By Michelle Noehren, Age 34
I’m a single mom raising a daughter so I honestly haven’t thought much about how gendered kindness is, until recently.
My daughter and I have been doing acts of kindness since she was about a year old. We started with her handing out flowers to moms at the playground on Mother’s Day and evolved into making kindness rocks to put in random places around town, paying for the person behind us in the coffee line and we still love to do the flowers on Mother’s Day activity.
We have so much fun doing these activities together and it’s always been really critical to me that she be raised to value kindness, connection and community. Those are the most important things in life, in my opinion.
Recently, I got more involved in my local town (shout out to Colchester!) and I’m part of a Facebook group called Colchester is Kind. The group is amazing and makes me smile every day as people post kind things they’ve experienced or seen. We have rock gardens in a few spots in town, stick inspiring post it notes in random places and the people in that Facebook group are just absolutely wonderful human beings who show up for people in need. It’s truly been a beautiful thing.
Recently, however, I started to realize that most of the people that post in our group are women. We just had our first in-person kindness event (a kindness-themed story time and rock painting session!) and it was women and girls participating in everything. This certainly isn’t a bad thing, the event was a hit! I’ve just really been noticing that men and boys aren’t resonating with the kindness theme as much.
I think this stems from how girls and boys are socialized in our country. There’s an expectation from early on that girls are nice and boys are strong. But why can’t boys (and men) be strong *and* outwardly kind? Kindness activities are for everyone and I’d love to figure out how to engage more men of all ages to be active in this new group.
I had my own moment of having to check my stereotyping the other day when I was leaving inspiring post it notes on the door to a woman’s bathroom. The men’s bathroom was right next to where I was standing and I admit I had the thought “Oh, I won’t put one on their bathroom door because they won’t like this as much.” Why did I think men wouldn’t like a positive note?? (I definitely put the note on their bathroom door despite my initial reaction)
I wish we gave boys and men more space to express themselves in areas that are seen as feminine. Gender stereotypes hurt everyone, not just girls and women. Moving forward I’m going to try to be more conscious about encouraging the amazing men in my community to be just as active as the women. Kindness shouldn’t have a gender.