Rambunctious Girls and Sensetive Boys

Sugar and spice, is that truly what little girls are made of? Because frankly I have always had more affinity with snips and snails and puppy dog tails.

But what does this mean really? To me, gender stereotyping has always felt like a straight jacket.

This week my city hosted TedX Sydney 2016 at the Sydney Opera House. One of the speakers was US sociologist, Dr Michael Kimmel. Dr Kimmel is one of the leading advocates to have men support gender equality and has been called the world’s most prominent male feminist. He has written many books about the world of men and is a seasoned and popular speaker on this and related topics.

Ahead of Dr Kimmel’s appearance at TedX this week and article appeared in my news feed entitled How to Fix the Boy Crisis: What Does It Mean to be a Man Today? Being the mother of two sons, this immediately pricked my interest. The point of the article was that at the heart of the crisis is the notion of what it means to be a man and fundamentally that boys believe that academic engagement is a negation of their masculinity. The mantra of “real boys don’t study” is prominent and Dr Kimmel’s belief is that young men face this dilemma more than girls – be popular or study?

What caught my eye in the article though was this quote from Dr Kimmel:

We know from every psychological study that boys and girls are more similar and different. There are some differences in mean distribution but nothing categorically only seen in girls or boys. Children want to be dealt with as individuals, not stereotypes.

In response the article states: rambunctious girls and sensitive boys might relate.

As well they might. The application extends to adults as well, as rambunctious girls and sensitive boys do eventually grow up.

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Long after the profundity of this quote and the journalist’s response stopped resonating, I was left with the notion that perhaps there was enough room out there for a rambunctious woman with at least one sensitive son. Existing as an individual in a world which values conformity and social norms because they permit quick and easy classification is not for the faint hearted. One tends to spend a lifetime of seeking the inclusion, acceptance and understanding that for others seems so effortless.

But this article has given me cause to celebrate my rambunctious nature and has allowed me to put a few things in context. For example, what it means to be a rambunctious girl? To me it means:

  1. You can express an opposing point of view just like anyone else.
  2. Empathy can be shown in many ways, not just by being nurturing in a way that gender stereotyping of females has us believe is essential.
  3. You can be direct and drop the faux nice.
  4. You can be scathing and funny.
  5. You can share banter with people who will not be offended.
  6. You can make people accountable for their behaviour or their lack of behaviour.
  7. You live without drama.
  8. You may spend time dressing up and putting on makeup but are not mortified if anyone sees the real you dressed in your trackkies and ugg boots.

None of this makes a rambunctious girl a bitch. What makes a girl a bitch is passive aggressive behaviour. This is why groups of women are truly scary. Generally, my experience with them as a collective has been frustrating and intimidating. You can’t out bitch a bunch of bitches. Rambunctious girls will generally tell you if there is an issue to your face and they expect you to do the same. We are not avoiders.

Marlene-Dietrich-wearing-her-trademark-mens-suitIt has also crystallised that there is a huge difference between being nice and being kind. Kindness is genuine, unconditional and a way of being without compromising one’s own integrity or boundaries. Nice on the other hand is doing what is expected so that feathers aren’t ruffled, conflict is avoided. Nice is a mask, it is fake and good ideas and progress never come out of nice.

So to all the rambunctious girls, a reminder that femininity comes in all shapes and guises and none of them have to do with pink frills, kitten heels, sugar or spice. Your gender does not define you and neither does society’s expectation simply because you carry double X chromosomes. Wearing a dress and heels, being nuturing or emotional may make you girly, but wearing your individuality makes you truly spectacular and it never goes out of style.

About the curtain raiserhttp://raisingthecurtain.netI have spent my life in offices. For now I am putting that behind me and preparing for the second act. Middle age didn't come with acceptable signposts so I am making my own through my writing. A journey shared is more fun than going it solo.

19 thoughts on “Rambunctious Girls and Sensetive Boys

  1. First things first WELCOME BACK!
    This is great and so very true.
    If you’ve been following the news, you’re aware that here in the states we are suffering through a presidential election where ALL of this is very relevant. It’s awful!
    My favorite line: “You can’t out bitch a bunch of bitches.”

  2. Judy, I echo Lisa’s welcome back. Great post. I think we should allow our kids to break the proverbial mold. Following one’s passions begins at early ages. Gender stereotypes sometimes don’t fit and that is more than OK. Beyond hard work and being smart enough, Malcolm Gladwell defines success in. “Outliers” as being given opportunity and seizing opportunity. Girls who want to do traditional boy things should be given that opportunity. And, vice versa. Otherwise, we may miss out on future discoveries if we limit our pool of talent. Great to hear from you again. Keith

    • Thanks Keith. I love this comment. We just just be ourselves. End of. Life should come with a whole of polite but firm stock answers to inane questions about following societal norms.

  3. Bravo!!!! I am standing up and cheering this post! It is so good to read your words!! Favorite line? You can’t out bitch a bunch of bitches…. this should be engraved on something, truly. Loved this post, so great to read you. Hope you are well.

      • not a problem, I consider you a very good and encouraging blogging friend. I think blogging and writing consistently goes in seasons… sometimes life just takes over and we can’t capture enough hours in a day. Glad to see your words again. Cathi

  4. There were many comments in here that really resonated with me – like the difference between kindness vs *nice*, and rambunctious girls are not avoiders – but my favourite was “wearing your individuality never goes out of style”.
    Great post 🙂

  5. Gender stereotypes are entirely taught by the society that the children grow up in, by their parents, their peers, their teachers, the things they see around them. Children pick up on all these things and it starts to shape who they are. Whether this is harmful or not ultimately depends on the personality of the child and their own internal self identity. Sometimes it’s conflicting, sometimes it’s harmonious. I remember as a teacher in Japan I had a three year-old little girl in my class who took the boys to TASK for misbehaving. She was full of confidence and vinegar and she was a great student. Then, a year later, she started coming to class with bows in her hair and in frilled dresses and all the confidence was gone from her, replaced by a meekness that left her hardly able to answer a single question without looking to one of her classmates for the answers. Now, there could be a lot of factors leading to this change, but I saw her mother from the side of the classroom often correcting her on her manners. At four years old. I definitely missed the kid who knew what she wanted in her classmates and in her learning environment, and wasn’t afraid to ask for it.

  6. I’m spice, but not much sugar! Or maybe I do have some, as the kind is actually okay and I do avoid the nice. I didn’t experience raising children myself, so I can’t speak to that. I can say that my parents didn’t have any boys, and for the most part they didn’t make any demands on us girls to be passive or non-aggressive, dependent or indecisive. We were allowed to be who we were, and I think it worked well!
    And what he heck is wrong with being emotional or tactful or kind or gentle or sensitive to others’ feelings? Shouldn’t we all be that way? I don’t see the opposite of tactful as blunt – of course you can be both.
    But yes, I work with nearly all men and it is SUCH a relief not to play games and be able to say cutting clever things without worrying I’ve broken someone’s heart.
    I’d say your kids are just fine 🙂

    • Thanks! I work almost exclusively with women for the very first time and it has been a real eye opener. No cutting clever things said in my section and I really miss it. People validate rather than enlighten, which is a real shame because the section is the weaker for it.

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