For months, every morning when my daughter was in preschool, I watched her construct an elaborate castle out of blocks, colorful plastic discs, bits of rope, ribbons and feathers, only to have the same little boy gleefully destroy it within seconds of its completion.
No matter how many times he did it, his parents never swooped in BEFORE the morning’s live 3-D reenactment of “Invasion of AstroMonster.” This is what they’d say repeatedly:
“You know! Boys will be boys!”
“He’s just going through a phase!”
“He’s such a boy! He LOVES destroying things!”
“Oh my god! Girls and boys are SO different!”
“He. Just. Can’t. Help himself!”
I tried to teach my daughter how to stop this from happening. She asked him politely not to do it. We talked about some things she might do. She moved where she built. She stood in his way. She built a stronger foundation to the castle, so that, if he did get to it, she wouldn’t have to rebuild the whole thing. In the meantime, I imagine his parents thinking, “What red-blooded boy wouldn’t knock it down?”
She built a beautiful, glittery castle in a public space.
It was so tempting.
He just couldn’t control himself and, being a boy, had violent inclinations.
She had to keep her building safe.
Her consent didn’t matter. Besides, it’s not like she made a big fuss when he knocked it down. It wasn’t a “legitimate” knocking over if she didn’t throw a tantrum.
His desire — for power, destruction, control, whatever- - was understandable.
Maybe she “shouldn’t have gone to preschool” at all. OR, better if she just kept her building activities to home.
I know it’s a lurid metaphor, but I taught my daughter the preschool block precursor of don’t “get raped” and this child, Boy #1, did not learn the preschool equivalent of “don’t rape.”
Not once did his parents talk to him about invading another person’s space and claiming for his own purposes something that was not his to claim. Respect for her and her work and words was not something he was learning. How much of the boy’s behavior in coming years would be excused in these ways, be calibrated to meet these expectations and enforce the “rules” his parents kept repeating?
There was another boy who, similarly, decided to knock down her castle one day. When he did it his mother took him in hand, explained to him that it was not his to destroy, asked him how he thought my daughter felt after working so hard on her building and walked over with him so he could apologize. That probably wasn’t much fun for him, but he did not do it again.
There was a third child. He was really smart. He asked if he could knock her building down. She, beneficent ruler of all pre-circle-time castle construction, said yes… but only after she was done building it and said it was OK. They worked out a plan together and eventually he started building things with her and they would both knock the thing down with unadulterated joy. You can’t make this stuff up.
Take each of these three boys and consider what he might do when he’s older, say, at college, drunk at a party, mad at an ex-girlfriend who rebuffs him and uses words that she expects will be meaningful and respecte, “No, I don’t want to. Stop. Leave.”
The “overarching attitudinal characteristic” of abusive men is entitlement
This is so brilliant. We learn things from socialization process. What our parents, friends and peers do, media and all. I think perhaps rape is because parents think boys will be boys, they bully, fight and destroy things, it’s their characteristics so they don’t bother to stop them. But it manifests in them, knowing or unknowingly, they will just think, because I’m a boy and boys tend to do these, so it doesn’t matter even if the girl hates it, says no, because I’m a boy.
Just reblog this, this message is really powerful. For parents and future parents.
What’s also interesting, is if you frame this as about spoiling your children, and about spoiled children, people tend to agree and get it. They’ll agree that children whose parents lay down no boundaries for them when they hurt others, who let them have whatever they want at the expense of others, and justify away the harm they do, will probably grow up thinking they can do this to others (usually weaker than them, or they perceive as weaker) as adults. But if you mention the word “privilege”, “entitlement” or anything relating to gender, everybody freaks the f- out and will deny up, down, back, forth, and sideways that how you raise a child, what you allow them to get away with, or training them that their hurtful behaviour will always be justified, can affect them at all.
As a bit of a personal point of view on this: When I was younger, I would spend my free time at school drawing comics. Mostly I would draw Transformer comics. I even drew up a hundred or so page ‘bible’ of reference works each page dedicated to a different one of my characters, some original and some my versions of the ones from the TV show. I kept this with me every day, and when I wasn’t doing the work required of me, I was sitting quietly drawing and keeping to myself.
One day, a girl came over. I don’t remember her name now, but for some reason she chose to come over and see what I was doing. Where most people just let me be the weird kid sitting in a corner drawing, she actually showed interest in what I was doing.
Innocently, she sat in front of me and asked me, “Hey, what are you drawing?”
Bashfully, and really really awkwardly I mustered up a reply, “Uh, Transformers. You know, like the cartoon.”
“Oh, that’s cool.”
I was a bit confused, but also elated that someone had actually volunteered their time to come and show some interested in my little bit of escapism. I smiled my awkward smile and moved them towards her to give her a better look and said “Yeah, I draw some comics. I have a bunch of stories that I like to write.” (Or something like that)
She looked at the pages, turned through a few of my ‘bible’. Carefully she took a moment on each one and then flipped through a few quickly. I was not really ready to deal with what came next.
Suddenly, this girl who I though was honestly interested in what I was doing took her hand and laid it on my staple-bound collection of characters and began to crumple the little book. With her other hand she grabbed the adjacent page and began to tear it straight down the middle.
What did I do? I froze. I cannot put into words how awkward I was. I just sat there and meekly said “Please don’t do that.”
She shrugged and said “Why?”
“Because that’s my drawings. Please stop.”
I don’t really remember much from the incident with a lot of clarity, but I do remember the look on her face and the feeling of pure pressure building up ‘behind my eyes’. I really did not know what I should do. I was frozen like a deer in headlights.
From out of nowhere, another kid came up, he grabbed her hand and said, very sternly, “Hey! Stop, Why are you doing that? He works hard on those.”
Faced with a third party, or for whatever reason, the girl eased her grasp and stopped tearing. She let the drawings go, damaged but intact. Quickly she moved away from the table.
The boy who had come to my rescue sat down and looked at me. “You okay?” he asked. He began to straighten out the crumpled bits of my book.
I think I told him I was. I know I had to have a tear or two in my eye at this point.
“I don’t know why she did that,” I muttered, fighting back tears.
“Some people are like that. Come on, I’ll find you some tape. We’ll fix your book, if that’s cool.”
I’m still friends with the boy who came to my aid. He’s always been like that with people, very protective. Today, he’s an awesome father and still a great friend; I was homeless for a bit and without a second thought he found me and gave me a place to stay, no questions.
Anyway, that’s my personal perspective on something similar, I suppose. I’ve also been looking for an excuse to talk about that, since I don’t think I have in a long, long time.