By Jory Proft
When I think of the people that have influenced my life and helped shape the core of who I am, they are mostly women. Which, as a man, has created an internal-conflict; how can I become a good man if I primarily idolize women?
I think of my sister as influential, as she never limits herself to the expectations placed on her and women her age. She has travelled the world alone as a young woman, she can go toe-to-toe with anybody in most academic or athletic competitions and she has even requested for me to break her through a sheet of plywood, WWE-style (and actually let me do it).
As for my mom, she makes better people — especially better men — out of everyone around her. She sees the potential in everyone and does her best to make sure the males in her life develop into valuable members of our world.
My grandma is my biggest cheerleader and has always supported me in whatever endeavors I take. She unconditionally loves everyone and strives to understand and empathize with anyone’s situation. Imagine talking to your grandma about safe-injection sites, the LGBTQ+ community, millennials or any other hot button topic and her actually trying to understand the issues — that’s my grandma.
And finally, Nicole Murphy, my boss at The NAIT Nugget. I have only really known her for the past six months and she has greatly expanded my understanding of the world. She has taught me the value of surrounding yourself with a diverse, closely-knit team. She has also given me the confidence to not only dream big, but to actually work towards those goals.
I think I felt conflicted, because boys aren’t often told to look at and emulate the behaviours of the women in their life. The behaviours I saw in my influential women are that they caring, driven, dependable and find a perfect work-life balance — all gender-neutral traits that can make up any good human being. Why wouldn’t I want to copy these behaviours?
This realization made me see how often we get caught-up in defining personality traits by gender; when we should be considering what characteristics make a strong, important person in the world.
While I believe it is still important for people to have both influential male and female role models, I think making a hodgepodge of the important qualities you see in any gender creates the best model for what a good person is.
When you categorize gender traits so crudely, I think it creates greater issues.
In my life, I have found I do not fully relate to certain stereotypical “male” characteristics such as the gritty, emotionally-inept qualities that I often saw growing up. Feeling uncomfortable under these gender expectations has made me strive to be a person that seeks to be expressive, supportive, and passionate, to help shift people’s idea of what makes a man.
By creating an idea like ‘women are good at blank’ or ‘men are bad at blank’, people may start to believe that is all they are. Which may then lead to them not working towards getting better at something, all because they have been told it isn’t important for their gender to be good at. By grouping gender traits, we can normalize and rationalize negative behaviours and stifen growth.
By my definition, a good person is someone that wants to grow and share and be the best version of themselves. I am undoubtedly a better person today because of the women in my life.