An untold story

Once upon a time, there was a boy living in a tall pink tower deep in the woods. He was a long-lost prince of a kingdom so far far away, and of course, he never knew he was a prince. He had long silky hair with healing power, that his Godfather used it to keep him young and attractive. Every day, the boy learned how to cook, crochet, and do other things that he thought an ordinary boy normally does. Indeed, he loved what he was doing. Until one day, the boy met a girl with a superpower. The girl fought against the Godfather, rescued the boy, brought him back to his kingdom. Because of that, they fell in love with the other. Because of that, the boy realized he was a prince. Until finally, they got married and lived happily ever after.

Does this fairy tale make sense to you?

No? Let me try one more time. “…And because of that, the boy realized that he couldn’t be himself anymore, as in his kingdom, no men like pink and doing chores. Boys and men were all strong, masculine, and never waited for a girl to come rescue them. They saw him nowhere close to their ideal image of how a prince should be. Because of that, the boy felt so lonely. He decided to go back to his tower, deep in the woods, where he could be anything but himself. Until finally, no one heard anything about him. He died in solitude. Ever since that day, no boys would want to be so different from everyone else in the kingdom, ever.”

Makes more sense now?

Still not? I hear you. I remember, when I was a kid, all the fairy tales had a lovely happy ending. Beautiful princess waited for her charming prince to save her, then they both in love forever after. I grew up, unconsciously thinking that I should be a “good”, well-behaved girl to deserve a good life.

Then I realized, those stories brought to young innocent girls, and boys, not so right idea about how their gender roles should be. However, most of the time, we are more concerned about how fairy tales shaped the way a girl thinks about herself, not the way a boy thinks about himself. We may not pay attention to the fact that a prince is always charming, brave, and born in a rich, powerful family. Or at least, traveled the world, found some long-lost treasures, and won the bad monsters. Boys became intrigued by the idea that they should be physically strong, wealthy, adventurous to be happy. Such ideas about these “traditional roles” become so handy, that I heard myself saying “boy, don’t cry” to my 3 year-old nephew, thinking it would make him feel better, but actually not. For men, showing failures and emotions is not a good thing to do, but showing successes and ambition is.

Please don’t get me wrong. First, I am not saying that fairy tales are bad. I still love fairy tales, and I kept telling my daughter the same stories from my childhood. To me, fairy tales means hope, love, and peace. And second, I am not saying that we should not advocate for women’s rights. I am a proud woman, and I believe that women and girls all deserve to have a good life, regardless of their choice, either to wait for their princes to come or to get out of the boring tower themselves.

The point is, somehow, we tend to forget that men face lots of pressures in life too. We love to see men to be wealthy, to win, to take care of everyone. We are not so comfortable seeing someone not fitting into a “frame” or “standard” that we create for a specific gender. What if a boy wants to play dolls, not cars, Legos, or video games? What if a man wants to stay home and take care of the kids? What if a man cries?

Yes, I believe that men and boys have choices too, and whatever they choose to do, they deserve it. And that gender equality does not mean asking for more choices, spaces, and support for women only, but also for men. We need men to join and benefit from the discussions on gender equality, too.