“I can’t believe A (the girl) is 14,” I told my dad a few days later.
“Did she know who you were?” he asked.
I told him I wasn’t sure, as she had been a bit aloof. “Yeah… that’s a tough age.” I agreed, and we both laughed.
Being 14 wasn’t easy – for me or my parents. I was a moody smartass, mortified by my parents and sick to death of what I considered a horribly mundane existance. But I did well in school and stayed out of trouble. My brother was no better. He was a moody smartass who did get into trouble, in and out of school. Children are difficult to raise no matter their sex.
Yet the notion that girls are a pain whilst boys are a breeze has gotten a ton of mileage in our culture. Female infanticide and female foeticide are widespread in many parts of the world, but even in our “modern” society, male babies are often valued more than females. Women are eager to tell the world they dread(ed) girl babies and pray(ed) for boys. Because girls are “complicated” but boys are simple creatures. Wait, what?
Now, I’ve known a few boys in my lifetime: boys who threw temper tantrums, boys who whined, boys who disrupted class, boys who lived to destroy stuff, boys who hit, boys who planned drinking parties in the woods, boys who drove drunk, boys who stole, boys who did drugs, and boys who tormented their sisters. Have the women who claim boys are “easier” ever met a boy? Or do their middle-school memories, of inexplicable crying fits and slamming bedroom doors, overshadow their memories of the boys’ misdeeds? Girls can be brats; they can get into trouble. But for most kids, the rebellious hellion phase is just that: a phase.
Most of the reasoning provided by those who dread girl children is just repetition of sexist stereotypes. Girls are catty and they’re obsessed with princesses! Oh, not me of course – just other girls. I can’t stand women who elevate themselves above other women by proclaiming that they only associate with men and only partake in “boyish” activities. You might get a weekend pass to the Boys Club, honey, but you’ll never be given a key. The irony of a tomboyish woman expecting her hypothetical daughters to be stereotypically girly is lost on them. And what if their boy children reject footballs and cars in favor of dollies and tea sets? There is as much variation among children of the same sex as there is between the sexes.
Gender essentialism ends up being a self-fulfilling prophesy. We socialize boys to repress their feelings; when they do it we conclude that boys are “simple.” People approach parenthood expecting boys to be this way and girls to be that way, and they project those expectations onto their children. I’ve heard parents declare that little so-and-so is “all boy,” even as his sister runs just as wild and plays with the same level of exuberance.
I can understand the reluctance to bring a girl into a world that will try to subjugate and abuse her. But just as I would not want my daughter to be targeted on the basis of her sex, I would not want my son to be a predator. And patriarchy grinds boys down, too. Sweet, gentle boy children are molded into “masculine” ones, according to patriarchy’s standards. I would not want my children to be victims or victimizers – roles people of both sexes play. I think the best one can do is embrace children’s unique personalities, which are not determined by sex.