Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Boys will be boys and politicians will be idiots

Following on from my previous post I'd like to extend a massive thank you to the MP from Mangere Su'a William Sio for explaining the issue of knife violence in south Auckland by saying that boys will be boys. Really.
Thank you Mr. Sio for starting the conversation that we need to have about our young men (there's a conversation that needs to be had about our young women as well, and one about our fa'afafine and trans* youth, but one boundary at a time). Through your comments, the media are now asking experts about what it means to be a boy (who, we are assured, will continue to be a boy). They are now discussing machismo in a way that never would have happened if you'd kept your damaging, shortsighted opinion to yourself.

He's done some good stuff. Really. Just.....not today.
Here's what "boys will be boys" means, Mr. Sio. Boys will be boys says men can't help themselves and it's a woman's fault when she's raped. Boys will be boys apologises for the harassment that almost all women and girls face every time they step out of their front door (see @everydaysexism if you still have a shred of belief in humanity left, you won't for long). Boys will be boys means that bullying is tolerated to the point of complicity in our schools and workplaces. Boys will be boys makes freaks and victims of our queer, trans* and otherwise "unmanly" young men who may be boys but just not the right sort for this swaggering statement that drips with contempt and braggadocio. Boys will be boys smothers the right of our young men to be honest and open about any feeling that can't be displayed with a raised voice or a fist.
We have created a culture that excuses the worst excesses of testosterone whilst demanding that our young men abide by the constraints of those excesses. We pillory and mock those young men who seek to live in a way that doesn't fit this straitjacket, and then wonder why they lash out when things are tough.
Stop pigeonholing. Stop stifling. Stop marginalising.

Boys will be boys Mr. Sio, but until we as a society address and change what it means to be a boy then your tautology will be nothing more than an excuse for violence. Of all the things you could have said to the community about these dreadful incidents, I can't think of anything less helpful. I hope you use this as an opportunity to open up the discussion about the young men you represent.

Your electorate will be watching.


  1. Quite right! Its sad to see the warlike-legacy of macho Maori culture still has such a big influence on folks in NZ but, even without it, there would still be a problem there. Perhaps a more tacit 'BWBB' stance, but present, none-the-less. Possibly worse for being more insidious...

    "We have created a culture that excuses the worst excesses of testosterone"

    Correct me if I'm wrong here, (you're the biologist, after all!) but hadn't recent studies shown that Testosterone is actually an inhibitor for the aggressive effects of the stress hormone, Cortisol - contrary to how it is generally perceived? I think that shows that even our attitudes to something like the effects sex hormones, supposedly scientifc and unbiased, are gendered in such a way as to excuse behaviour that is, essentially socialised. I firmly believe if we socialised boys differently, there would be no observable or scientifically verifiable evidence that there were any inherently greater inclinations towards violence in males than in females...

    1. You make an excellent point. I wasn't writing that from a endocrinologist POV but more the social context of "testosterone" as a shorthand for typically masculine behaviour. Your comment's given me thought as to how I use this term, so thank you!