I founded Girls on the Run to provide girls with the tools to, in spite of our culture’s constant objectification of them, intentionally seek people, activities and circumstances that celebrate who they are rather than how they look.

My son Hank was only 11 months-old when I piloted Girls on the Run. Lately, I’ve been amazed by his incredible sense of empathy for girls and women. I knew he would “get it” eventually, but the fact that he “gets it” now, at the start of young adulthood, has me quite amazed. 

I’ve thought a lot lately about how Girls on the Run plays out in my son’s life. He is a fabulous 21 year-old `who has grown up in the culture that Girls on the Run is creating, where all spirits thrive.

I remember when he was coming into adolescence…where he could not mention a girl’s name without some kind of blush to his face. There was a curiosity (of course) of the unknown, the physical side of a relationship that until then hadn’t really been of interest to him.

Last summer (it was one of those remarkable moments where I remember every detail down to the way the sun was shining)…he and I were sitting on the front porch of my little duplex talking about growing up, manhood and coming of age. 

“The whole thing’s a set up. Defining men by how many women they’ve “been with”…it leads to nowhere. All it does is hurt people. It’s empty.”

I remember just being with him…marveling really…at his level of self-awareness and his desire to be and seek something more in his own life. (While I’m at it…don’t let me set him or you or me up for perfection though. Good Lord knows…life is all about making mistakes and figuring it out as we go along.) 

Yes, even Hank gets it. A culture that caters to this shallow and one-dimensional view of men is, in many ways, just the flip side of the objectification of women.

I expect more from my son Hank (and the men in my life) because he IS more. So are the men who play the power game. 

Yep. It’s really all about power and how we define it for men in American culture: how much money they make, their authority over others, their sexual conquests and their athletic prowess. The problem, however, is that although they may be objectified in these ways, they still remain in positions of power, whether it be in the corporate, political or religious sectors. To stray from the norms of this box would counter everything that gives them power as currently defined by our culture. It’s a crazy never-ending circle.

I’m coming to realize that my role as an empowered woman is to have a clear understanding of how our culture boxes in both genders…and that the best way I can help others liberate themselves from the constraints of their “gender box” is to push my expectations of them to higher ground…as I have done with Hank. To speak truth to this power, stand firm in my own and expect something more from the men in my life. 

Hank saw and experienced at an early age a different social construct for power…the power that comes from helping others, being his authentic self and having true and “real” friendships with both genders. I have led him down the halls of my life, been both brutally and tenderly honest about the challenges that girls and women face every day. He has wonderfully and openly received a view of them that not only lifts them to their greater Selves…but in doing so, lifts him as well.

The news is disheartening…AND there is good. 

There is both.