Boys Will Not Just Be Boys

What does it take to be a man in today’s popular culture? Does being masculine only refer to men who are physically dominant, confident, and in control of their emotions? If these are some of the unofficial guidelines society uses to categorize men, what does that mean for those who do not fit into the mold?

Run Your World does not believe there’s an easy, or single, answer to these questions; however, we do believe that we can do our part in changing how society views gender. We believe it starts with understanding how we communicate with each other, especially with young children. Think about how many times adults have bypassed or ignored their little boy’s behavior because ‘…boys will just be boys.’ If this is the message children (specifically boys) receive at an early age, where is the line drawn as they transition into adulthood?

Think about all the different scenarios you may notice in your personal life or in today’s popular culture (media):

  • A boy hits a girl in elementary school. “It’s okay…boys will be boys.”
  • A man catcalls a girl on the street. “It’s okay…boys will be boys”
  • A boyfriend verbally abuses his girlfriend because she interrupted his game. “It’s okay…boys will be boys.”
  • A Stanford swimmer rapes an unconscious girl for ‘20 minutes of action,’ and only gets a 6-month prison sentence. “It’s okay…boys will be boys.”
  • A man is elected President of the United States, even though he thinks grabbing women inappropriately is only locker room talk. “It’s okay…boys will be boys.”

The consequences of creating a ‘boys will just be boys’ culture has made it so that aggressive and inappropriate behavior by men is considered normal. This is essentially saying that women are inferior, and if you’re a man that doesn’t play by the ‘manly’ rules, you’re less of one.

We asked a man and woman within the Loyola community their thoughts regarding the topic, and here are the responses we received:

The saying ‘boys will be boys’ perpetuates society’s narrow definition of masculinity and lowers the expectation of boys at a young age. When we do this, we set them up to have low expectations of themselves. We are socializing the idea that boys have power and are entitled, while girls will always be inferior. Aggressive or mean behavior towards them is the norm and should be accepted. It reinforces the idea that with aggression, comes power and superiority.” – Nicole S., Junior

“To me, the idea of masculinity stems from society’s obsession with grouping and assigning titles to all of these groups. As such, masculinity in my mind is a generalized, over-stereotyped sense of the need to be ‘macho’ and other ‘typical’ traits of manhood: physical strength, non-emotional, athletic, etc. – Ian R., Graduate

When it comes down to it, most of us have all been taught that women are supposed to follow one set of expectations, while men are supposed to follow another. For example, as children we were told that it was okay for girls to play with Barbies and boys to play with G.I. Joes. We were even subliminally told which toy aisles to roam through depending on whether they were decorated in pink or blue. Even as we get older, not much has changed.

If there was ever a time to not remain silent and continue these type of conversations, it’s right now. You can start by having a conversation with someone who you would normally disagree with. Instead of ignoring anytime someone uses their power to delegitimize another person, speak up. Educate and reach out to those who may be struggling to find their own voice or confidence. Boys will not just be boys, and we all have a shared responsibility of changing the way society continues to think about masculinity and femininity. It starts with a thought, now let’s create a bigger voice.

We want to hear about your own experiences and whether you agree or disagree with our thoughts on masculinity in society. To stay up to date on other related topics, follow us on Twitter @RunYourWorldLUC or connect with us on Facebook.

22 thoughts on “Boys Will Not Just Be Boys

  1. Excellent post, I think it’s high time this topic be discussed. I’m in the business community and woman are not treated as equals to their male counter parts. I believe this may be due to a masculine macho culture at the office which perpetuates the notion that males are superior.
    When I start my own company in the not too distance future I will eventually float it on the stock market and be slave to the numerous shareholders. Having foreseen this I will only be hiring women because I know I can fill positions with qualified applicants who I can leagally pay less. This is great for shareholders and the women who work for me because they will have a sense of empowerment they may not have at a rival firm.
    I feel that small steps like these really contribute to closing the equality and gender gap.

  2. Jack,

    Thanks for sharing your perspective. My next post will actually be looking into the topic of women in the workplace (specifically business). I currently work for an agency that is female dominant, yet, a lot of our clients are male. Even from a communication perspective, it’s interesting to watch different women and men communicate with each other in that space.

    If you don’t mind my asking, what type of business do you plan to start in the future?

  3. Nolan,

    I’ll keep an eye out for it! I am opening the business in the new year. Renovation Systems. It’s a company that takes care of men who have suffered abuse from women; specifically in the workplace. I get a lot of calls from distraught men who feel they have lost their masculinty from workplace abuse. We work with these men to build their ‘macho’ gains again. It typically involves 2-4 months of proactive macho time; baseball games, beer and the occasional stripclub (therapeutic use only).

    I’d be happy to answer any questions or even take you on as a client!

  4. I’m in a gender communication class right now, and we were just talking about this. Super relevant issue.

  5. Maddie, I think the timing is very relevant. What kind of other topics are you discussing in your gender communications class?

  6. Jack,

    Do you have any insight or examples you could share from the males perspective about the workplace abuse?

    Feel free to share any relevant information related to Renovation Systems. I would love to learn more.

  7. Thanks so much for the feedback Maddie. We would love if you tweeted us some points from your gender communications class that you feel align with our story @ RunYourWorldLUC

  8. Nolan,

    I’d be happy to share. For confidentiality issues I have to keep my clients identity private so let’s refer to this gentleman as Timothy.

    Timothy worked at a medium size advertising firm in a large city, he was a senior manager. On a particular project he had to report to the Vice President, Sarah. Sarah was not particularly competent at quantitative analysis; she had missed 4 training sessions due to an extended bout of maternity leave.
    Timothy knew what he was doing and presented his forcast to Sarah, typically a review takes less than a week. 2 months later, Tims work was reviewed and deemed inadequate. Another forecast was presented.
    Timothy investigated this because his work had not been scrutinised at this level, he later found that his forcast had been used but Sarah had put her name on it. Had Timothy’s name been on it he would be up for a vp promotion. Timothy did what any self respecting man did and confronted her, he politely told her she was out of order and commented on her facial features, her collapsed marriage and how her new born looked like her pool boys child (they both use the same pool boy because he knows how to unclog a drain).
    Timothy was later sacked for misconduct and then came for some advice.

    My company assessed the situation and were able to get him back into the company at a vp position and demote Sarah. The company agreed that Sarah should not have taken maternity leave because she lacked knowledge of the topic at hand, we also agree her newborn looked unfortunate.

    This case took about 4 months to solve but we do have cases that last up to 2 years.

    Hope that helps!

  9. This is all so relevant, especially with the awful election that just happened. Boys will be boys is the kind of saying that promotes men to talk about “grabbing women by the p*ssies” and claiming that it’s just locker room talk.

  10. Jack,

    Thanks for sharing. It’s definitely an intriguing introspective on sexism in the workplace. I immediately think of ‘Horrible Bosses’ and the power relationship Jennifer Aniston’s character has over Charlie Day’s. In my opinion, I feel these issues get swept under the rug (for both men and women) and people shouldn’t feel embarrassed or afraid to speak up about them. It’s reassuring to know that there are available services out there for individuals who need help.

  11. Ariana,

    I agree! Without getting too political (we have another post that highlights those concerns) I think it’s an overarching cultural/systematic issue that we need address. Have you ever personally noticed that the attitude or saying of ‘boys will be boys’ has affected someone else?

  12. Erin, thank you for your feedback! We hope to inspire others to find their voice and be able to talk about such pressing social issues. We are glad this post has left a positive impact on others.

  13. When I have a son I will not teach him the boys will just be boys. Love that you guys did an article about this

  14. Thank you for the feedback Michael. We believe it’s especially important to shape they way our youth thinks about such topics. We are glad to hear that our insight was helped others reevaluate how ‘meaningless statements’ actually have an impact on society.

  15. As a social worker I attended several conferences on the dangers of teaching gender roles at a young age. This is so important for parents (even teachers) to be aware of! What we expose our children too and teach them is the appropriate behavior will forever impact who they grow up to be and how they treat others – especially the mindset we teach girls that if a boy hits you – it means that he likes you. Great discussion piece guys.

  16. Thanks for sharing your story and experience as a social worker Sabrina! It’s reassuring to hear that women (and men) are educating others on these sorts of systematical issues. We would imagine that children are certainly impressionable to their environment and the behaviors that transpire out of them. Our goal is to continue these sorts of discussions for all members of our society. Run Your World certainly appreciates your thoughtful insight and dedication to making positive changes in the community.

  17. I read through a handful of your blog posts, and while I think the broad message is wonderful, I’m confused on your messaging. How do you write a blog about women empowerment and gender stereotypes without mentioning the word feminist once?

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