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Mom’s viral letter to Anna Duggar is missing one important thing

Avital Norman Nathman is a freelance writer whose work places a feminist lens on a variety of topics, including motherhood, maternal health, gender, and reproductive rights. Her work has been featured in Bitch magazine, Cosmopolitan.com,...

Raising girls to 'breathe fire' is great, but what about how we're raising boys?

When Jessica Kirkland wrote a blog post about Anna and Josh Duggar, the Ashley Madison scandal and her own daughters, she didn't realize it would touch so many people and go viral like it did.

The mother of two girls wrote a Facebook post inspired by Anna Duggar (who has — so far — stood by her husband through his various sexual scandals). "We HAVE to teach our daughters that they are not beholden to men like this," wrote Kirkland. "That they don't have to marry a man their father deems 'acceptable' and then stay married to that man long, long after he proved himself UNACCEPTABLE." Yet it was the last line of her post that spurred it to go viral: "As for my girls, I'll raise them to think they breathe fire."

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Yes! I wholeheartedly agree with Jessica Kirkland here. We need to remind our girls that they are important, special and, above all, to be fierce and fearless. We need to build up their confidence and independence so that if they ever find themselves in a relationship where they are being lied to, devalued, taken advantage of or mistreated, they will know enough to recognize it and safely get out of the situation. I think this is a message we need to continue to scream from the rooftops. I think of it in particular as I wonder what is really going through Anna Duggar's mind. I wonder if she truly has a support system beyond one that oppresses and suppresses women. It's so easy to condemn her for staying and to judge her for not leaving Josh, but I wonder what resources she actually has to do so. If only she was raised to think she breathes fire…

Yet teaching our girls to be fierce and fearless is not enough. We need to break down even more damaging stereotypes that plague our society. We need to raise independent girls, but we must also raise boys in a way that teaches them to respect that fire. While we talk about how Anna Duggar could have been raised, why don't we also shine a spotlight on Josh Duggar? I completely question the way he was raised to have both molested his sleeping sisters and signed up for a cheating spouses website.

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Please make no mistake — I'm not advocating to raise boys to be docile and pushovers. What I'm merely suggesting is that we don't feed into the stereotypical toxic culture of masculinity that somehow provides men in our society the green light to feel that women owe them and that if they're not satisfied they have the right to either look elsewhere or perhaps go to even greater and much more damaging and violent lengths to get what they want.

My son is about to start third grade and is far off from even contemplating marriage. That doesn't mean I don't try to instill in him ideals of equity, honesty and respect — traits I hope would not only make him a good partner but a good person as well.

So, yes — please, let us raise our daughters to think they breathe fire, but let us also raise our sons to respect that fire, tend to that fire and fuel that fire.

More: Debunking the myths of boyhood

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