Oh boy! Now I gotta air the boys’ dirty laundry…

25 Jun

 (this was written by Heidi)

Boys don’t cry – but should they?

Last week in our lounge room my children witnessed two teenage girls beating each other to a pulp.

Television is an evil technology that brings the worst of the world into our homes.

Moving on… the footage of two Gold Coast teens inflicting serious pain on each other was repeatedly broadcast on news bulletins and replayed in all its ugliness until the scene of a girl being kicked in the head was permanently imprinted in the minds of all those watching.

I had a flashback to my own youth of a schoolyard fight I witnessed between two boys.

Most of the school turned up after word got around there was going to be a punch-up in the vacant lot after school. It just so happened I had to walk past that vacant lot to get to my house, so I was in the thick of it when the fists started flying.

What stayed with me was the awful, sick-in-the-stomach feeling I felt when the boys circled around cheering whenever a fist made contact, egging the fighters on, baying for blood as it became evident one of the boys was boxing way above his weight division.

It was my first experience of mob mentality. I recall a real dread as I realised no individual would be able to stop it. Anyone who stepped in was going to be pulverised along with this poor kid, Lord of the Flies style.

As the video evidence suggests however, blood lust is not a male-dominated trait, nor is succumbing to mob mentality, or peer pressure, or bullying for that matter.

Yet as a society we are so much more affronted by vision of girls engaging in this behaviour. Why? Because we raise them differently? Because we expect better from girls? Because boys will be boys and everyone has just accepted that?

Certainly the pendulum has swung away from the old-school style of child-rearing where girls were given dolls and had tea parties while the boys played cowboys with their air-rifles. But the mentality of naive, unassuming girls versus loud, aggressive boys is still very much alive and entrenched in many families today.

I think we are making a big mistake by raising boys to be rough and tough, the strong silent types who don’t know how to communicate their feelings, boys who are hugged less and patted on the head instead, who are told to get up and keep playing footy despite their skinned knees and the tears in their eyes.

I don’t think it means we are at risk of raising a generation of ‘sissies’ and I severely object to the phrase ‘stop being a girl’ said to boys who show emotion as though this is wrong.

Australian psychologist, renowned author and former father of the year Steve Biddulph argues that boys need training in their formative years to help them function in adult relationships and ‘this frequently doesn’t happen’.

Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson in their book, Raising Cain – Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys, state that boys have been raised to be "not feminine – perhaps even antifeminine – and so they consciously and deliberately attack in others and in themselves traits that might possibly be defined as feminine. These include tenderness, empathy, compassion and any show of emotional vulnerability."

While I believe this is not so much the case today, as more parents of boys recognise their son’s ‘softer’ side, there are still those who object to the rise of the metrosexual.

If boys were asked how they were feeling and felt perfectly at ease about expressing themselves openly from a young age we wouldn’t end up with husbands who find it difficult to communicate in adulthood.

If boys were taught to identify and interpret their own feelings and the feelings of those around them, would football teams engage in group sex ignorant of who they’re hurting – including themselves?

*Join the Dirty Laundry revolution on Facebook or my band of merry followers on Twitter. You can also contact me at dirty.laundry@live.com.au

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