Written by Ainsley Burns
Ever since we girls could talk, we’ve heard the phrase “Boys will be Boys. And if they are mean to you, that just means they like you.” When I was in 1st grade, I was bullied so terribly by a boy that I was scared to even walk into class. Every day he would pull my hair. I remember, once, he held scissors to my braid and pretended to cut it off. He told me I was a nerd, and that it was weird I was good at math. Because of him I have horrible math anxiety. I thought I was worthless and stupid. I told my friends about this boy, and guess what they told me? “Boys will be boys. He’s probably mean to you because he likes you.” This boy bullied me until 3rd grade. I would come home crying because he had scribbled on my notes or said I was stupid. Because of him it’s hard to feel like I matter. In this town, we’ve been teaching this idea to kids, but maybe it’s time to teach something better. Instead of saying “boys will be boys” why not teach boys how to behave like good men?
Think about the dress code: it's only directed at girls. Skirts and shorts only 4 inches above the knee. How many guys would this even be a concern for? No tank tops allowed, but boys often wear tank tops and rarely get dress-coded. When I was in fourth grade, I wore a tank top to school for field day and was forced to put on a jacket, while the boys were running around shirtless. Enforcing an absurd double standard for girls just teaches boys that a girl’s value is tied to her clothing. It teaches boys that what we wear gives them permission to touch us, or catcall us, or worse. We're teaching boys that girls aren't allowed to wear what we want because how we look is more important than who we are. Worst of all, we’re teaching boys that they don’t need to be responsible for their own words, thoughts, and actions. Instead of teaching boys that they can define us by our clothes. Real men don’t blame their behavior or their thoughts on someone else’s clothing. Real men take responsibility for their own actions. Instead of teaching boys to treat a woman like she is an object, let’s teach them to be real men who know how to treat women, regardless of what they wear.
Another problem I’ve seen at Madison is boys telling girls what to do or what they can be. Too many boys still think that women exist just for cooking or cleaning. Boys say we can’t compete in sports, or don’t need to go on to college. They say women shouldn’t be project leaders, or are even sometimes disrespectful to their female teachers. But real men know that women deserve the same opportunities as men and that we are equally capable. Instead of teaching boys that women are fragile and only good for watching the children and making dinner, let’s teach boys to be real men who know that women and men should work together, in home and the workplace.
The world is changing, but too often, we aren’t changing what we’re teaching. By teaching boys and girls that men are the more powerful gender we’re just dooming ourselves. Women all over the world struggle because the men and women of tradition can’t get their heads out of their medieval, old, outdated ideas. Men and women, boys and girls, deserve better than “boys will be boys.”
If you want to make a girl happy, don’t treat her like an object. Don’t touch her without consent. Don’t tell her how to dress. Don’t tie her clothes to her standards and don’t take over her life. We need to be teaching our next generation this because, right now, we’re failing as a society.
My message to you is that it is time to teach our boys to be real men. Boys will be boys, but what our girls and women need are men who will stand up for us, who value women not for what we wear but who we are. We need to teach our boys to recognize that we are all equal.