Boys, girls should be treated same

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Boys, girls should be treated same

Vanelis Rivera, English Instructor at ULM

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Boys will be boys. That’s what I heard growing up.

Whether my brother left his Legos out, carelessly cleaned his room or threw a tantrum, his behavior was often easily explained, though not always tolerated. While my parents held my brother and I accountable for misbehavior, often his bouts of primitive insolence were justified.

Whatever surly things little boys are “made of” was embedded into his genetic code. “Poor, baby angel! He couldn’t help it.” At the time, I didn’t understand the destructive repercussion of those four words.

It seemed an easy enough equation: boys can be aggressive and hot tempered, and everyone else just needs to help them and teach them to be better. But is there ever a point that we get to stop saying, “Boys will be boys” ?

I’ve discovered that this phrase teaches boys and girls that some behavior should be taken lightly, and quickly forgiven. Boy slaps girl on the butt at a bar—“He’s just being a guy. He was drinking. He’s just an idiot. No need to correct the behavior. No need to get that upset. No need to report it.”

That phrase, and phrases like it, teach complacency. It assumes that one gender is predisposed to inappropriate, immoral and often illegal behavior.

It assumes that it is the responsibility of more upstanding individuals to enlighten the misguided. It illogically cements certain behaviors into the cultural fabric of manhood, and expectations into the cultural fabric of womanhood. What results is a vicious cycle of oil in water.

Boys will be whatever we say they will be. Boys will say whatever we let them say. Boys will do whatever we let them do.

It may not be our job to educate boys who haven’t learned what kind of men they want to be, but we do need to enforce accountability. We shouldn’t be passive observers, silently shaking our heads at what often becomes dangerous habits.

Our voice in the matter should take the form of reconstruction—stabilizing the shaky foundation of the old guard. Let’s ascribe other character traits to this overused phrase.

Let’s take charge of filling in the blank: Boys will be _________.