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We need to stop saying "boys will be boys"

There is almost nothing like an English garden on a spring evening. It’s warm, the smoky scent of the barbecue still lingering in the calm air. The grass is soft beneath my feet, springing up each time my feet lift as I make my way to the last empty chair on the lawn. The melodic sound of soulful 60s music comes from the speaker on the table, drifting lazily through the air and my head droops as it begins lulling me to sleep.

“No, we never clean up. The school has cleaners for a reason and besides, that’s girls' work.”

“No, don't worry, my sister likes cleaning. She’s a girl, why wouldn’t she?”

“It’s not my fault there are dents in the walls! I get mad when I lose a game, all of my friends have dented walls too. It isn't a big deal.”

“Jeez that’s so gay. It’s gross.”

“No, we don’t ever get into trouble. You know how it is, boys will be boys!”

Excuse me? ‘Boys will be boys’? How utterly absurd to suggest that the mere fact you are a man excuses your actions. Surely nobody could honestly believe that?

Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to be called nobody.

The first recorded use of the phrase ‘Boys will be Boys’ was in England, 1589; originating from a latin proverb ‘Children (boys) will be children and do childish things’ and has since morphed into a grotesque monster that shields men and boys alike from taking any responsibility for their actions. The things excused typically range from jumping in muddy puddles, to hitting girls in the playground, to sexual harassment, and even rape. The use of ‘boys will be boys’ is a plague upon humanity and it is slowly sweeping the world, raising masses of men who have god complexes because everything they did was excused with their gender.

A phrase so inherently problematic is rare to be seen but ‘boys will be boys’ fits the bill perfectly. Removing accountability for problematic actions and attitudes in men, and saying that harmful behaviour is simply a side effect of being male, is frankly not only incredibly irresponsible, but also a pretty pathetic excuse. In a male dominated society, however, it’s sadly to be expected. Unfortunately women in our society do not get these ‘get out of jail free’ cards that men do. Whilst there are many phrases that place the blame on women, we have yet to discover (or use!) a phrase that takes the blame away.

However, the lack of such a phrase is one of lesser evils in the world today. From a young age women can learn to be held accountable and grow from their mistakes, compared to the hordes of men who blame mistakes on anything but themselves.

I cannot count the number of times I have heard the phrase 'boys will be boys'. It's so ingrained in our culture that it is almost a knee jerk reaction to certain situations. But all is not lost yet. Slowly but surely, boys are being held accountable and managing to mature from boy to man. The #MeToo and Everyone’s Invited movements are accomplishing the feat of drawing attention to the entitled behaviours caused by phrases such as ‘boys will be boys’ and unless we want to continue our current trend and keep raising entitled men we need to continue the conversations and accountability that they provoke. We need to remember the problems caused by this phrase. ‘Boys will be boys’ is dismissive, irresponsible and harmful. So let’s start changing society today. How about starting by changing the phrase all together? Maybe to something like ‘boys will be held accountable?’

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