Why 'Boys will be Boys' is not okay

Boys will be Boys.  Harmless throwaway comment? Or damaging gender stereotype?  It’s a cliché I’ve heard countless times, as a mother of four boys, secondary teacher and sports coach - and it doesn’t sit well with me. In fact, it needs to stop.

To fully understand the ramifications of this seemingly innocuous phrase, it’s important to look at the context of its use and messaging it sends to impressionable young boys AND girls. 

Boys will be Boys. 

In my experience, these four little words are often ‘offered up’ when excusing rough or unruly behavior, ignoring poor manners, defending a cruel or careless act or tolerating an act of disrespect towards the opposite sex (a sexist remark, ‘joke’ or show of ‘masculinity’). It’s dismissive. It’s damaging. And ultimately, it’s validating antisocial behavior by removing ANY personal responsibility under the guise of boys simply being boys.

BOYS WILL BE BOYS teaches our children

•    It’s okay to act in an undesirable manner because of your gender (male). 
•    That boys and girls should in fact adhere to a different set of rules. 
•    That behavioral expectations are significantly lower because of your gender (male). 
•    That it is normal or ‘natural’ for boys to be overly physical and rough.
•    That boys do not need to be accountable for their actions because they don’t have the capacity to behave in any other way.  
•    That as parents it’s not our responsibility to change poor behavior as the gender odds are stacked against us – it’s a predisposition.

My boys are not perfect, they make mistakes and I’m sure will make many more over the course of their childhood (irrespective of their gender), but it’s my role to steer them in the right direction. 
Yes they’re are energetic, hands on and kinesthetically wired - but they can also be gentle, respectful and mindful of others.  They are not defined by their gender, predisposed to act in a particular manner or treated any differently because of their Y chromosome. My expectation of their behavior is genderless; there are no free passes, concessions or exemptions.

Mums and Dads, let’s not sell our sons short. Let’s not limit their personal growth or settle for mediocrity.  By teaching accountability we are allowing our sons to be the best version of themselves. Boys can be better - and they will be, if given the chance. 
Let’s be part of the change and work towards a world where gender equality is a birthright.   

C x

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