Over the course of 10 summers in the heavenly oasis that is Maine, I spent seven years on the administrative team at an all-boys sleepaway camp. In an ironic plot twist, I then spent the following three years as Assistant Director at an all-girls sleepaway camp, the ‘sister’ camp. As you can imagine, there was many a curve to be learned.
My role at both camps often required frequent communication with parents. Anything as small as a “heads-up” of an incoming package with extra socks to dissecting the teary sentiments of a letter home could, understandably, send a parent to their cell phone immediately. Yet what I started to notice as I shifted to the girls camp (and this is only based on my experience) was that the parents that I heard from the most had never reached out about their sons, who were the brothers of these girls, while I was at the boys camp. I even commented on it once to a mother I knew quite well, who laughed and said, ‘Oh, I don’t need to worry about [insert son’s name here]. Boys are always fine.”
Glennon Doyle wrote in Untamed that, “Gender is not wild, it’s prescribed… [the universal] we are sharing beliefs that have become mandates.” Boys are always fine. Huh? Is this because boys are really always fine, or is because society has created a mandate where we expect them to be fine..to not cry, to fight on, to not worry, to like blue and black, to play sports, to not show empathy, to get in scuffles… the list goes on and on. I am not even close to first in the thought over these stereotypes. The protagonists in this week’s stories are proof that we still have a long way to go in the way we define, set expectations towards, and reference ‘masculinity.’ Gender is not the overt topic of discussion here, yet it provides an undeniable thread in the way these characters respond to situations, or how they think they must respond.