Boys will be boys


Photo of author and cover of book 'Boys Will Be Boys'

 Book reviewed by Jacqui, one of the library team.

From the author of Fight like a girl, this book follows with the theme of how gender stereotyping damages our children.  Now the mother of a small boy, Ford imagines a world where life is fairer for people of any gender.  

In the world in which we live, it is hard to escape the gender stereotyping of our children.  The moment we reveal the expected child’s apparent gender, an avalanche of pink or blue clothing and accessories, dolls or trucks rain down on the innocent, telling them their place in the world. 

Unconscious though it may be, society begins to mould our children into a gendered role.  Girls get dolls and tea-sets and are encouraged to take the caring, domestic role.  Boys are encouraged to be rough-and-tumble, rugged and dominant and that is exactly what happens.

When we tell boys they are acting “like a girl”, this implies that girls are weaker or not as good.  The language and symbolism really matters.

Ford writes, “Patriarchy is not a building we can walk in and out of.  It isn’t a wardrobe or clothing we can run our hands through…. It’s in the air we breathe, the gravity that keeps us weighted to the earth.  It is a language we learn to speak from the moment we are born.” 

We would all benefit from a society where parents were nurturing and caring, regardless of gender; where there was real opportunity for equal representation and equal pay; where caring duties (of children or elderly) and household duties were not divided along gender lines.

To some, it may sometimes seem as though feminism is about buoying the role of women at the expense of men, but that has never been the case.  Many men would like the opportunity to be more involved with their children and to tap into their “softer” feelings.  In Australia, men are around three times more likely to suicide than women.  How much of this is due to the societal expectation that men will be tough and stoic?

In Australia, in a typical week, two women will be murdered by a former or current partner.   Ford deals with the idea of “toxic masculinity” and the damage that causes.  To be sure, this does not apply to all men.  All men do not harm women, but many do not call it out either. 

Prominent Australian author, Margaret Atwood, comments that men are afraid that women will laugh at them, while women are afraid that men will kill them.  This is painfully examined in Ford’s account of the brutal rape and murder of an Aboriginal woman.  One of the killers, in his explanation of events to police, stated: “These things happen … girls will be girls, boys will be boys.”

WHAT??  Boys are often brought up in a culture of toxic masculinity, entitlement and sometimes violence.  This is Ford at her best:  witty, wise and sometimes angry.

She concludes the book with a beautifully worded letter to her infant son, detailing the world in which she hopes with will grow up.  We could all benefit from living in this world.

This is available as a printed book at the library, or as an eBook on our Borrowbox platform.