Do you remember that Gillette ad that came out in January that criticized the phrase "boys will be boys?"
At the time, Gillette was praised for challenging traditional notions of masculinity and helping rewrite the narrative for young men. I was reminded of this advertisement the other day when I had to ask myself: If this is not the age of "boys will be boys," are we instead in the age of "girls will be boys?"
I asked myself this question in reference to a podcast my husband introduced to me called "How Did This Get Made?" I've always thought it was pretty hilarious. But one of their recent episodes got me thinking.
On the podcast, a group of comedians hosted by Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas, and June Diane Raphael, review terrible movies and ask the obvious question, how did this get made? In the past, Jacob and I had made it a fun date night to watch one of their suggested terrible movies and listen to the podcast afterward. But a few weeks ago, the hosts got into a heated discussion about a movie called "Drop Dead Fred."
The premise of the film is as follows: a young woman named Elizabeth discovers that her husband is cheating on her. When her mother brings her back to her childhood home to recover from the shock, Elizabeth's imaginary friend from her youth (Drop Dead Fred) returns to cause chaos. Jacob and I watched this movie on our cruise knowing it would be terrible but assuming it would be funny.
Boy, were we wrong.
What could be a funny premise - young woman gets into crazy antics as her imaginary friend leads her into comic situations - is horribly undone by what seems like a true display of mental illness. Her actions are irrational and dangerous and put people in danger constantly.
But here's what I found truly fascinating. Two of the hosts - June and Jason - defended a young Elizabeth and Drop Dead Fred as she acted in truly destructive and dangerous ways. In one particularly memorable scene, Elizabeth flashes back to a memory of her childhood in which she and Drop Dead Fred rob her parent's home, break their front window, begin to bury her mother's silver, and eventually cause her father's arrest by police.
Isn't that just too sweet? I hope you can detect my sarcasm.
But the response from June and Jason was just that. They described Drop Dead Fred as the manifestation of Elizabeth's Id; they posited that she needed to express her ability to be bad and that her mother's horror at her out-of-control behavior was truly "internalized misogyny"; and that little girls need to be able to break the rules. Essentially, she was being oppressed by the patriarchy and was beginning her journey toward becoming a "nasty woman." They brushed off any insane or dangerous behavior by saying that she was releasing her repressed intensity that had been strangled by her oppressive mother. Consequences to other women in the film? Who cares, Elizabeth was on her way to self-fulfillment.
Well, this got me thinking: What if this movie had been made about a little boy?
In a culture where things like Gillette ads tell us that the phrase "boys will be boys" really mean "boys should have permission to sexually harass or assault whomever they wish," a little boy acting in the same way as described above would be considered a menace. And rightfully so. So why should we encourage little girls to behave worse than the little boys we are teaching to be held to a higher standard?
Unfortunately, I don't believe that boys are only being raised to be held accountable for their actions. I think they're being taught to neglect all the masculine parts of themselves that teach them to guard and protect their values, their families, their communities, and their country. And all of this is happening as little girls are being taught to be rude, obnoxious, and confident in their own bad behavior. So, what will we end up with?
A society of men too afraid to embrace their masculinity and a society of women who are so overconfident in their own opinions that they hurt the people around them callously and without regret.
I understand that we, as women, are women are trying to embrace our strength. My only regret is that some people believe it has be done at the cost of our femininity. We can be confident and brave without being disrespectful, in the same way that men can be strong and robust without being domineering. The idea that women need to throw men and civility aside in their pursuit of true happiness is unfair to everyone.
So, is this the age of "girls will be boys?" I'll tell you one thing: in my household, it won't be.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!
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