“My Boy Can” Parenting

At age 4, Sassy Harvey’s son was told that if he dances, he must be a girl. Or gay. 

Not surprisingly, he quit dance class soon after that.

It’s 2019. Girls, we know can become astronauts and scientists and ministers and presidents. But boys who dance are STILL routinely perceived as gay and effeminate. In fact, according to a recent study of male ballet dancers:

  • 93% of boys involved in ballet report “teasing and name calling”
  • 68% experience “verbal or physical harassment”
  • 11% were victims of physical harm – at the hands of people who targeted them because they study dance

Shortly after her son quit formal dance classes, Sassy launched MY BOY CAN, an organization that would like to see a social shift in attitudes towards boys and challenges the constraints placed on boys. Often, Sassy says, “when a boy expresses interest that in things that are perceived as ‘for girls,’ they are told they shouldn’t or can’t.”

MY BOY CAN’s first campaign was #MyBoyCanDance. Sassy reached out to dance studios and others in Portsmouth, England (her home base) and encouraged people to share photos of boys and men dancing, with the hashtag #MyBoyCanDance. Thanks to the power of the Internet, “it went crazy,” Sassy said. “It’s now worldwide.”

Of course, there’s much work yet to be done. But as Sassy explains, “It all starts with us stopping the ‘My boy won’t, can’t, shouldn’t because he is a boy’ and starting instead to say, ‘My Boy Can.'”

Sassy Harvey, Janet Allison, Jennifer Fink
Top L: Sassy Harvey. Top R: Janet Allison. Bottom: Jennifer Fink
In this episode, Jen, Janet & Sassy discuss:
  • The pressure boys face to conform to gender stereotypes
  • How parents can support boys (and each other) as they challenge stereotypes
  • The power of community (working together, parents of boys have more power than we do individually)
  • How boy parents can create societal change
  • How to help boys reframe public perceptions of dance
  • How dance instructors and studios can create boy-friendly dance classes
  • The importance (and value) of empowering boys to pursue their interests
  • What to do if your boy’s dad is the one discouraging dance (or any other activity)
Links we mentioned (or should have) in this episode:

My Boy Can — Sassy’s Facebook community

Boys Can Dance Too — Building Boys post

Tight, Tutus & “Relentless” Teasing: Inside Ballet’s Bullying Epidemic — excellent HuffPo article

Danseur — documentary film (mentioned at about 19:20) about male dancers

The Heart of a Boy: Celebrating the Strength and Spirit of Boyhood, by Kate T. Parker — BEAUTIFUL books w tons of photos of boys engaged in all kinds of activities. Includes thought-provoking quotes from the featured boys

Let Toys Be Toys — UK-based campaign that asks the toy & publishing industries to stop limiting children’s interests by promoting some toys & books as only suitable for girls, and others only for boys (Website includes lots of great articles and links to their social media)

Let Clothes Be Clothes — campaign calling on retailers to stop limiting children via outdated gender stereotypes in the design & marketing of kids’ clothes

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