An acquaintance of a friend of mine was cleaning out her seven-year-old boy’s bedroom while he was away. She came across a stack of magazine cut-outs of “attractive” women. They were mostly pictures from Good Housekeeping or Redbook. I’m not saying that because it somehow makes it less offensive that they weren’t naked Penthouse women but just to clarify for the reader what material their child has access to.
Anyway, supposedly his mom took the pictures out of the room and threw them away. I asked my friend if she knew if this mom had a conversation with her son and she replied she didn’t think so, but she didn’t know for sure. However, she did know that the mom reported this business to her husband. When he heard about his son’s behavior, supposedly he threw a thumbs up sign and said, “That’s my boy.”
When I heard this story I was in a group of people who subscribe to pretty traditional gender roles. I think they thought this story was funny and typical of “boy behavior.”
This story bothered me. One, I would have felt better knowing the parents talked to the son. I don’t think they should have chastised him or criticized him. That might send the message that what he was doing is wrong, but if you don’t know if something is good or bad, how do you learn. He’s just a young kid. However, making the magazines “disappear” also evades the larger discussion. Two, it then puts the child in a place of being uncomfortable and confused. He doesn’t know what was wrong and no one talked to him so he’s not sure what to expect. He’ll probably assume he was bad since the pictures were taken from him but he won’t understand why.
As an honest disclaimer, I do not have kids. Should this behavior be condoned? What exactly is worthy of a thumbs up and a smirk and a nod to the boy’s club? What if their daughter was cutting out pictures of “hot” men? What if their son had been cutting out pictures of hot men too? If their son is 12 years old and starts wolf whistling at girls out the window, is that just “boys being boys”?
While cutting out those pictures might have seemed fairly innocent, I think it’s the trap young men fall into when society pressures them to see women as body parts, as boobs and butts and long wavy hair, as objects that exist to give you pleasure. When that happens you fail to see women as equal people with fears, dreams, thoughts, ambition, personalities. Your reduce them to sex toys and you deprive them of humanistic characteristics. I think it’s extreme versions of this treatment that lead to the type of mindset where women get raped. They are seen as “things” over which men can exert their power.
I am not saying women can’t be appreciated for their looks or that we shouldn’t try to care about our appearances. I’m not even saying I think this kid will grow up to be a misogynist. However, I think when a seven-year-old is expressing interest in the opposite sex (which is completely normal), it would behoove that child to have an adult talk to them about what is appropriate. I also think any parent can do that, but if the father steps up and shows him how to be respectful and caring and compassionate toward women, it can send a powerful positive message.
What do you think? Am I up in arms about nothing or is using the adage of “boys will be boys” a mentality that needs to be upgraded?