Boys Will Be Boys

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by Josh Britt

December. A small private school in Oklahoma City. Children running back to class from P.E., accompanied by one or two teachers. Snow is falling. Little Josh is well aware that he isn’t supposed to make snowballs, and especially not throw them at the other kids. But this was the first snow of the year! Christmas break was quickly approaching. Little Josh had just seen Elf for the first time. And so, naturally, the little guy decides that it was an appropriate time to gather up a some snow in his hands and go full blown Buddy The Elf on his fellow fifth graders.

Unsurprisingly, it didn’t end well for fifth grade Josh - who now, in 2017, is a budding college freshman writing this article. Or at least, it shouldn’t have.

Right before I had been throwing snowballs around, a classmate of mine, who happened to be female, had been reprimanded by one of the teachers accompanying us on our chilly walk. Why? You guessed it.

For throwing snowballs.

So as soon as I saw the class tattle-tale sprint towards the teacher, I was terrified. I was certain that I was next to get sent to the principal’s office. But can you guess what good ole Mr. Harrison, the fifth grade math teacher, said?

“Boys will be Boys.”

For those of you who aren’t quite familiar with this saying, consider yourself lucky. The “Boys Will Be Boys” phenomenon has been a hot topic of debate among parents, feminists, and psychologists for the past few decades. The controversial phrase implies a lot of different things, all of them being problematic. The phrase, and the attitude which accompanies it, literally excuses behavior based on gender in favor of young males. The phrase is applied to young boys causing trouble who, in the eyes of their parents, are excused from discipline or reprimand by their young age and the “fact” that boys are expected and allowed to ask questions and push boundaries -- and often, break rules -- due to their “more rambunctious nature”, whereas girls are expected to always follow the rules, always be polite, and never curse, rough house, or yell.

Boys fighting on the playground? Boys will be boys. Boys pulling on pigtails during class? Boys will be boys. Boys throwing snowballs, when they were just specifically told not to? Boys will be boys.

And fine. I get it. Or at least, I think I get where some of these parents are coming from. Children are disobedient, and we can’t expect kids (boys and girls included) to always understand the difference between certain rights and wrongs. Sometimes we have to excuse their bad behavior (while simultaneously educating them on why what they did was wrong), because we as adults understand that kids may not always comprehend how their actions affect other people.

Now I can already hear it: someone reading this is thinking, “But boys are different than girls!!! They’re more inclined to roughhouse!!!”

And I’m going to respond to that with the question: “How are they different? Their testosterone levels?” If your 7-year-old boy pushing kids down on the playground can be excused by his testosterone levels, you should see a doctor, because not only is that boy probably stronger than Clark Kent but he’s also starting puberty around 5 years early.

But maybe I’m being too critical, right? Well, if the “Boys Will Be Boys” mindset only applied to kids on the playground or in the classroom, maybe I could be convinced that it’s not that big of a deal (it would still be a massive deal, but for argument’s purpose, let’s just pretend I could be convinced). But in actuality, the mindset applies across the board.

Think about it.

Left and right, men are venerated for certain actions whereas women are specifically targeted and ostracized for them. Have you ever heard someone slut-shame Bill Clinton? I am IN NO WAY condoning any form of slut shaming, but just imagine if it had been Hillary who had an extramarital affair. But she didn’t. Instead, what ended up blocking her from being the first female president? A few emails. Meanwhile her competition could get away with vulgar, downright degrading talk about women’s bodies (we’re talking harassment level stuff, y’all! People get fired from their jobs for a lot less disgusting than this), but good ol’ Donnie got away with it.

“Locker room talk,” they said, simultaneously essentially silencing the conversation -- one which should have undoubtedly occurred long ago -- about sexism and the systematic objectification of woman so incredibly prevalent in media and political spheres today.

Nope. “Just” locker room talk.

Boys will be boys.

This issue isn’t some sort of liberal political agenda, nor is it about this past election. If you think the hypercriticism of Clinton’s admitted mistakes compared to the near ambivalence towards Trump’s degrading language is some sort of isolated incident, let me give you something a little more close to home.

A close friend of mine was once told outright that in her field, she would be treated remarkably differently by her peers, specifically because of her gender. In the first few weeks of her job, she was pulled aside by a superior who stated the following:

“Look, I’m not condoning this, but since you’re a woman in this field, you will be called a bitch. I’ve seen what you can do, I know you know your stuff, and you’re strong and decisive. But many men in this line of work, once they see that you’re just as good and as decisive as they are -- they will call you a bitch for it. Even though you are doing just what they are doing. I just had to warn you that it’s coming.”

When my friend told me this account, I was speechless. And yet the reality is, nothing about her experience should have shocked me. As she said to me after telling the story, this happens every day, to countless women. She is not the only one.

So men, listen to me. This kind of stuff isn’t happening to just high profile, boundary-breaking women like Hillary Clinton, or girls in a distant, oppressive country you think you can’t relate to or help. This is happening to our mothers, our sisters, our best friends; this is happening to women we know and love right here in the United States of America, which, let me remind you, is supposed to be the land of opportunity, of freedom. The double standard for men and women, boys and girls, isn’t just being applied to the highest spheres of our government and economy: it’s everywhere. And furthermore, what makes us think that it is acceptable for us to settle with the fact that the pinnacles of career leadership may well be the last, undefeatable barriers in the long, arduous fight towards equality?

The reality is, the fight has just begun. The phrase “Boys Will Be Boys” and the mindset that inevitably follows it have just recently come into the limelight as the concerning praxis it’s being exposed for.

Something has got to be done about this, right? Someone’s gotta step up. So what do we (as in us guys) do in order to help destroy that double standard? The answer is simple to say, and hard to put into practice.

The double standard has got to go. Don’t fall into the pattern of doing things because you know that you are going to get away with it. If men don’t have to worry about being abrasive in the workplace during a high stress job, why should women? Don’t excuse yourself. Don’t excuse your male peers or male coworkers, or your brother or your son. Excusing the double standard is just as bad -- if not, worse-- than reaping the benefits yourself. You know the double standard runs rampant in every social, political, and economic sphere, and there is not a neutral stance on the issue. Silence in the face of this kind of oppression is just as bad as outright support. We’ve got to get rid of the “Boys Will Be Boys” mentality. Boys and men alike, will be held responsible for their actions, just like women have been since, well like, forever.

 

Josh Britt is a freshman from Oklahoma City, studying Chemistry on the Pre-Med track. He is a Contributor for T+D who was inspired to get involved by growing up with three badass women in the house, and hearing about the blog through Sara Massey.

 

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