Boys will be fat, lazy, trouble, a nuisance, dim, slow and destructive.
That’s according to a variety of throwaway comments made since I was expecting, and then had, my own little boy.
This is a man’s world (though for the sake of my daughter AND my son I hope that continues to change)- but boys sure do come in for some shit. And while much is made of the pinkification of girls, I’m starting to think (as I watch my tutu-clad daughter playing with a toy truck) that some of this pink panic might be something of a red herring. There are more worrying and deeply-entrenched stereotypes at play, and many of them are around boys, not girls.
The latest remark came from a woman in a shop. We got chatting after she admired the patchwork quilt on Asher’s pram. I mentioned by way of an anecdote that my mum hadn’t finished it when Asher was born, as he surprised us by being a week early.
‘Huh’ she replied darkly ‘that’s boys for you’, her tone implying that boys are- what? Inconvenient? Selfish?
Of course, it was just chitchat, but she felt strongly enough to say as I left ‘get used to it… That’s boys for you’.
Meanwhile a midwife I know tells me that it’s also common to hear people complain of a ‘typical boy, keeping mum waiting’ when a baby boy is born late. So which is it?
Even when I was pregnant with Leila, a common response when we found out the gender was ‘oh you must be glad it’s a girl’; and then with Asher ‘it’s best you had a girl first, she can keep the boy in line.
It seems even as babies, even BEFORE BIRTH, it’s been decided how a girl or a boy should/will be. This isn’t news- but I’ve been surprised at the expectations levelled at girls (to be good, sweet, sensible), and the lack of them for boys.
This is no good for boys, and it’s no wonder they achieve less than girls at school, with these stereotypes ringing in their ears.
But it’s also no good for girls, because if they grow up believing that they must be sugar and spice and all things nice, whilst boys can apparently get away with being slugs and snails and lazy and naughty- and STILL bag all the power, money and places in the boardroom- well, what message does that give them?
(Real boys wear tights)