Debunking Myths and Stereotypes around the Boy Child
By: Abdulmojeed Kawthar and John Jolaoso.
“Cry all you want; it’s not like I care!”
“Oh no! Don’t cry. You know I don’t like seeing you cry. What exactly do you say you want?”
These are usually the scenarios in my home as I have two older brothers. Although these two sentences portray different personalities and can be interpreted differently, one being sensitive and the other insensitive, they are expressed by two persons of the same sex — boys.
Why then do we set the same standard for every boy when it’s clear that personalities aren’t divided along gender lines? Gender stereotypes about the boy child are increasingly becoming unbearable. There is little to nothing that has been done to make boys realize they have a certain full choice outside what the society stereotypically expects boys to be.
“He is even a boy! (Hisses)”
“Why would you raise your expectations of him?”
“A boy will always be a boy.”
“I’m not surprised; he’s of the nine-bone gender,”
“Sorry, you are stuck with one of the enemies.”
Sentences like these are what the society has made of who the boy child is. The boy child seeks to be perfect (to be what the society expects of him) and his imperfection is capitalized and attributed to his having “nine bones” (a belief that the male has nine bones and female has seven bones) in place of the human attribute (ability to err). Boys’ choices are determined by their gender and thus, the society has the same view of all boys. They are dying for information to define and redefine their narratives.
Today being the International Day of the Boy-Child, we would like to debunk some myths created around boys. This article seeks to expose some of the myths which have existed since time immemorial for what they are — false and misleading.
Myth 1: Boys don’t cry.
People cry for various reasons; when they are hurt, sad, happy, and so many other reasons. By biological design, we all have the gland to make tears, so why then should we say boys don’t cry when they have what it takes to cry?
Crying is not a sign of weakness, we’ve had great men in history cry. There are numerous examples out there, like that of President Barrack Obama, President of the United States of America, one of the most powerful states in the world who without shame let tears roll down his cheeks. Great and wealthy actors like Will Smith. Great footballers like Ronaldo, and Bruno Fernandez. Great comedians like Steve Harvey, Kevin Hart. One of the greatest boxers in the world in Floyd Mayweather. Great musicians like Chris Brown, Michael Jackson and so much more. These men have cried and till today they are still referred to as great men.
Why should a boy not cry if he lost a dear friend? Why should a boy not cry if he was involved in an accident? Why should a boy not cry if he wants to express how he feels? Emotions are part of us and it is okay for a boy to cry. It doesn’t make him any less. We should avoid sentences like “man up”, “don’t cry like a girl”, “don’t be weak” as they damage the proper mental functioning of the boy child, forcing him to hide his feelings and suppress the emotions that ought to exhale pain out properly.
This is not suggesting weeping uncontrollably at every moment, but that boys and men should be able to cry at appropriate moments without negative reactions from society. Let’s work towards a world where crying is accepted as a reaction as normal as laughing, a world where boys and men can cry without being made to feel weak.
Myth 2: Domestic Chores are not for Boys.
If he can stain the clothes why can’t he take the stains off? If he can make the whole place dirty, why can’t he tidy it up? If he needs to eat, why can’t he cook? I mean it’s important to know that as long as he has what a girl uses to do chores, he has to be able to do them. It is that simple because it is a survival skill.According to nparent.com, neither males nor females are born with a genetic predisposition to wash the dishes or do the laundry. So why should one gender be picked over the other to do these chores, by us, by society?
Gender stereotyping is a dangerous thing as it places pre-determined notions and ideas firmly in the heads of boys and girls. And when they grow up, it may limit their ability to develop their skills, pursue their dreams, and make choices about their life plans. We all want our kids to grow up to be responsible adults.
When we refuse to, or neglect giving our boys household chores, it teaches them they can get away with making a mess and worse, that others will clean up after them. Teaching your son something as simple as the fact that he needs to clean up his toys at the end of the day, means that someday when your boy is on his own in the outside world, he won’t shirk away from duties, however big or small they are.
Myth 3: Boys enjoy Sexual Abuse.
Boys do not enjoy Sexual Abuse. The pain and emotional hurt girls go through when abused, boys go through them as well. They don’t derive pleasure in sexual abuse. You can’t abuse a child and expect him to enjoy it. The act and its aftermath affects the child physically and mentally, it is a scar that won’t heal so easily.
According to Rainn.org, the following includes some of the common experiences shared by men and boys who have survived sexual assault.
- Anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, flashbacks, and eating disorders.
- Concerns or questions about sexual orientation.
- Feeling like “less of a man” or that you no longer have control over your own body.
- Sense of blame or shame over not being able to stop the assault or abuse, especially if you experienced an erection or ejaculation.
- Withdrawal from relationships or friendships and an increased sense of isolation.
- Worrying about disclosing for fear of judgment or disbelief.
We as society should stop recycling the misconception that men and boys cannot be sexually abused. We should rather take the necessary actions to help abused boys and men heal.
Myth 4: Boys will always be boys
This phrase originates from a Latin proverb: children are children and will do childish things. Children of course do childish things to some degree of expectation. However, over the years, the phrase has morphed into glib ways to excuse the action and attitudes of the boy child and men of all ages. It is also used to explain away important discussions like sexual assault and allegations. It makes the boy child looks irredeemable. It doesn’t hold each boy child responsible for their choices but rather infers all males are pre-programmed to act in such a way. This phrase also promotes gender stereotypes.
The fact is not all boys are insensitive, not all boys like getting dirty, and not all boys are rowdy.
So, instead of saying Boys will always be boys, like one of our speakers at our first IDBC Symposium said “Boys won’t be boys, boys will be who we teach them to be“.
Myth 5: Boys are “naturally” violent.
Masculinity is often associated with violence. This doesn’t mean that there is a “natural” link between men and violence. Have we ever paused to think about the fact that society defines and sees the boy child as being violent makes him violent?
Society expects the boy child to occupy a great deal of space and to act with active and aggressive masculinity. Boys are expected to adopt heroin masculinity. Boys who become a victim of violence or bullying are considered to be unfulfilled or hail deviant masculinity. It is important to note that not all men are “rough and tough”, there are sensitive men too. Every individual deserves to live in a manner that is authentic to their way of experiencing the world.
In conclusion, as it is the International Day of the Boy child today, it is important you know that these phrases set a standard for what male behavior should be. Instead of the truth that men are individuals with unique personalities, it promotes the idea that anyone who doesn’t live up to this arbitrary definition of masculinity is abnormal. It attempts to put a neat bow of oversimplification on individual behavior, and it’s time we stop saying them, and more importantly, stop believing them!
Happy International Day of the Boy-Child.