This conversation is closed.

If it would destroy a 10 year old boy to be called a girl, what are we teaching him about girls?

See the related talk at about 5 mins in to understand this one.

I am seriously bothered by the logic here. The implication is that the boy must be insulted because he must have such a low opinion of girls. This concept is a common piece of "wisdom" I have begun to notice a lot more now.

A 15 year old girl is going to a dance, she likes a boy there. The pressure is on to look good. In front of all her friends, someone makes a quip, "Are you really dressed like that? You look like a boy!" She cries. The teachers see this and become horrified. "If it destroys her to be called a boy, what have we been teaching her about boys?" They immediately draw up sensitivity training for the girls.

The insult is the enforcement of roles. It says "youre out of order." It assumes the object of the insult to be exempt from the pressure. Girls are exempt from being judged by their sports performance, boys are exempt from being judged by their looks (although this has begun to blur). "Cry like a baby" does not express contempt for babies, but acceptance of their vulnerability.

The funny thing is boys insult girls by calling them boys, and girls insult boys by calling them girls. This happens all the time. As a disabillity carer i was told by a woman that i was a woman for doing a woman's job. I was embarrassed, but not because I have contempt for women, it was because someone indicated my job was fine for women, but not for me.

Men and women insult both sexes by calling them the opposite and enforcing gender roles, now I support the of ending that kind of restriction. I do think with the acceptance of women in mens roles but not vice versa, that the insult carries less potency for women. But call me out if you disagree.

So I'll wrap it up. Agree or disagree below.

The original insult against the boy is not based on contempt for girls, but the intention to enforce gender pressures on that boy that are not enforced on girls.

  • thumb
    Apr 2 2012: Hi Patrick,

    I think that insults of this kind are a form of bigotry. Rather than being stemmed in race, religion, culture, etc. it is furthering gender binaries and stereotypes in our societies. And I agree, I believe that this kind of practice, like all of those rooted in hatred/ignorance, is self-destructive. Ultimately, people tend to insult others based on some point of difference - a difference to their personal expectations on what a person should be/look like/act/etc.
    • Apr 2 2012: Cool, thanks for your thoughts.

      Let me get some clarity.

      Do you think the boy had a bigoted attitude towards girls and that is why the insult was painful, and that the girl who went to the dance had a bigoted attitude towards boys?
  • Apr 8 2012: Maybe this all derives from the past gender roles, where women 'belonged' in the kitchen and men were 'supposed' to be the soul wage earner of the house hold which in turn gave men a position of power. These norms have been broken in today's society and there is less emphasis put on gender roles but there are some remnants of tradition. (Being ambiguous now...) To an extent being called a girl would mean that you were taking a position of lesser power and being called this would be an insult to your authority.
    on another note there was a huge emphasis on the contrast between gender and still is. Such rhymes as 'boys are made of slugs and snails and puppy dogs tails' which girls have been brought up to dislike. Oppositely 'girls are made of sugar and spice and all things nice' . I think gender stereotyping/labeling and self for filling prophesy also has a role to play in this. Excuse the film stereotype but dads want a baby boy who's going to become the high school star quarterback. When parents call their daughters 'their little princess'. It asks the question of upbringing, and how a vast gender stereotyping has caused two different cultures. do boys want to be their parents princess or their daughters be the quarter back?
    The insult is basically saying 'you're not what you've been brought up as' and that's a big thing for some one of that age.
  • Apr 3 2012: Perhaps the issue here is ACCURACY, TRUTH. Calling someone something they are not is foolish. Truth, accuracy. Yeah. That's what matters.
  • thumb
    Apr 3 2012: Objectifying a person by an incorrect gender label is a conscious form of attack and control. In the example, the boy who would be "destroyed" by being likened to a girl knows he is a male (as would the perpetrator) but he recognises this label as an attack on this core identity. A gay or effeminate boy is still very much a male and I would imagine that a gender dysphonic boy would be just as horrified - they would all recognise the underlying attack. Such insults have nothing to do with the female sex - it's an easy attack on a boy’s sense of being.

    Having said that, Tony is quite correct that boys are often not raised to respect girls / women, and are encouraged to maintain socially constructed behaviours and character traits - which must be quite stressful to maintain. Clearly the contents of some “man boxes” need to change.
    • Apr 3 2012: Yeah cool, I agree with you.

      I actually liked the talk I think male liberation is an important topic, but it just really bugged me. I think most guys have been called a girl at many times growing up, I just felt like the boys source of pain was misrepresented as coming from his own bigotry, rather than fear of failing expectations.
      • thumb
        Apr 4 2012: Hi Patrick, Yes I agree with you. It was a refreshing and honest talk. I also agree that Tony's interpretation of the example is as bad as the original invalidation - it assumes a reason for the boy's feelings, which is probably unfounded.

        The problem is that such forms of attack often encourage invalidated boys to verbally respond in a negative and offensive way about girls. Thus, the rebuttal is misdirected away from the attacker's behaviour. The attacker has won as he now knows how to control the boy. It may also lead to the boy harbouring resentments towards girls, instead of correctly being resentful towards the offensive boy or man.

        The same argument can be made about the other classic invalidation "you're gay". It takes a very secure boy to brush off that label without disrespecting being gay.

        This method is how bullies recruit their back up bullies.

        Things won't change until fathers, male teachers and men in general give boys the skills to respond to such quips in an appropriate way - directing the rebuttal towards the bigotry of the invalidator. If a boy can do this, coolly and calmly - he'll be a man.
        • Apr 4 2012: Yeah look I agree with you again. I actually think that is a really insightful opinion.

          I think that placing such pressures on sexes to meet expectations (this time in the form of an insult) can lead to a resentment of the other gender, because they are excluded from such pressures, and I completely agree with what you said about gay insults.
  • thumb
    Apr 3 2012: Lets take a step back on this one. By chance, just maybe, the girl in paragraph #2 may have actually dressed and therefore looked more traditionally male. If this in not the case,more than likely the "friend" that made the quip was just old school jealous of her friend's affection towards the boy at the dance.

    Don't always assume something is a Zebra it may just be a horse.
    • thumb
      Apr 7 2012: Regardless of how she was dressed, it is the intent of the friend's comment that is the potential problem. You can say "you are dressed like a boy" and it may be a true statement, but the intention behind saying it, in this instance, is to hurt the feelings of the girl, make her consider changing her outfit to something more standard, etc. and that is where the original poster sees a problem, I believe.
  • thumb
    Apr 2 2012: In this particular example, I would say that the person intending harm fosters the greater responsibility. Though you could have substituted the actual phrase "look like a boy" with any kind of degrading term and the girl still would have been insulted. In fact, the boy could have said "of, you look really pretty and girlish" in a sarcastic manner and it could still result in hurt feelings.

    I believe that the social constructs of gender or other personal identifiers reflect a broad cultural phenomena. The lack of cultural sensitivity is something that we're all guilty of because as a society, we give credence/power to those very concepts or words that can be destructive.