Girls can do anything boys can do.
She's got this.
We are living—proudly—through an era of women's empowerment. A movement that was long overdue, desperately needed, and still unfinished. As the mother of a 3-year-old girl, I am grateful for the courage and tenacity of the feminist movement making it possible.
Girls growing up in our world today increasingly know that they can dream as big as any boy. They're no longer held back by gender stereotypes. It's no longer acceptable to humiliate a boy by telling him he's acting like a girl, or that he throws like a girl, or looks like a girl. Girls and women are finally, FINALLY, beginning to be respected on par with boys and men.
But as comments by Good Morning America's Lara Spencer reveal, we still have a long way to go when it comes to how we treat our sons.
Spencer, who last week joked that 6-year-old Prince George is unlikely to stick with ballet—boys being boys, and all that—has issued a tearful apology after righteous outrage spun the parenting world into a frenzy.
Who is she to say that boys can't enjoy ballet?
But Spencer was merely reflecting the current moment in our culture, one that increasingly cheers all the options and power afforded to girls, but still traps boys and men into outdated, harmful stereotypes.
Studies show that "parents are more comfortable with girls partaking in gender-nonconforming behavior than boys and attempt to change their sons' behaviors more frequently." Researchers found that parents of young boys today were not okay with their sons partaking in traditionally-female activities, like playing dolls, while they were okay with their daughters indulging in traditionally-male activities, like playing sports.
In other words, it's okay for girls to "be anything," but it's not okay for boys. Boys who show their softer sides are still scoffed at (sometimes on national television), or told to toughen up, or required to "act like a man." They're laughed at, humiliated and mocked.
Boys deserve just as much as girls the chance to be anything they wish—without mockery.
So as the mother of three sons, I welcome Spencer's tearful apology. Lara, apology accepted.
I want us to seize this moment as a culture and to recognize that as much as girls need advancement in areas of leadership, business, science, boys need a revolution in the arts, empathy, emotional development, and domestic life. It's time for men to break out of the narrow stereotypes that society has placed on them.
A world in which boys are allowed to be who they are—just as much as any girl—is a better world for all of us.
It's a world of emotionally-intelligent men walking alongside women as equals.
It's a world where guys who are hurting get mental help support, instead of turning to violence or self-harm.
It's a world where boys can grow up knowing they can be or do anything—be it a doctor, or a nurse, an airplane pilot or a teacher.
It's a world where fathers are no longer referred to as babysitters, where there are changing tables in every men's bathroom, where paternity leave is the norm and where the mental load of parenthood is shared with men.
And this is the world I long for my sons and my daughter. It's wrong to stereotype girls and it should be just as wrong to stereotype boys, too.
So as Spencer said in her apology this week, "I have learned about the bravery that it takes for a young boy to pursue a career in dance," "From ballet to anything one wants to explore in life, I say GO FOR IT. I fully believe we should all be free to pursue our passions. Go climb your mountain and love every minute of it."
So to Prince George, my sons, and all the boys who dare to live the life they've imagined: It's time to dance like no one's watching. Because soon, they'll be dancing, too.
Watch this viral video of a boy crushing his dance routine, posted by Mark Kanemura in response to Spencer's comment: