of the time) trying to say that girls can’t or shouldn’t enjoy pirates or dirt or bugs; they aren’t trying to offend or exclude girl moms or girls from those activities any more than a mom complaining about girl drama is implying that boys never have emotional meltdowns and she’s the only one who’s ever experienced it. There are just some things that a majority of boys are into or do that are common to boy moms. As the only (pretty girly) woman in a house of males, I feel like I am living with aliens and the “Boy Mom” thing helps me feel like I’m not crazy or alone.

  12. Also, although my boys are fairly stereotypical (as in, we have a doll…they ignore it. The stroller is an army tank. The play kitchen utensils are used as Star Wars ships. And no one ever wants to watch Cinderella, Snow White or Beauty and the Beast, all of which we own), I also have a boy who loves pink and purple, begs me to wear dresses and jewelry, and another boy who can cook and is incredibly artistic.

  13. This comment is a great reminder of (one of) the purposes of hashtags. I find my feathers ruffled by the #homeschool hashtags all the time. My public school kids read to their siblings, learn all sorts of math and science while cooking, and do LOTS of the activities I see hash tagged for homeschool. I need to remember that the intent isn’t to exclude me (it’s really not about me and mine all the time) but to share a common denominator within a group. I’m good with that. 🙂

  14. I totally agree with you as the mom of 2 girls and a boy. And like other commenters, I actually feel this happening much more with my son than with my daughters, and it does concern me that we put such specific labels on what a boy or a girl should likes and enjoy and choose to spend their time doing. My son loves to dress up in dresses like princesses with my daughter and I’m totally okay with that – it’s not really like they make great prince dress up clothes, or that they really push the “princes” the way they do with “princesses” and so my son latches on to the princesses because that’s what he sees having an older sister. He’s also the one that’s more likely to come and help me in the kitchen, he loves to cook. And yesterday while I was reading to the kids, he spent like 10 minutes just brushing my hair. He loves our garden and goes out daily to check on how our plants are growing. And then he puts his cleats on and runs outside to practice soccer. I love, love, love that he has a wide range of interests, (as does my daughter) and I want to encourage him that he can choose to do anything that he wants to, regardless of whether it’s a “girly” activity or not. Thanks for starting this important discussion!

  15. You both said pretty much everything I had to say, but I wanted to chime in to agree. Building community is fine, but pigeonholing our kids into stereotypes makes me bristle. I vote we all start using #awesomekid a lot more.

  16. Going to push back a little because I know you — and our friendship — can take it…

    “I think I just get frustrated when I feel like it’s so taboo nowadays to say that anything is typical of boys or girls.”

    But if lots of girls enjoy bugs and dirt and pirates (and they do), why are those things “typical” of boys? And if plenty of boys (even if it’s not the majority) don’t fit the loud and rambunctious stereotype, why do we call those things “typical”. I guess since we don’t fit the molds, I’m just questioning who decides what the molds are and why we want to keep letting them define gender even if they leave a whole lot of people out.

  17. You know, the girls have been giving Jackson a baby doll a lot lately, and it’s so cute to watch him try to figure this baby out. It’s made me think about whether at some point I will be bothered by him playing with a baby, and I really can’t imagine I will be. What could possibly be wrong with a boy who wants to care for a baby? Don’t we want men who are nurturing and loving too?!

    Thanks for sharing about your kids and their interests; I was not anticipating that “boy moms” would chime in with their own frustrations, but I think it’s a really, really important part of the conversation!

  18. This is a hot topic these days! We have two children, a girl and boy (the youngest). Our daughter loves bugs, dirt, worms, slugs, and nature of any kind. She doesn’t want me to fix her hair and she isn’t natural when it comes to being prissy. She does love to play dress up and enjoys princess movies. She loves to sing and dance, etc. It just so happens that for a season (4 or so years) God saw fit to give me very close friends who only have boys. Avery fits right in, minus some hard core wrestling games, and is not given a hard time for enjoying what our world would characterize as boy activities. I think girls have it easier in this way. Dads are not upset when their girls enjoy everything outdoors, or even cars and trucks. But, when their boy wants to wear a princess dress while rolling their cars downy he hallway…now that makes parents a little uncomfortable. When boys are born to older sisters, it is just unavoidable for them to enjoy what interests their sisters. God has a plan for each of us. Some boys, He plans to use in areas of life that require the skills they will pick up from being in a all boy family, some though need to walk through life with sisters in order to prepare for their God given purpose. Same for girls. We can never underestimate God’s plan in each of our children’s and families lives. We need to stop focusing so much on the world and what it says is acceptable and unacceptable and instead, seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit when raising our children. I agree with the #awesomekid movement! However, I refrain from these types of community all together. Too much temptation to get my feelings hurt or on the flip side to judge.

  19. I am raising BOYS. That is literally all I know. I wasn’t blessed with girls. So I label things #boymom sometimes…not to insult you or your girls who I have never met…but because that is what I am. I am a boymom…mom of boys. My boys do all sorts of things from the things you mention as being typically “girlie” to those that are typically considered boy stuff. When my friend who has all girls talks about being a “girl mom” and mentions things my boys also enjoy…I don’t get offended because I realize, she is bragging on her own kids and not insulting mine. I just don’t understand creating offense and insult where none is intended. Seriously? I can’t even call myself a boy mom without someone getting offended?

  20. I completely agree!

  21. I haven’t really been involved in the MOB society, but I agree with you about the idea of community.

  22. I don’t think they define gender but that they do describe a very large portion of gender behavior or interests. I have a niece who loves bugs and Star Wars and a nephew who is not rambunctious and loud so I get that not everyone fits the description. I don’t really know why I feel so defensive reading this except that I feel a little like motives are being judged? I just really want moms of girls to understand that when boy moms use that term, they aren’t intending to exclude anyone. Some of us do not understand the creatures we are parenting! 🙂 I really struggle with not trying to force my boys to not express their natural energy because “normal” to me seems like it should be calm…tame…settled…organized. I am a stereotypical girl who hates bugs, hates mud, prefers fashion, cooking and nail polish. I compare my boys to their female cousins who are SO DIFFERENT!! I fight the feeling that there is something wrong with my boys because they are way more active than the majority of girls I know. The boy mom term helps me to know that I am not alone in feeling like this and that my boys are normal even if they are different from me.

  23. If anything, I think the stereotypes are MUST harsher the other way around. Girls play in the dirt. It is totally okay. Boys playing with a pink stuffed animal, on the other hand is what gets judged more harshly. That is why I don’t understand the extreme offense at moms talking about things their boys like to do. So your girl likes to do that, too…that’s great. Awesome. Girls can do anything…it’s boys who are in the more defined box, IMHO.

  24. I definitely think that boys are pigeonholed more so than girls for the most part.

  25. I was also thinking the exact same thing but couldn’t put it into words…totally agree. Feminism has given girls the freedom to do so much – anything they want, really! But if a boy goes prancing around in dresses or wants to be Elsa for Halloween, it is not approached with the same level of nonchalance.

  26. I use the boy mom hashtag often because I am, well, a mom to a boy. Sometimes I use the #boymom hashtag I make on specifically boyish looking monsters I’ve made because I think parents to boys will like them – but I also use the #parenting, #moms, #mums and #kids tags. I also use #girlmom to show off pink monsters I’ve made. I’ve never used it to establish a gender barrier – my son’s favorite color is pink and he loves My Little Pony and painting his nails. Just another perspective about why some people use it. 🙂

  27. I didn’t know this community existed! I am off to check it out! 🙂 So glad I saw your comment!

  28. I could not agree more. I have 4 children. 2 of each ranging from 15 to 6. They are each different in their own unique way boy or girl and might I say awesome. We need develope them as the awesome people they are not what we think they should be.

  29. Hi Crystal! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    As a “girl mom” for more than 9 years, I get what you’re saying…except I never really felt the need to define myself that way. I was just a mom. To girls, yes. But I didn’t feel like that made me a specific kind of mom or that I needed to connect with or glean wisdom only from other “girl moms”.

    That said, I really was not referring to the community aspect of this hashtag, which I didn’t know existed until the comments. The times the tag shows up in my feed, it’s featuring boys doing dirty, loud, adventures, rambunctious things. And the label very much implies that these experiences are unique to boy moms. As a “girl mom”, there’s no real way for me to share my experiences or comment on those photos without coming across wrong. (“Oh, my girls do that too.” just doesn’t come across as friendly.)

    Like the #homeschool examples that Amy mentioned above, in those cases the tag is really more divisive than friendly.

    What I find most interesting in this thread, though, is that you chime in several times to agree that boys are more pigeonholed than girls…and yet there are plenty of moms of boys that say they don’t like that tag either BECAUSE it pigeonholes their boys. While I do now see the greater good of the tag as a whole for building community, it’s specifically the instances where it’s labeling an activity as a “boy mom” experience that I’m talking about. And that seems to affect parents of both genders.

  30. Thanks for responding, Elizabeth. My intent wasn’t to judge your motives (and actually, I’m not sure I’ve even seen you use the tag, so it definitely wasn’t specifically aimed at you!), but to share how the tag comes across. Like I mentioned below in response to Crystal, when a photo of boys doing something wild and crazy or dirty or adventurous, it makes me feel like there’s no room for me as a mom to comment because I just couldn’t possibly understand since I don’t have (older) boys. I’m sure that is not the motive, but it does seem to be more divisive than inclusive when it’s used that way.

  31. I thought maybe I was missing something, so I spent a few minutes yesterday browsing both the #boymom tag and the #girlmom tag, and I didn’t see what you’re seeing. Yes, there were a few loud, rambunctious things tagged with #boymom, and there were some birthday parties and mom/boy dates for chinese, and posts about VBS, etc. The #girlmom tag looked actually quite similar–wild and crazy, princess stuff, day out with mom, birthday parties, etc.

    I guess I just see it as moms enjoying and celebrating their children and parenthood and don’t see it with the negative connotations that you do.

    What I meant by my pigeonholed comments is that I really don’t understand where you’re coming from with this. I guess that’s where we are different. If I see something in a #girlmom tag, I don’t automatically make the assumption that someone is trying to say my boys shouldn’t or couldn’t do that thing. So yes, I am quite flabbergasted by it.

  32. I don’t agree with you that it’s divisive. I have commented on lots of baking pictures, coloring pictures, etc. and said that my boys love doing those things to. I have had other moms comment on my photos and statuses about wild boys that their girls do those things too. It’s fine. No one is saying that your girls can’t do things. Just that our boys do. But the bottom line is that no one can control how you choose to read or interpret our posts celebrating our children.

    If I’m talking about my boys, it’s pretty clear I am a boy mom whether I hashtag myself as such or not. It just seems like the only way for you to be comfortable would be if I just didn’t talk about anything my boys did–since my boys doing something somehow means that your girls can’t. I am a mom of boys whether I use the hashtag for it or not.

    Again, whether the girl mom hashtag is used or not, there are a lot of things about being a girl mom that I just won’t understand or relate to, because I have boys. Or things that I do relate to because my boys do the same thing.

  33. I haven’t used the hashtag but I have posted plenty of pictures with comments about “life with boys”. And I know there’s nothing personal intended about it towards me. I am just pushing back a little to question why anyone is offended in the first place. I know that I often get offended or frustrated by comments thinking that they are saying something that they aren’t. Or intending something that they aren’t. When people complain about “girl drama”, I don’t think they realize that boys have dramatic emotional meltdowns too but at the same time, I don’t feel like they are intending to exclude boys from having emotions. Can we maybe just assume that no one is trying to be divisive?

    And also, for those of us who only have one sex of children, it’s sometimes tricky to separate what is just “kid stuff” from what is “boy stuff” or “girl stuff”, especially when we do fit the stereotypes of one gender. If it’s different from how I would act or what I would be interested in, I just automatically assume it’s “boy stuff”. Again, innocent intentions in using the “boy mom” or “life with boys” term.

  34. It’s fine that you disagree; this is my blog, so what I write is my opinion, not the law.

    Were the pictures of girls you commented labeled #girlmom or just pictures of girls doing activities? There’s a difference. If you don’t see the difference, I’m not sure there’s any way I can make you see it, but it comes across very differently.

    I’m also not sure why this makes you so defensive, but you are twisting my words in an attempt to make your point. I never said — or even implied — that you can’t talk about the things your boys do; I said that tagging photos of boys doing “typical boy” things with the #boymom tag implies that those are things only boys do or only moms of boys understand.

    To use other examples, Elizabeth said that if a mom posts a picture of her little girl coloring and tagged that #girlmom, she would be offended, and Amy shared how when she sees a picture of kids doing math while they’re baking tagged #homeschool, it upsets her. That homeschool example made me think about the way I use the homeschool tag and if I’m doing it in a way that excludes other people.

    If you’re comfortable with the way you’re using the #boymom tag and not worried about whether it makes other people feel defensive, left out or excluded, then by all means, go in peace. There have been a lot of insights on both sides of the conversation in the comments, and I’m willing to grow and learn from those. But your comments are coming across as angrier and angrier and you’re twisting my words to make your point, neither of which are furthering the dialogue.

  35. I am also curious about what, if anything, you see as genuine gender differences. That might be a topic for a totally different post though, but I am just wondering, since you also said in your post that you do believe that there are some. What would be some specific situations where it would be ok to assign something to either “boy” or “girl”?

  36. I haven’t spent a lot of time browsing the feeds; I just know how it’s used in my actual newsfeed on both Instagram and Facebook. (Although looking now, there are problem 5 times as many #boymom pictures as #girlmom, which explains why I’ve seen one and not the other.) The other moms (ironically, all boy moms) who chimed in see it used the same way.

  37. I am not angry at all. But yes, when someone takes something that I do as a celebration of motherhood and my children and twists it around and accuses me of being divisive and oppressive, that does make me a little defensive and hurt.

    Just as, apparently my calling myself a boy mom makes you feel defensive, left out and excluded.

    You’re right, though, that this is your blog and you can say whatever you want…and that this is not really a productive dialogue.

  38. I think I probably shouldn’t have said I would be offended…I wouldn’t be offended, really. I would just think, “eh, my boys love that too”. I’m genuinely trying to figure out what I can label as “life with boys” or “boy mom” that wouldn’t feel exclusive. What about my life can I say is different than someone who has girls? Is it only stuff related to clothing (i.e. dresses) or anatomy? If I talked about my son being a leader and labeled it as “boy”, would everyone with girls assume I’m implying that girls can’t be leaders (or that all boys should)? If I talked about their strength and labeled it “boy”, would everyone feel as though girls should be weak? I like guidelines and rules and I certainly don’t want to offend Facebook friends, so I’m hoping you can help me out here.

  39. To clarify, I never once accused you of being divisive or oppressive. In the post, I said use of the tag for activities that all children enjoy annoys me. In the comments I said that the tag comes across as divisive (in response to the idea of it being about building community). Neither of those was a personal attack on you or your use of the tag.

  40. I have no idea. 🙂

    My intent was not to establish “the law of the hashtag” — it was to provide food for thought. I personally don’t feel the need to label any activities as girl activities or boy activities; they’re just kids! But I think you should do what makes you comfortable…me being annoyed by something doesn’t mean I’m offended or hurt; it means I’m annoyed. There are other people who have chimed in to say they feel the same way, so I’m not alone in feeling that way, but I can’t define what you should or shouldn’t label a certain way in your own posts.

  41. I think the differences are all stereotypes: boys are louder, more active, more physical, more energetic. Girls are quieter, enjoy reading, more nurturing.

    I don’t think any of those stereotypes are rules that define every child of each gender, and I’m not sure there’s really any benefit in labeling any activity as a boy activity or girl activity when inevitably someone will be left out because they don’t fit the stereotype.

  42. Wow! I agree with others that you seem to be reading a lot into a simple hash tag!

  43. That is entirely possible; I tend to analyze everything!

    That said, I’m not the only one feeling this way (as I’m sure you saw in the comments), so maybe it’s worth considering?

  44. Mandi, thanks for responding! While I do see a few commenters who agree they see where you’re coming from, most seemed to think you’re overreacting. I saw many commenters who disagreed and you’ve seen them as well because you have argued with them.

  45. Maybe it’s new math, but as far as I know, 5 people out of 10-12 doesn’t equal “most”. 🙂 If you’d rather not consider the other side, though, that’s your prerogative.

  46. Being a “feminist” is about believing that men and women are equal, and it is not nullified by any of your own personal preferences in a mate. Everything you describe above is feminism – which is about making choices that work for you and your family. And raising one son will not teach you about gender differences – it will teach you about what your son is like. Read Pink Brain, Blue Brain which argues that most gender differences are societally constructed.

  47. The posts I’ve seen “agreeing” are saying that they agree girls can do anything. I agree with that as well! I think as moms of girls, it is our job to teach them to do whatever they want and not to play victims because if something as simple as a hash tag when there is so much real oppression in the world. you bet if someone says my gurls cant do something, I’ll be the first one to be all over it! But, I don’t at all see the #boymom hashtag as saying that. I’m not trying to ignore the other perspective, though you certainly seem to be doing just that. You have said that you appreciate getting food for thought, but all of your arguments back toward the thoughtful comments you’ve received make it clear that’s not the case.

  48. I’m sorry that’s how it’s come across, Sally — truly. Other than my frustration with Crystal twisting my words this morning, all of my “pushback” has been about dialogue and understanding the other person’s perspective.

    I’ve stated several times that someone has brought up something I hadn’t thought about and that I appreciated various perspectives, and I meant it. But appreciating someone’s perspective doesn’t mean I need to change mine, and dialoguing back and forth doesn’t necessary equate to the negative connotations of “arguing”.

    The most interesting part of the comments, to me, has been the moms of boys who have shared that THEY dislike the hashtag because they feel like it pigeonholes their boys. I truly had no idea there was an entire community around the #boymom hashtag, which I get, even if it’s not my cup of tea. And I don’t know the answers to Elizabeth’s questions about what are truly boy or girl activities — but I think it’s good food for thought.

    I like to think things through, see different perspectives and push back to understand where people are coming from, and I’m not afraid to change my opinion or admit I am wrong. But I stand by my assertion that simply adding the #boymom tag to a picture of boys participating in a stereotypical “boy” activity perpetuates stereotypes, even if that’s not the intention of the person posting it.

  49. See, I’m not sure I can go that far. I guess I see gender more as a spectrum. I don’t think the stereotypes are completely accurate, but I think they hold true for a lot of people, which is how they became stereotypes, and that men and women being equal doesn’t necessarily mean they are the same. I’m just not sure it can be easily and scientifically defined.

  50. Thank you, Mandi! I do understand that you weren’t singling me out…you don’t even know me 🙂 But since I use that hashtag, the sweeping statements include me along with everyone else who uses it.

    Also, to be fair…I doubt that those #boymom messages you saw actually said that these are things only boys do. (And if they did, I would still argue that’s a separate issue than just using the hashtag #boymom).

  51. Mandi, I feel the need to defend myself here. I did not twist your words around. I never said that you said that I shouldn’t share about my boys. My point was to show you that it is a slippery slope. Where do you draw the line about what’s okay for me (as a user of the #boymom hashtag) to share, and what isn’t?

    Even now you say that “simply adding the #boymom tag to a picture of boys participating in a stereotypical “boy” activity perpetuates stereotype,” But it would be okay to use on a post or image of them doing a stereotypical “boy” activity?

    You say that we should allow our kids to be who THEY are, but for my boys that includes stereotypical “boy” activities, along with some stereotypical “girl” activities, and lots of neutral activities. Why should I only get to share some of them? I am sorry that it is annoying or that you find it excluding, but I don’t think it would do anyone any favors to pretend like my #boymom experience only includes “girly” things (any more than it would be good for you to pretend that your #girlmom experience only includes girly or boyish things)…we have both. A little bit of everything…but yes, heavy on the boy stuff…because that’s just who they are. And I won’t hide that or ignore it and I think it’s hypocritical of you to even suggest it.

  52. This is where we keep going wrong, Crystal — I am NOT talking about your use of the #boymom tag on all/a lot of your pictures (I didn’t even know people did that because I’ve never seen it done); I am talking about the people who do not regularly use the tag and then randomly use it when posting a stereotypical boy activity. In the quote above, “simply” should have been “only”; I even replied to Erin and said that if I followed her feed, where she was using the tag often because she considers herself a boy mom, I would not be bothered. But in my feed, it only shows up on occasion from people who are not using it regularly, when their boys do something especially “boyish”.

    So no, I don’t think your slippery slope is relevant at all, as I never implied that no one should use the tag at all or that you should only tag girl activities. I’m not trying to set rules or regulate the tag. I’m saying that I, Mandi Ehman, am personally annoyed when someone uses the tag on a stereotypical boy activity that should really be considered a “kid” activity when they would not otherwise use the tag.

  53. Great post! I love all the pictures of your girls doing active and/or messy activities, and I think it’s fantastic that you encourage that as well. It did strike me as somewhat odd though that in a post about gender roles and equality you wrote that you wouldn’t call yourself a feminist and then seemed to give the reason as because you like being married to a strong man who makes you feel safe. Being a feminist and being married to are a strong man are certainly not mutually exclusive. I know that I am both. Women and men of all different walks of life can be feminists. It’s just about wanting exactly what you’ve written about – equality. I find it unfortunate that the term has gotten such a bad rap.

  54. Wow. Part of me is thinking “are we seriously discussing this?” But I just read through it all so I guess that wouldn’t be fair. I have twin 7 yr old boys and a girl and I have asserted terms such as boy mom to some pics of my boys and then when I post pics of my 4 yr old girl climbng a fence with tap shoes and a princess dress on ive said something along the lines of “girls are fun”. NEVER have I thought or cared that this could in some way annoy someone. I’m a mom to 2 boys and a girl whom I love for all of their similarities and differences (some of which are due to their genders, GASP!) and I hashtag accordingly! I guess all that to say I am annoyed by this presumption that boy moms are pigeonholing their children and we should just start calling them “awesome kids” (ugh) therefore I have no right to blame you for sharing that you are annoyed by hashtags. In my opinion though, I think there is a touch of hypersensitivity on this topic for whatever reason. It’s ok for some activities to be geared towards boys or girls even if some of the opposite sex may enjoy them.

  55. I am a mom of 5 girls (3 on Earth and 2 in Heaven) – and I never thought about the hashtag like that – I always thought the hashtag described the MOM, not the boy. I confess that I use the #homeschool hashtag quite a bit – not to exclude anyone EVER – but just to connect with other homeschooling families. Or I’ll use #momsoninstagram – what is meant not to disclude people who aren’t moms…or I use the #rainbowbaby hashtag since I have had a baby after a loss – but it’s not meant to make anyone feel their child is less special – know what I’m saying? I am a pretty big feminist (graduated from Berkeley Law) – so I do think about these things quite a bit. I get more driven crazy by the “girlfriend or boyfriend” hashtags with pictures of elementary kids…and the early sexualization of girls, in particular. Also – commercial stuff (advertising to kids) – drives me CRAZY!!!! so – we all have our things that drive us crazy. I am glad that you brought this issue up because I hadn’t thought a lot about that particular hashtag before – but now I can see how other hashtags I use might seem insensitive to other people…love your blog! 🙂

  56. There were four of us girls before my two brothers came along, and we were all over the map with dresses, plastic dinosaurs, exploring trips, tea parties, “living off the land,” and Polly Pockets! Nothing was off-limits because it was a “boy activity”! And when my brothers came along, they played their fair share of dolls and dress up, as well as pocket knives and pirates.

    As a child, I always felt a little miffed when I saw catalogues market certain toys to boys and others to girls. I’m so glad my parents didn’t enforce the stereotypes–we had much more fun that way!

  57. Thanks for chiming in! I know I’ll be rethinking how I use the #homeschool tag, but I probably will rethink my reaction to the #boymom tag after hearing from so many moms who use it!

    I 100% agree with you on the boyfriend/girlfriend thing and advertising for kids, though; I’d say those are bigger issues by far! 🙂

  58. You’re right, Grace — I totally played into a stereotype there. I do have a bit of a caricature of feminists in my mind of women who don’t need men (I do need my man!) and would be happier off without them. It’s time to reclaim the term feminism (and I loved Sarah Bessey’s Jesus Feminist), but I did want to be sure that readers knew I was not falling into that category even though my husband and I break a lot of norms in our relationship. Thanks for calling me out on it!

  59. I’m not a fan of the boymom hashtag either. I actually unfollowed a person on all social media because of one of her posts. It went along the lines of she was glad she could do “fun” stuff with her boys rather than be “stuck” with Princess stuff like girl moms. The overall tone of her posts was pretty much putting down anyone with a daughter. She got pissy when I commented that my daughter would prefer a Star Wars party over a Princess party. She commented “Yeah right. Keep telling yourself that.” Unfollowed and deleted.
    I have seen so many kids break stereotypes that they all just need to go out the window and let kids be who THEY want to be not who WE “need” them to be. Stop trying to separate into “boy moms” and “girl moms” and just be MOMS.

  60. Mandi, I love your blog, and I especially love it when you speak out. You always make me think. I am not a hashtagger. (Is that a word?) So this comment is not about “to hashtag… or not to hashtag.” I am the mom to one boy – 8 – and two girls – 5 and 2 – and I am due to give birth to another little boy any minute now. One of the things that I notice repeatedly in our culture is the celebration of what it means to be a little girl, but not nearly enough of it for our boys. I send my son to public school, and it’s astonishing, the lack of understanding and appreciation for our boys versus our girls in school. There’s a ton of talk of “girl power” but where is the discussion of “boy power” or “empowering our boys”? It’s silly, but you even see it when you go shopping – in just about every category imaginable, the “girl” options far outweigh the “boy” ones. We worry so much as a culture about building the strong female, but where is the emphasis on building the strong male? I have had numerous encounters with other parents (always parents of girls) where I have been made to feel like I need to apologize for my son, who was simply acting like a boy. To me, the appeal of the “#boymom” movement is this: hey, boys are awesome, too – and let me show you the ways.

  61. I appreciate you adding this, Tammy; it’s not something we’ve really encountered yet, so it hasn’t been on my radar.

    I am all for building up strong men as well, and I hope to do that through celebrating all aspects of our son’s personality. I really don’t think I’d be bugged by the tag if I saw it used (like Crystal and Erin described) on pictures of a wide variety of activities; it’s just when it’s used once every blue moon for a wild or crazy adventure. In some ways, that really almost comes across as negative toward boys as well because it doesn’t celebrate all of the ways they’re awesome, you know?

    That said, I can definitely see that the hashtag is much bigger than the way I’ve seen it used, and I can see why the people who use it to celebrate their role as “boy moms” feel so defensive about it!

    {PS. I may start hashtagging my photos with #hashtagger now, LOL — that made me laugh!}

  62. Thank you. You said everything I’ve been thinking. When I see article titles quoting “I’m raising my boys to be boys” or vice versa it drives me crazy.

  63. Mandi, I know that this is a older post, while I was searching things on your site I ran into this post. I am appalled at the way people could jump all over someone else’s opinion. (especially on a website that they choose to click on.) I am the 5th child of a preacher, and one of 6 children. 3 boys followed by 3 girls. I am now married with 3 daughters. My brother had 3 boys. (in all our family has 7 boys/12 girls)
    I am not a “text book” girly girl, and neither are two of my daughters. But my brother or SIL have never made my nephews feel “left out” because they had a specific stereotype to follow. At 2 my youngest nephew carried a baby doll around the ENTIRE year. No one said a word, no one judged my brother/SIL. Just like no one said a word when my daughter wanted a ninja turtle birthday party. Maybe in Texas since we all wear boots and cowboy hats we ARE equals. 🙂 It is not a “boy do not get recognition”, girls are empowered. Men are empowered everyday. Turn on ESPN or Wallstreet or a hospital. Women are empowered too. OWN, wallstreet or a hospital. That’s the point it is equal when it becomes adults. I mean to be fair, why in the world did we embrace hashtag anyway? lol #boymom or ecards that say, only a mother of a boy would understand etc is equivalent to “Girls grow up to be a mothers best friend” or Mommy daughter day when they only have one kid! I prayed every day that my youngest child was a boy, but God gave me a little girl. I embrace my nephews and friends who have boys. And more importantly I thank God that he knew my girls before they were in the womb. Just like each little boys these moms are defending. I honestly pray that God will soften their hearts. Not to attack before finding the intention. As Christians it IS our job to be aware of how we make others feel. Matthew 18:6. Basic Sunday school stuff! How do you teach our child to deal with a situation? Not by degrading someone for their opinion. Your blog is a daily inspiration to my heart. I need this blog as a SAHM. So….I just wanted to make sure you know that you are doing God’s work and I appreciate it.
    Matthews 16:23

  64. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and for your encouraging words, M.W. — I appreciate you!

  65. I think this is an effect of having recognized as a culture that we weren’t giving girls a fair shake. We realized we needed to emphasize girls and their strength, etc. Many times, when you fix one problem, you discover you’ve created another. We’re just gonna hafta keep tweaking our culture until we’ve reached the point where we are being fair, true, and encouraging to everyone, irrespective of gender.

  66. I see the point of what you’re saying. I cook with my boys. My oldest son likes the Disney princesses and playing with my hair. I played with “boy” stuff as a kid. Toys and activities need to not be gendered. Check.

    My issue comes from “I wouldn’t calll myself a feminist…”

    Feminists believe in the crazy notion that men and women (and girls and boys) should be treated as equals. That’s pretty much it. Kind of like what it sounds like your family is doing. Feminists can like big, strong men (I do). But we still see small, weak men (and women) as equals. That’s all.

  67. even if you weren’t “good with that” it wouldn’t matter, because as you said, it is not about you.

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