Recently when I mentioned being called a slut, one woman’s response was, ‘Boys will be boys!’ It’s a common enough phrase in any conversation dealing with a male’s actions, and implies that although the action is not really appropriate, it can’t be helped because it was a male doing it.
I’m not even sure where to begin with describing my issues with this phrase.
We say ‘Boys will be boys’, and ‘Men are such pigs’, or write with deprecation about our significant others, calling them ‘MM’ which stands for ‘mere male’. Are we not, with these expressions, tacitly accepting and allowing the behaviour we ostensibly condemn? We are not only describing men to women, but to themselves. We are saying this is what men do. Not only is it sexist – being cruel or stupid isn’t exclusive to men – but it’s permissive.
‘Boys will be boys,’ we say to each other, but when do we say to the boy, ‘That isn’t acceptable’? Boys learn from a very early age that it’s okay for them to be violent, to be rude, to be destructive. Boys will be boys! No! More accurately: Indulged children will be brats. It’s not okay to set a lower standard, or in any way a different standard, for one gender. Gender does not and should not exclusively dictate personality and behaviour. Even more certainly, it should not dictate our reactions to behaviour.
People will behave in accordance with the expectations upon them: for praise, and to avoid censure. We must improve our expectations in order for behaviours to improve. No more gender-based excuses.