I was five when I had my first ‘Boys will be Boys’ moment. It was on the kindergarten playground. We were waiting to go into class when a boy, whose name I cannot remember, ran up and grabbed my white sweater, threw it on the ground and jumped up and down on it. My grandmother had embroidered the sweater with tiny pink rosebuds that grew up around the button holes and then the collar. I loved my grandmother and my sweater so I took my 1960s metal Cinderella lunch pail, milk-filled metal thermos and all, and hit him on the side of the head. Blood began to creep out of his crew-cut and he screamed. I was taken to the principal’s office. I told them my side of the story. They responded, “You are too cute to be acting this way! He only did that because he wanted to play with you. If you don’t want to play, stay away from him.” It was confusing. I wasn’t trying to be around him. I was just waiting to go to class. Why was it my responsibility to avoid him and his attack?
These incidents became commonplace in my experience growing up. So familiar that they became part of my fish brain, guiding unconscious actions throughout my life that shaped my education, my professional life, and my trust in relationships. It was clear to me from a young age that my expected behavior, aspirations and future were very different from those of my brother. He was encouraged to be a ‘Boys will be Boys’ member. Fortunately, he didn’t abuse the role like many in his brotherhood. He would, however, be excused from aggressive behaviors by doting adults with the quip, “He is just being a boy.” I, on the other hand, was admonished for any action that seemed boisterous, aggressive, or self-promoting. They sculpted me to be passive, quiet, still and admired for my appearance—you know, like a statue or vase or an object that is simply defined as, “a material thing that can be seen and touched.”
As the years went by I learned, alongside my ‘sisterhood’ of girlfriends, to take responsibility for the ‘Boys will be Boys’ establishment. By first grade we learned to wear shorts under our dresses so the boys wouldn’t look at our underwear when we played on the bars. By Junior High we learned that our burgeoning breasts were our responsibility to keep away from their grab. By High School we knew to never go to a party alone, have too much to drink when alone with boys, and to always go to the bathroom in groups. It was unspoken between us but we knew why. We were responsible for not becoming prey. It was our burden to not be groped, rubbed against, attacked or worse. If somehow we found ourselves alone and vulnerable and something happened, then we were responsible for explaining how we let it happen. Almost always we confided only to our ‘sisterhood’ and never accused the attacker publicly. It was a thousand messages, encounters and injuries that tried to chisel away our identity as equals into traditional female objects. We just sucked it up, adjusted our behavior and considered it just another piece of our humanity chiseled away.
Though subtle, as to not appear to be too aggressive, I have spent my adulthood in a quiet revolt against the tolerance of the ‘Boys will be Boys’ club. I have done what many females of my age had to do to attain whatever parity we could with our male counterparts. We became jugglers: Educated professionals, good mothers of both and wives of boys, carefully balancing all roles so they did not collide and tumble to the ground. The establishment referred to it as, “having it all.”
I’m sure victimized boys are wondering why they are being accused now for behavior that was winked at for so many centuries. Those before them went to their graves without being accused. Why do they have to be the ‘Patsies’? It’s demonstrated in their anger and frustrated rants, their beliefs and voting habits. They have done everything right in the ‘Boys will be Boys’ club: A John Wayne styled world view that transcends just sex and allows members to dominate other men, marginalized people, small defenseless countries and the earth. Objects for them to take and add to their collection through war, religion, and traditional ‘family values’. They feel their privilege slipping away from their grasp and they are defending it as they know how, with aggression.
The answer to, “why now?” is simple. It is time to evolve as a society, as non-partisan humans, and reflect on how tolerance of the ‘Boys will be Boys’ club is preventing the full potential of our societal development. This advancement would respond to the changing demands on both men and women of all colors, creeds and classes, positively moving towards greater equity for all. Maybe we are seeing the last gasp of ‘Boys will be Boys’, Make America Great Again resistance campaign. If not, we might just have to hit them over the head with something to wake them up-maybe just figuratively. We don’t want to be too much like them.