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.


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.

X is for XY Chromosome: Missing the Refill/Replace Gene (#atozchallenge)

photo from flikr -

I live in a house full of males, in a veritable tsunami of testosterone. Those who are familiar with my blog, know that I have sons. For His own reasons, the dear Lord did not see fit to bestow upon me the gift of daughters and sometimes I can’t help but wonder what life would be like if He had. A whole world of Barbie dolls, pink fairy wings and tulle has passed me by.

Boys are a whole lot of fun. Boys are the gateway to cheeky play, physical nonsense and unrelenting banter. We bond over computers, cars, baseball, soccer, laser tag and we wrestle. I am lucky I have always been something of a tom boy so enjoy all of these types of activities and of course, the bond between mother and son is a rather special one. Male to male bonding is also fascinating to watch. I have observed that the more a male is bonded with another male, the more likely he is to playfully tease said other male. Guys’ currency tends to be mild teasing banter and I can mix it with the best of them. I suppose it’s why I have always had a lot of plutonic male friends.

Life in my house can get rather interesting and at times I do feel like it’s three to one. Me thinks there is a slight conspiracy going on around here. Me versus them in a battle of the chromosomes. The battle is the battle of the refill or replenish and the gladiators are merciless. The battle goes something like this:

    1. One of the drinks of choice for the boys is cordial which is akin to Kool-Aid. Cordial is made up of flavoured sugary syrup diluted in water, about 1 part in 10. As a mother I would of course prefer that my sons drink water or other healthier alternatives, but let’s not turn this into a health debate, because then you’ll miss the point of this post.
    2. The cordial resides in a two litre bottle in the fridge and the boys happily help themselves.
    3. At about the quarter bottle full mark, the boys start pacing themselves with the cordial and carefully watch the reduction in quantity.
    4. They will each take only so much such that there is always some quantity above negligible left in the bottom of the bottle.
    5. The object of course is not to be the last to drink from the bottle to avoid having to refill it and to maximise the chance that I will instead do the job.

This battle is all about precision timing and precision measurement. It’s a game of stealth  and strategy. Who knew that the boys possessed the skills of a scientist without the use of scientific instruments? Skills for life, people…skills for life!

The skills learned in the cordial arena are also applied to kitchen paper towel refill and of course to paper refill in the bathroom. The golden rule seems to be NEVER use the last sheet for he who exposes the cardboard roll will be put to unthinkable effort.  Never mind that there are full rolls within easy reaching distance.

At one point I put up a sign in our kitchen proclaiming “changing the roll will not give you pimples”. It didn’t work.

I’m still changing rolls and making up cordial and have firmly come to the conclusion that the refill/replace gene just does not appear on the XY chromosome. Either that or I have a battle of Darwinian proportions on my hands!