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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.


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    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.
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        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.

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