Former First Lady Michelle Obama suggested that mothers might be raising men to feel “entitled” and “self-righteous” while they encourage daughters to “be perfect.”
“It is like the problem in the world today is we love our boys and we raise our girls,” Obama told poet Elizabeth Alexander at the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago on Wednesday. “We raise them to be strong, and sometimes we take care not to hurt men. And I think we pay for that a little bit.”
The former first lady, who has raised two daughters, added that”that’s a ‘we’ thing because we’re raising them.”
“And it’s powerful to have strong men but what does that strength mean?” Obama asked. “You know, does it mean respect? Does it mean responsibility? Does it mean compassion?”
The former first lady openly wondered whether this kind of upbringing does more harm than good. “Or are we protecting our men too much so that they feel a little entitled and a little, you know — you know, a little self-righteous sometimes? Because that’s kind of on us, too, as … women and mothers.”
Obama suggested, “We nurture men and push girls to be perfect.”
To some extent, this may be true. Mothers may be softer on boys, and as more children are being raised by single mothers, that is an important trend to keep in mind.
On the flip-side, however, boys also face many difficulties in the world, and this very idea that they have it easier than girls may be contributing to that very sense of entitlement.
PJ Media’s Denise McAllister pointed out two posters from the Women’s March, which illustrated an increasing trend. Girls are encouraged by signs of “girl power,” while boys hold signs reading “boys will be … good humans.”
Boys are also pressured to be perfect, and they face unique challenges in school. Elementary schools reward children who can restrain themselves, sit in a classroom and listen to the teacher. Girls in general tend to be better at that than boys in general.
The constant push toward equality by elevating women often comes with an assumption that boys and men are doing just fine, when in fact they also struggle. Children face universal problems, placing their identity in how their friends see them and pushing for success in sports, academics, music, and other endeavors.
It is important to recognize the struggles of both boys and girls, and Michelle Obama was right to ask tough questions about parenting the different genders. Even so, in light of recent sexual abuse scandals, her suggestion that boys are coddled while women are pushed might be an attempt to explain why men are more likely to perpetrate sexual assault.
Basic biology explains this disparity, not bad parenting. Mothers, fathers, teachers, and role models need to encourage men to respect women, and to use their strength to defend and honor women. This is a timeless human problem, and it will not go away anytime soon — but parents can and should be cognizant of the dangers and raise men to be respectful.
At the same time, America’s leaders need to acknowledge the struggles of boys, and stop acting as though girls alone need encouragement. Michelle Obama suggested that male “entitlement” comes from boys being treated too nicely — but it could just as easily come from the notion that society is more worried about girls.
When Obama asks these questions, she and others need to be open to answers they do not expect.