Monday, 17 October 2011

Role Models – gender specific?

I’ve been pondering on the issue of role models.


Because I’ve been worried about my son and a lack of male role models in his life. He is growing up in the presence of three generations of strong women! Maybe he needs a man in his life to balance this out?

To do “male” things.

What things?

Well…I don’t know…male things!

Now, he’s not totally lacking in male role models - he has his Dad - but he sees him for only one day a month and speaks to him two or three times a week? Is this enough? Does he need to have a male role model on a day-to-day basis?

We’ve tried various activities that I thought might provide him with a male role model – karate, basketball, football etc. – but none with any great joy, success or longevity.

This year he has a male teacher in his primary school class.  I know there are too few male teachers in primary school so he’s lucky there.  He’ll have a whole nine months of a man I respect providing a role model for him each day! Phew!

I’ve tried inveigling male friends into taking him out – to see films I’d sleep through, to go fishing, watch the grand prix…

I’ve even considered the ultimate sacrifice of marrying a man again! But no, fraught with WAY too many problems…

But then I got talking to people about it. And had my views of needing a gender specific role model challenged.

One man said to me that although he lived all his childhood with both parents, it was his mother he saw as his role model and he didn’t have much respect for his father. Another friend told me he’d been brought up in a household of women and as an adult appreciated the insight it gave him into negotiating relationships with the opposite sex now.

I remember as a leadership trainer getting people to think about leaders they respected and admired and to think about why they respected and admired them. Were there things they would like to emulate in their leadership style? Lessons they could learn from the people they admired. And of course, those they did not!

So, who were my role models as a child? My Dad primarily. So that blows the gender stereotype out of the water for one. I admired his intelligence; his integrity; his self-confidence and assurance; his presence; his ability to take a complicated process and explain it at a level his audience could understand; his ability to cope with and accept whatever life threw at him; his calmness in a crisis; his sense of humour.  These things are not gender specific. I can role model those things to both my children – regardless of gender.

And I can still identify a car marque at 50 paces!

What do you think? Who were your role models as a child? Were they gender specific?

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