Is it wrong to call a boy a girl?

There is much fuss at the minute about name calling. I certainly agree that calling people names in an attempt to demean them is an unpleasant act, and one that should be discouraged. But in recent debate I have noticed that people are getting very upset about statements such as "you throw like a girl" etc. The implication is that this is demeaning to girls. I wish to argue that until recently, that has not been true. Furthermore, it is suggested that such statements are made by boys and men as a means of degrading girls and contribute to misogyny. I don't think this is true. I will tell you why. Firstly, I grew up with a slightly older sister - whom I adored. So I did anything she asked (although I stopped at eating poo out of the toilet which she insisted to me - when I was around 3yo - that it was chocolate). But at one stage when I was about this age, she and my rather young aunt played a game where they put me in a dress. A photo was taken. For the rest of my life this has been used to humiliate me at family dinners, when guests come, etc: how I wore a dress. I also liked the colour pink when I was young - not at the time being aware of the gender ban on this like - this also for the rest of my life was used to humiliate me at family dinners, etc. So there are two things about this - there is nothing embarassing for girls about wearing dresses and liking pink, but there is for boys. And far from it being boys who demeaned girls in this regard, it was in fact girls demeaning boys based on these gender issues. It is in this regard that I find a distinct one-eyedness about allegations of boys and men - and their privileges and demeaning girls. It looks at the injustices that girls supposedly face, and ignores any contrary experience.

My sister was also quite violent. She would attack me and pinch, bite and scratch me. However, whenever parents were around she would wail that I was hurting her, and I - being a boy, and she a girl - was of course seen as being at fault. And she would slyly grin as I got in trouble for her attack on me. This of course stopped once I reached a certain size - and I suspect that the physical power difference is one reason why we see less violent crime by women - they simply know that it is not a winning strategy for them. Although they are offered quite a bit of protection by the taboo on men fighting back against physical attacks by women.

Anyway, in short, my experience of growing up was not one of my being privileged as a boy and my sister being demeaned, but rather the other way around. When she went to uni, her accommodation and expenses were paid, as a 'boy' I was expected to be tougher, and so pay my own way (not living at home either). My sister was also protected against violence where none of the boys were, but that is another story.

Now I still love my sister, but the experience growing up certainly opened my eyes as to human nature, and what girls are capable of in the way of evil. She was protected, coddled and cared for, even well into adulthood. I used to sleep on beaches as a teenager and no one noticed or cared. So I get somewhat rankled when people go on about 'white male privilege'. And I also question whether the use of 'don't be girl' is a statement used by men to control women, or rather one used by women to control and demean men.

Now returning to an earlier point: I am not even sure that saying to a boy 'you throw like a girl' is at all demeaning to girls. Until fairly recently throwing was not something girls were meant to be good at. It is only now when we are trying to remove all differences between the sexes (a futile and dangerous task I believe) that girls have been expected to be capable of everything boys are capable of. When I was young it was just accepted that girls were girls, and not as physically strong or capable. They were not expected to be as a point of honour, but boys on the other hand were. Again, the put down was not meant to demean girls, but to demean boys. And I still think it is bad, not because it degrades girls, but because it is used to 'macho' up boys - and is probably one of the things that is used to drive boys towards the hard macho culture that is now so derided (and associated with un-empathetic words from women such as 'toxic masculinity'). My point is that put downs are used as much by women to control, manipulate and humiliate men, as they are by boys and men. Thus saying that male behaviour and macho-ism is due just to men and men's behaviour is a real lie.

So I wonder if I am alone? After an upbringing where boys and men are put down if they don't act a certain way (to please women I think) and in which they have their confidence and self-esteem undermined and made fragile by the constant put downs, or fear of put downs, by women, and have found that they will not be supported, but must rely only themselves, whilst their sisters are indulged in many ways emotionally and physically - after working dirty, dangerous and unpleasant jobs to get by, after all this boys are told they are privileged and that they are responsible for all their own problems, and now must fix them by themselves, under the constant criticism of women, who need do nothing at all, and who - it seems - can find no redeeming features among their men folk. Is it any wonder that men are feeling even more frustrated than ever? Where are men supposed to go from here? They must be tough and ready to go to war (in Afgahanstan or where-ever else they are sent) and emotionally capable of being made redundant or unemployed - thus taking away the only worth they have in our society - and we wonder why they suicide and self harm through alchohol abuse, drugs and in other ways?

We are told we must listen to women and their stories - but are women really interested in listening to us? Who controls the upbringing and socialisation of men? Has it not been - until recently - predominantly women? How can they not have a role to play? How can they have no responsibility for the problems of society? It is their own sons they are complaining of and fearful of. How can that be?

You might also be interesting in Bettina Arndt's take on this:


I think you highlight a very real problem or phenomenon in Australian society, possibly many others. The early categorising you describe in your early years and differential treatment does engender (no pun intended) resentment and I know other men who have experienced similar. But the serious problem mentioned is the expectations on men because they are men and on the other hand, the way they can be treated as disposable in the workforce. Men cannot be treated in this way without societal problems arising that will affect all of us.

Quark, It seems to me that we are all treated as disposable by our politicians and planners in the huge anonymous cities they champion in this globalist world. The scapegoating of men as scapegoaters of women is just par for the course in dividing us so that we fight each other instead of going after the rotten politicians and the people who dominate our lives. The mass media promotes this. That said, there are many countries where women are hugely discriminated against. Australian women fought hard for their rights and we should not be complacent about this. However, you would think that Emily Pankhurst and Germaine Greer had not existed to hear people go on about feminism as identity politics. It is as if feminism is some kind of fashion statement, rather than a necessity for independent survival. Good article, Matthew.

Yes, definitely we are fighting each other rather than the forces that are manipulating us in various ways. But to be honest Sheila, I do not understand modern feminism. I always thought that one major aspect of feminism was the objectification of women (i.e them being presented as sex objects rather than people). But now that seems to have not only dropped off the agenda - but completely reversed - women who objectify themselves are regarded as heros - see Madonna and Lady Gaga etc - and instead of fighting against the presentation of women as objects the fight is (or so it seems) to allow women to be appear as sex objects, but men are not see them that way. So men are supposed to ignore the appearance of women, and if they complain about this crazy contradiction they are accused of 'slut shaming'. It puts us in a very awkward situation, of having to look away even as the dress of some girls gets more and more 'expressive', and we risk being accused of 'inappropriate' staring, even if not engaged in such. I have experienced this. The truth is your appearance does matter. and yes, you can dress how you want, and you will be treated accordingly. The idea that anyone should be able to dress how they like and be treated with respect means that I should (in feminist theory) even as a man be able to get up and give a lecture wearing just lingerie and still be treated seriously by the audience (not going to happen!). So men are caught in a world where women's sexuality is flaunted at them left right and centre - in fact pushed on them by advertisers and pop stars - who are all happy to make money and fame out of men's inclinations, but then if someone like Geoffrey Rush makes groping gestures above a girl (disgusting I admit) it is treated like a major criminal offence (if he even did it). As I say - the hypocracy of the movement makes it unaccepted to me. And it seems to me that everyone is allowed to exploit men's desire, and they can be stimulated left right and centre, but if they act on that they are demonised. I am not saying sexual harassment is good - but even behaviours that are not technically harassment (it requires a power element, which a street wolf whistler does not have) - are treated as major offences. While the major offense to me is to have to put up with all the tartiness around us - as such I avoid much of TV. But that is not seen as an issue, and to raise it marks me as part of 'an oppressive patriarchy'.

In summary feminism of the 70's seemed to be: - Women should be presented OR treated as sex objects. Feminism of the 2000's: - Women should be able to present themselves as sex objects BUT not be treated as sex objects (or least be able to choose when they can be and can not be, and who by). Thus the modern version is built on an-unresolvable contradictory demands. And I would say the modern version seeks to exploit male desire as it see's fit, and also is about rights and NO responsibilities. Perhaps that manipulation and un-winnable game being played with them as pawns is why some men seem so angry.

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