I’ve heard the phrase “boys will be boys” said so often in the past that it’s one of those phrases that almost loses all meaning. I was jealous as a kid because it meant boys got to be mischievous troublemakers and it was looked on with pride. It wasn’t a path I thought girls could really pursue, so I envied them. And then came the 2016 election.
“Boys will be boys” is such a great permissible phrase. It means, if I gather correctly, that whatever current action is currently upsetting, frustrating, confounding you, should be acceptable and understood because it’s just the nature of the beast.
For example: Boys will be boys if they give each other wedgies, or go play in mud puddles, if they bring a frog into the house as a “present” for Mom. It basically meant, accept irresponsible behavior from kids, because kids act irresponsibly.
Except a quick google search assures me the equivalent phrase for girls isn’t a thing. I get hits to articles on Hilary Clinton, and a link to this gem: Girls Will Be Girls. It’s a movie about three women struggling to make it in Hollywood. All three central female characters are played in drag by men.
Truth is, girls don’t hear the permissible phrase “girls will be girls” when they’re children. There is no permissible phrase for a girl acting up. When a girl acts in an untoward way she won’t hear “girls will be girls”, she’ll be told she’s not being “ladylike”. Imagine that, expecting a little girl to act like a mature lady. Even as she ages she’s not going to hear anything accepting her more unsavory qualities. If they are commented on she’s more likely to hear, “stop being such a bitch”.
I’ve heard that girls just naturally mature faster than boys. But I’m not sure I buy this any longer. If I am expected to believe that men are more rational, more reasonable, more level-headed and sensible than women, but are also allowed an extended adolescence, I’m wondering when exactly, and how quickly, that maturation comes to pass.
We’ve agreed puberty is too soon, I think. What with the hormones flying around and female shoulders being too irresistible to boys to be seen in classrooms. I’ve heard college is too soon as well because players will be players and athletes will be athletes. But then again, apparently 50+ years of age is an acceptable time for “boys to be boys”, so I’m not exactly sure when I should be trusting men to be the intelligent, rational grounded influence that I so desperately obviously need as a woman.
But I’m not just talking about boys being adorable little troublemakers either. “Boys will be boys” past the age of 10 no longer means he’ll do mischievous, playful, sometimes financially draining things; “boys will be boys” after childhood means he’ll do sexist, misogynistic, financially draining, emotionally damaging, personhood-altering things.
“Boys will be boys” is almost entirely dependent on “girls being mature women”, “girls being nuns”, “girls being devoid of sexuality-beings”. I’m not sitting here asking that I be allowed to be a girl a little while longer, I’m sitting here saying if I could learn to mature to make sure boys didn’t devolve to beasts, surely it’s not too much to ask that boys learn how to be men before the sexual assault charges start piling up.
Surely it’s not too much to expect that adult men behave in ways toward women and all people that reflect mature adulthood, and surely it’s not too much to ask that we stop condoning outrageous, offensive behavior with the permissible “boys will be boys” brush off.
Surely it’s fair to expect the same maturity from men that we do from women.