Boys Will Be Held Accountable
By Katie Golway
The harmful rhetoric of “boys will be boys” was something I heard often on the playground. It is still a common childhood phrase. A pinch from a boy would earn a dismissive laugh at a girl’s expense. The victim’s concern for herself is suffocated when she is told that the pinch was a gesture of love, and so she stays silent.
There is never innocence in violence, and yet a young girl would be admonished for something a boy her age is allowed to do. There is no one who laughs and says dismissively, “Girls will be girls!” while the boy is left to linger in his emotions. This perpetuates an imbalance of power that the child believes is natural. Playground antics linger as a person builds relationships, continuing to associate abuse with a twisted display of affection. Trivializing what occurs in youth shapes the future.
Michelle Obama said it best during a discussion at the Obama Foundation Summit: “We love our boys, and we raise our girls.” A coddled man does not comprehend the word ‘no’ because he did not hear it in childhood. A woman who was never heard considers her voice to be useless. The issue of power and control soon becomes cyclical as another generation bears witness to it.
It is not so easy for a person to leave an abusive relationship, despite what they may hear from loved ones and friends. I have known my fair share of toxic relationships, manipulated by my fear of anger. I thought maintaining my silence would surround me with love, even at the cost of my pride and self worth.
Children who are not defended do not learn how to defend themselves. The dynamic at home in my youth was constant intimidation tactics and emotional abuse. My parents never apologized to me when they shouted at me to stop crying at age four. This manifested in an instinct to constantly assume I am in the wrong.
The world is like a playground. We are constantly surrounded by people who force us to adapt. We have to learn to defend ourselves after hearing that someone only misbehaves because they have a crush. As soon as we graduate from the playground, we return with our own impressionable children.
I find echoes of my past trauma in my sensitivity to noise, and in a surge of adrenaline when I finally find the words to stand my ground. I associate my anger with my father striking walls and throwing bottles. It is as if years of complacency finally erupted and I have forgotten that other people are forgivable. A childhood is meant to be enjoyed, not rife with loathing.