From Frozen to socialised violence

I don’t know why I got such a shock when I first witnessed the gender stereotype shaming of my son. In fact, I probably got off lightly that he had gotten as far as three and a half before it happened. But I’m guessing I’m probably deluding myself there, because I’m sure it has happened at some stage outside of my beady eye. I just wasn’t there to feel the mother rage and get that sick feeling in my stomach.

It was an innocent enough exchange. Someone asked him what his favourite film was and he jumped up and down with excitement shouting “Frozen, Frozen!” But then a friend shouted “I HATE Frozen. Frozen is for girls”. And my poor little man immediately denied himself and his true feelings. Without missing a beat, he said “Yeah, I HATE Frozen too.” He looked like he was trying so hard to pretend the rug had not been pulled from under him and I could see him trying to figure out why there now seemed to be a problem with his favourite film, but he wasn’t in on the joke.

So far, so precious first born syndrome on my part, you might say.

It was all innocent enough. It’s what kids do. Sneering the “that’s for girls”, “that’s for boys” thing. But I was raging. I knew I was watching just the start of how it’s going to play out from now on. No matter how open and accepting our home is, we’re still going to come up against this shit for the rest of our lives. And it is shit. What got me most was less the innocent comments of a small boy who was just repeating what he heard, but the acceptance all around that there are in fact boy and girl things and the comment was perfectly reasonable.

Sinead at Bumbles of Rice wrote about this same stage last year, where her son was grabbling with why he can’t like certain things because other people say so. And now I’m just one step behind her. Our boys like pink, glitter, nail varnish, Frozen, whatever. Not because they like “girlie” things, but because they are like little aliens that were dropped on this planet a few years ago and know nothing of our customs and weird cultural practices. They have no idea what the “right thing” or the “wrong thing” is. They’re just fascinated to experience and live these unique, wonderous surroundings and all they have to offer. They see something new and cool, and they’re like “oooooh, I love this!” Until they’re told they can’t. Because it’s shameful. And embarrassing.

My friend Ian from Disorderedworld.com wrote a great article for The Journal during the week called “Why are men more likely to be violent than women”. In it he says:

“By age five, most boys and girls will have internalised the gender roles and expectations taught them by their families, schools, religions and societies. And in many instances, boys will have been socialised for violence by being taught that being a man means being tough, powerful, intimidating, and a stud.

While constructions of masculinity differ widely both within and between countries, it seems clear that some constructions of masculinity increase the chances of boys growing up to become violent men.”

Does this sound like a leap to you? That allowing boys to believe “Frozen is for girls” leads to them becoming violent men? Bit of a reach? I’m not so sure. If we are to continue the permissive behaviour of allowing our boys to believe, again, this shit, then we are just one more tiny step down that road of creating that environment where males are being primed for the role of “more violent”.

Ian also goes on to say:

“..there is no conclusive evidence that men and women differ in their innate biological or psychological propensity for violence. The fact that men commit the majority of violent acts may instead be understood as arising mainly from the social environment.”

We do this to our men. Our boys. We create the world that teaches them that violence is in their nature. And it starts with stupid things. Like shaming boys for liking what they like. Pink. Glitter. Frozen. I wonder what society would look like if we just let the little aliens like what they like. Rather than boxing them into a social construct that we allow. Because the construct isn’t working – not for men, not for women, and not for boys and girls.

9 thoughts on “From Frozen to socialised violence”

  1. PREACH! I have a two year old girl and was all ‘crush the patriarchy etc’ but then had my son seven months ago and realised that ITS JUST AS BAD FOR BOYS. Bloody society screwing up my kids. Anyway sorry for shouting…super excited to find a lovely article fighting the good fight! Rachael x

  2. I get so upset over this!
    My son (3) likes what he likes with no real recognition of it’s a ‘girl’ or ‘boy’ thing. I hate that society will eventually make him think otherwise. Same for my daughter (8) she already has the attitude of ‘that’s for boys/that’s for girls’ though I always tell her ‘no anyone can like…..’
    I think a big part of where they get this from is school, friends/peer pressure so I wish schools would get more active in stopping gender stereotypes as it’s where they spent most of their day.

  3. I dislike gender typical roles and expectation, however I am fascinated by the way our children develope, and the way we as adults react.
    I thought I was relaxed about it but a relatives young boy got a fascination for high heels and dresses aged 3 and 4.He wore them to collect his sister from school, every day. She was mortified. His parents didn’t care one bit.
    That was four years ago. He grew out of it and I realised I was not as relaxed as I thought I was. They definitely got it spot on. No comment, no judging, just acceptance.

    1. I love the idea of no comment, no judging, just acceptance. That’s where I feel we – and an awful lot of parents – are. My bigger concern is how the rest of the world reacts to that, you know what I mean? Like in your example above, his sister was mortified which means she was probably feeling the pressure from her peers and their parents…that’s the hardest bit I think.

  4. Raging for you. That is so ridiculous, poor wee man. It gets much worse at school, everyday I hear something from them that makes me squeal. Ella bought trainers at TK Maxx that were in the boys section but she didn’t care and knew full well they were “for boys” but her friends had very different things to say. Thankfully she’s the type who doesn’t give a fiddle what others think, but her sister would have thrown those shoes out never to be seen again. We have a long way to go on this one, as parents and educators…

  5. This makes me so sad!

    I was at a one year old’s birthday party the other day and he was running around kissing all the other babies, and his dad kept telling him not to kiss the other boys.

    In my head this was a much older generation thing as I often get it from my Grandmother that I don’t dress my 10 month old ‘girlie’ enough. (“Them colours shouldn’t be on a girl”) But this man was in his late twenties. I dread to think what he would think if the boy asks for his nails to be painted when he’s three.

What do you think?