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Do boys get a bad rap?
And what does it mean for the men we are raising?


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#1 Kay1

Posted 14 February 2013 - 06:39 AM

Yesterday I had a conversation with another mother that got me thinking. She has two daughters and was talking about a book for girls her 6 year old was reading. It said something about boys being interesting and fun or something along those lines. The mother was freaking out at the prospect of the daughter becoming 'interested' in boys and so she told her daughter that no, boys are yucky and smelly and rough. She was laughing about this as she told us and the teacher was laughing and agreeing with her.

Now her younger daughter goes to preschool with my 4 year old. If she refuses to play with him because he's "yucky, smelly and rough" it would not be surprising. Then it got me thinking, imagine if I told my sons that girls are "silly, weak and scaredy cats" or something similar. Imagine me bragging about that to other mothers and to teachers?  unsure.gif I just can't imagine it going down as a bit of a harmless joke.

And yet, since my oldest son started school two years ago I have faced this approach to boys constantly. It was a shock to him and to me as he had always played with girls as much as boys at preschool. At 'big school' however everything is divided along boys and girls lines. There is a frequently negative attitude from many parents and teachers about boys. Eg. "Oh poor Mrs X she has 12 boys in her class". Or "I always send a girl with a boy on errands around the school to keep an eye on the boy".

I cannot imagine that saying similarly negative things about girls would ever be tolerated.

So what message does this give our boys as they grow into men? I am a feminist, as is my husband and we are raising our three boys to see people as people. But when they are constantly surrounded by these messages I worry that they will become defensive about their role as boys and men and as a reaction seek to disparage or disdain women. I have already noticed some "girls are not as good as boys" comments since my eldest started school and I firmly believe its because of the 'boys vs girls' attitude he has encountered at school.

I am interested in others' thoughts on this.

#2 namie

Posted 14 February 2013 - 06:54 AM

I see it everywhere too, and my boys haven't started school yet!

There are differences between boys and girls, that's clear to everyone, but for it to be so clearly talked about in the negative (a lot of the time in front of children) is extremely frustrating to me.

We should be celebrating the differences as it brings diversity to schools, playtimes and the workplace.

I find the attitude comes mostly from mother's without any male children at all, and I find myself wishing all mother's of girls could have just one boy to experience what it's like. As a general rule (comparing my boys to friends' daughters, so my comparison pool is small at the moment), boys are noisier, more boisterous and definitely more rough than their female counterparts. The girls are quieter, sit still for longer and are gentler as a rule. But it is a gross generalisation and I'm tired of it. There are plenty of girls out there who are rough and noisy and talk as much as my DS1, and I'm sure there are quiet, gentle boys out there somewhere too. The boys just get the raw end of the deal.

I'm pregnant with baby #3, and the number of people who tell me I will have a girl next, or 'get my princess', heavily outweighs the ones who think a 3rd boy would be lovely. In fact, there's only one person (also a mum of two boys) who thinks I should have a 3rd boy.
I'll excuse my MIL because she herself had 3 boys and would probably quite like some more females in her family, but as far as I'm concerned by BILs can produce them, lol!


I rather think that mother was overreacting quite stupidly - her daughter is 6! All she wants at the moment is friends to play with, she's not going to start being 'interested' in boys yet, lol!


Interestingly (and annoyingly) DS1 has started saying things like 'Girls don't like trucks, but I like trucks. Mum, do you like trucks or do you like butterflies?' I say I like both, he replies 'No, you're a girl, you like butterflies.'
I went to give him some butterfly kisses at bedtime last night and he told me I couldn't because he didn't like butterflies, I had to give him truck kisses  blink.gif

I'm assuming this is something he's picked up from daycare because it's certainly not something we'd discuss, and I don't recall talking about butterflies at home any time recently! We do have a lot of trucks and truck books in the house, and my brother drives roadtrain trucks which provides endless excitement for DS1, but we don't focus on that as a 'boy' thing.

Edited by namie, 14 February 2013 - 06:58 AM.


#3 JustBeige

Posted 14 February 2013 - 07:21 AM

I do think its the messages, but its also the truth if you generalise.  Boys ARE different to girls - generally - and you do have to parent / teach / raise them differently and this is where it is easy to pigeonhole.  
Sometimes I think that society is becoming more enlightened about the stereotypes and then I walk through my local shops or spend some time at school and I think... "yeah maybe not"

I do think though that the mother has had a knee jerk reaction and one that will come back to bite her on the bum one day.

#4 Funwith3

Posted 14 February 2013 - 07:23 AM

Your friend is ridiculous. Heaven forbid that a little girl is friends with a little boy!!! DD3 is too young to have friends yet but my other two girls have some great little mates who are boys. At 7 and 5 years old it's not like they want to have sex with them!

#5 axiomae

Posted 14 February 2013 - 07:29 AM

That saddens me. I'm a teacher and wouldn't tolerate that. I try to instil compassion and acceptance in my students, and that doesn't sit well with me.


#6 Xiola

Posted 14 February 2013 - 07:34 AM

Yes, it happens a lot (I have 2 boys and 1 girl).  Everyone who notices that always says how lovely it is I finally got my little girl!  It's annoying of course original.gif

I've also heard lots of comments about how boys are bad (a friend has 2 DD's.  She was watching her sisters boys one day when one of them squirted our some moisturiser on the floor.  She then proceeded to rant and rave about 'why are boys so incredibly bad all the time!...her own DD's are no angels so it was funny to hear her carry on about it!).

I think it's important for boys and girls to realise that they're different but differentiating it by telling girls that boys are smelly and noisy and rough isn't very nice.

#7 FearsomeFeralFreak

Posted 14 February 2013 - 07:45 AM

Yes, absolutely agree. I have both genders and I think the difference in how boys and girls are viewed and treated is very striking.
I also find it is mothers with all girls who have the most twisted view of boys (NB. not all mothers of all girl family's  just some).  These mothers seem to have a very disturbing dislike of all things boy.

#8 B.feral3

Posted 14 February 2013 - 07:46 AM

I find the only people who make gender offensive comments regarding children are parents with same sex children of the opposite gender.  

I'm not saying they all do this, I know I don't. I don't see my kids as a gender, just as my kids and I don't wish for any children other than the ones I have. I do find though that the people who mock with comments such as 'boys are smelly and yucky' or 'girls are moody and whingy' are parents who have all children of the opposite gender. I think it has a lot to do with making themselves feel better about not having what they really want.

These are just my observations.



#9 EsmeLennox

Posted 14 February 2013 - 07:50 AM

Yes the genders are different. Unfortunately, I do think boys, particularly young boys, are exposed to far more negative messages about their sex than positive. I think the stereotypical image of boys is that they are rough, loud and difficult when they are young, where as the stereotypical message about girls is that they are sweet, quiet and well-behaved. We ALL know that this is a massive generalisation, but I think the messages and the values associated with them are communicated often enough to children that they can be damaging for both boys and girls, sometimes in ways you least expect.

And yes, I get very tired of the 'you poor thing' message I get so often as a mother of all boys... *sigh*.

Edited by Jemstar, 14 February 2013 - 07:51 AM.


#10 Musk Sticks

Posted 14 February 2013 - 08:01 AM

Boys and girls are different, but not in a negative way.

I agree that there seems to be double standards when it comes to gender stereotyping.

DS is only 3 months, but I recently saw that cotton on kids is selling boys shirts which say "lock up your daughter", I thought there would be an uproar if they sold girls shirts with similar slogans.

#11 The Old Feral

Posted 14 February 2013 - 08:08 AM

I have 2 boys,  youngest 7, and can't remember hearing comments like the ones you're describing OP.

Having said that, mine ARE pretty smelly biggrin.gif

#12 lady lady

Posted 14 February 2013 - 08:14 AM

I think because you have boys you see more of it.

The reality is, in most cultures boys are seen as the superior sex.  Take India and China for example.

Don't overthink it OP.  I'm sure your boys will go on in life to have both male and female friends with mutal respect for each gender.

#13 FearsomeFeralFreak

Posted 14 February 2013 - 08:27 AM

We are talking about this culture though.
And as I said, I have both, I rarely hear any negativity about girls. I don't think it is going to mentally scar my sons but it's there.

#14 Sweet like a lemon

Posted 14 February 2013 - 08:29 AM

I think they do, but I don't think they get a worse rap than girls do. I think the primary problem is adults pushing preconceived generalisations on both genders. Girls are made out as overtly sexual / fragile / helpless from a very young age and boys as overtly aggressive. But to put the comments into perspective OP no one will ever say "You throw like boy, etc etc" Because more horrific than being rough and smelly is being ... like a girl.

Edited by ForsakenTruth, 14 February 2013 - 09:26 AM.


#15 kpingitquiet

Posted 14 February 2013 - 08:45 AM

I think pigeonholing boys as rough, crude, etc is just as dangerous as training girls to be frilly princesses.

And it really just doesn't sync with my experience of males at all. I have known only two small boys in my life, my stepbrother and my younger cousin. One was a sensitive, nature-loving kid raised by a hippy feminist, comfortable in skirts while he played soccer, and now works as a chef and is a feminist supporter in a very active way. The other is brainy, bookish, artistic, hates sports, and is the type to be an ear to bed whenever you need one. The men in my family, father, stepfather, grandfathers are all the more nurturing half of their partnerships, are/were all gentle, caregiving sorts. Even the men I've had romantic attachment to have not been sporty, have preferred the artistic and intellectual, have had many of what most would consider "feminine" qualities as their primary features.

I just don't get why we can't let people be who they are without a strict behavior code of expectations based on what sits inside their underwear.

#16 JustBeige

Posted 14 February 2013 - 08:48 AM

QUOTE (Madame Protart @ 14/02/2013, 09:32 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I think there are negative comments/attitude about children full stop.

Girls also receive negative messages although it's usually more subtle and wrapped up in compliment.

Yes, because god forbid you have a baby girl with rolls... 'cause y'know she WILL grow into a hugely obese woman and society would just never forgive you.. and what would the neighbours think*  mad.gif






ETA: *sorry, old MIL issues*

Edited by JustBeige, 14 February 2013 - 08:50 AM.


#17 Satay Chicken

Posted 14 February 2013 - 08:50 AM

My boy is due in May and so far I have not had any negative comments about him - so far!

I do however have a friend who has one of each!  Her sister has two boys and we often hear her say how sorry she feels for her sister to never know what it would be like to have a girl!  Odd comment considering the sister seems thrilled with her two little boys...  shrug.gif



#18 elizabethany

Posted 14 February 2013 - 08:59 AM

Considering that EB has already labelled all men who use public toilets/changerooms as pedophiles, I think our poor little boys have no hope in that society.

The best we can do is to teach both girls and boys to be caring, responsible and respectful to others, irrespective of their gender.

#19 Bam1

Posted 14 February 2013 - 09:09 AM

Its funny everyone is saying how we shouldn't be judging/stereotyping by gender but go to the baby name threads and the horror that happens when someone dares suggest a "boys" name for a girl or a slightly less than masculine name for a boy,  is quite amusing.

We start the gender bias at birth and then wonder why it then continues?

Edited by Bam1, 14 February 2013 - 09:09 AM.


#20 Bluenomi

Posted 14 February 2013 - 09:31 AM

QUOTE (Bam1 @ 14/02/2013, 10:09 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Its funny everyone is saying how we shouldn't be judging/stereotyping by gender but go to the baby name threads and the horror that happens when someone dares suggest a "boys" name for a girl or a slightly less than masculine name for a boy,  is quite amusing.

We start the gender bias at birth and then wonder why it then continues?


A lot of people start it before birth. How many people do you know who find out the gender before birth so they can paint the nursery the right colour and make sure they have the right colour clothes? It's a baby, it doesn't care and in those early days there really isn't any difference between boy and girl behaviour so a pink wondersuit isn't going to make the difference.

I think both genders get a bad rap but people only notice when it relates to the gender they have. I'm one of 4 girls so I've heard plenty about the horrors my parents must face having so many daughters. I know families of boys who've had the same sort of thing.

There are gender differences, the problem is getting people to realise it isn't a bad thing. DD doesn't play with the boys at daycare much because she loves playing with dolls and pretending they are babies and most of the boys don't want to do that. It's not because she doesn't like the boys, they just have different interests. However she prefers the baby boys in the babies room and has asked for a baby brother, she doesn't want a sister, go figure!

#21 kpingitquiet

Posted 14 February 2013 - 09:40 AM

Bluenomi: Perhaps that's just her personality. Perhaps, if she were born with a penis instead, he'd still love dollbabies. Or perhaps the boys at her school won't play with dolls because their dads have told them that's a "girl" thing. Or won't play with girls because their parents told them girls are more fragile and you can't have fun with them. My kid plays with both genders of child, half the time says she wants a brother, the other half a sister, and is equally fascinated by racecars and ballerinas, dinosaurs and babydolls. She may always remain so gender-balanced in her interests or she may eventually choose a more stereotypical path, who knows? But I don't think we can unequivocally state that girls OR boys are just born a certain way because of their sex.

#22 Sif

Posted 14 February 2013 - 09:43 AM

Boys and men seem to be experience a patch of negative publicity in recent times as women reassert their equality, and it is very unfortunate that the horrible behaviour of some boys and men is negatively impacting a lot of innocent boys and men.

I have been on the receiving end of a lot of negative attitude towards my boys and towards having only boys. I've been told I HAVE to try again for a girl - by a women standing over me on the bus, as if I had an obligation to redress the gender balance.

I was told - at 36 weeks pregnant with my fourth - that the woman in question would rather miscarry than be the mother of four boys!

I was once complimented on my *very placid* third son being, 'much gentler this week' at playgroup as the woman's daughter bashed him over the head with a toy and he did nothing to defend himself - because the previous week he had pushed the same girl away when she attempted to snatch a toy of him.

I have been told to teach my boys not to rape women (because obviously, this is an innate abhorrent compulsion they must learn to resist).

Yes, my boys can be very energetic and loud. They can also be very quiet.

I was raised in a society where there is equality of the sexes (in Iceland) and so this mistrust of the people carrying the Y chromosome, is quite foreign to me.

#23 ~Bob~

Posted 14 February 2013 - 09:43 AM

I do believe that in our society the pendulum has swung from a boy-favouring culture to a girl-favouring one.

Boys are stereotyped as smelly, rough, loud, destructive. Young girls are stereotyped as sweet, cute, kind, cuddly and will sit and play as opposed to their male counterparts.

Even on FB one day, in the one day I had 2 friends who's child had broken an arm. Friend 1 had a little girl who broke her arm and the comments were "oh poor poppet", "hope she heals quickly" etc. Friend 2 had a little boy and the comments were "boys!", "get used to it with boys in the house" etc. I couldn't believe the different compassion levels for the different genders.

I do think that some parents perpetuate the stereotype. I get frustrated when boys are let away with naughty behaviour because "boys will be boys". I am pretty strict on my boys and I tell them that I am raising gentlemen, so hurting each other isn't tolerated and it isn't "boys will be boys".

The one thing that intrigues me is that lots of women who have a child are in a relationship with a man, or were at the time of having the baby. I can't understand all the boy hating then. What does that say about the man you are with?

#24 kpingitquiet

Posted 14 February 2013 - 09:49 AM

I don't know if it's that big of a swing in perceptions, Bob. How many of us grew up with the rhyme:

What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
Slugs and snails
And puppy-dogs' tails,
That's what little boys are made of.
What are little girls made of?
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice
And everything nice,
That's what little girls are made of.

And google tells me that was likely written in the early/mid 1800s.

#25 threetimesblessed

Posted 14 February 2013 - 09:50 AM

I agree that generally there is a negative vibe towards boys.
But it is only a negative if you allow it to be.
My children are not defined by their gender. They are 3 beautiful, interesting, loving children.
I don't buy into the "Boys will be boys" idea. Their activities and experiences are not confined to stereotypical gender based ones. They see DH share the parenting and household tasks. They are raised to be generous, ambitious, kind, respectful etc. the same as any daughter would be.  
I wouldn't send my children to any pre school or school that didn't value each child as an individual or one that openly made negative comments about children based on gender.
When out shopping I've had every comment under the sun. I've been told I'm lucky, unlucky, producing a future rugby player, have a beautiful family etc. I don't really care for strangers opinions, but if it is a negative gender based comment I will dispute it.
I am honoured to have the task of raising 3 children who will be handsome, intelligent, caring men!




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