Kaitlyn’s School of Thought: The issue with “Boys will be boys”

The common expression to boys’ behavior results in many harmful consequences.


Kaitlyn Edwards

In her weekly column, Kaitlyn’s School of Thought, Norse Notes’ Kaitlyn Edwards shares her opinions surrounding all topics about being a high school student and academic issues.

When a young boy does something feckless or rowdy, many people respond and justify that action by saying, “Boys will be boys.” By saying this, that person is suggesting that it is okay for a boy to act in a reckless, and sometimes harmful way. It tells all of those around them that a boy can do as he pleases because he is just being a boy and doing “boyish” things.

This phrase was not always as harmful though. It originated in the sixteenth century from the Latin proverb, “Children are children and do childish things.” If this saying had remained as such, the phrase would not have made harmful stereotypes that are so easily seen, especially to the young children that hear that “boys will be boys” so often in today’s society.

By using the phrase so often to rationalize why boys do certain actions like roughhousing, using explicit language, or picking on their female counterparts, adults teach children that it is okay for a boy to do whatever he wants simply because he is “biologically wired” to do so. The saying does not actually hold the boys accountable, but makes it seem like boys are just genetically predisposed to do these behaviors.

As boys grow older, “boys will be boys” is used to justify extremely detrimental actions such as: getting into fights, illegally racing cars on public streets, or sexual assault. Boys are taught that it is acceptable to do such heinous acts, and because they were not reprimanded for their harmful actions during their childhood, boys can even feel encouraged to take part in these activities. The phrase teaches boys that they must act in this manner because that is the only way that they will be real boys, and eventually real men.

If a girl does the exact same actions that would warrant an adult saying “boys will be boys” if a boy did them, that adult does not say “girls will be girls.” Instead, that girl is punished simply because of her gender, teaching her that she must act differently than a boy by being much more submissive and unproblematic. She is taught that she is less than her male classmates simply because she is female.

Girls are taught that they must fit in a box that is the exact opposite of their male counterparts. Instead of being feckless, girls are taught to be responsible. While boys are told they can be rowdy, girls are told that they must be orderly. To be a proper girl, they are taught to be obedient, while boys are told that they must be rebellious.

Nobody truly benefits from the overly simplified stereotypes that are shown through phrases such as, “Boys will be boys.” Not all boys are violent, and should not be expected to be, just like not all girls are nurturing. No matter what gender a person is, they can do whatever they want to do and act however they want to. Nobody has to fit in a specific stereotype because not many people truly can.

At school, I see the effects of “boys will be boys” on a daily basis. Whether it is boys interrupting sports practices to do actions they find funny or boys disrupting classes to gain attention, boys are not punished as harshly as girls are for doing these same actions. Often, they are not even punished at all. It is ingrained in minds from a young age that this is acceptable and normal, but it should not be tolerated any longer.

Girls are expected to be model students and athletes for boys, even at the high school level, but they should not be because girls are not biologically wired to be calmer, less violent, or better behaved. Boys are not inclined to do such disruptive actions for biological reasons. Instead, they are socially inclined to do so, because that is what expected of them from adults and their peers. We need to scrap these expectations at Oakmont because they are only doing harm.

As a society, we must take the phrase, “Boys will be boys,” out of our vernacular to remove stereotypes from our expectations of children and adolescents. We need to ensure children are punished for their bad actions from a young age instead of just brushing it off simply because of their gender, which will truly make children equal no matter what gender they are. By starting from a young age, children will grow up to understand that they are equal to all others no matter what their physical and biological differences are.