Girls Can Be Tomboys, Boys Can’t Be Sissies
Every quarter I ask my women students if any of them had been tomboys when they were little. Many hands enthusiastically shoot into the air. The women often have fond memories of their time climbing trees and digging in the dirt.
Then I ask the men students if any of them had been sissies. The class bursts out laughing. One hand might sheepishly creep up.
One man claimed the question was unfair since the word “sissy” is stigmatized but “tomboy” is not.
Actually, there isn’t a non-stigmatizing word for a boy who acts like a girl. And there’s a reason for that.
Any boy who acts like a girl takes himself down to a lower status. He becomes demeaned.
A girl who acts like a boy, on the other hand, doesn’t harm her social standing. At least not until she gets older and the behavior takes on lesbian overtones.
Another student thought I was exaggerating the problem. For his term paper he asked men and women on campus whether they had been tomboys or sissies, and whether they had ever thought about being the opposite sex.
When he asked women if they had ever wanted to be a man, or wondered what it would be like, many said they had. When he asked about being tomboys when they were little, they often reminisced on that happy time.
But when he asked men whether they had ever wanted to be a woman, or been curious about what it might be like, stunned reactions were the rule: “What!? Are you serious?” When he asked if they had been sissies when they were young, men turned an angry eye and asked, “Are you looking for trouble?”
He’s lucky to have finished his research and still be alive and in one piece.
This is just one of many examples of how we “gender rank” men above women in our society.
What difference does it make?
Devaluing females and femaleness ends in all sorts of problems: Women expect less for themselves, including pay and power in relationships. In societies and subcultures where masculine is valued over feminine we find higher rates of rape, wife battering, gay bashing, daughters-for-sale, and female infanticide. STDs are more widely spread. Women’s sexuality becomes repressed. Men cannot express their full selves and must keep their emotions bottled up — as they repress half of their humanity. The list goes on.
But as we grow aware of the problem, we can create change.
This was reposted on The Good Men Project.