Am 3/4 of the way into Real Boys by William Pollack, and the more I read the more I want to gouge my eyes out. Yes, clearly there is a gender bias in modern society. Yes, it’s ridiculous to constrain our sons by insisting they do not wear pink and labeling anything that isn’t dripping with testosterone as “effeminate.” Yes, I realize I am part of the problem, what with my use of “testosterone” in the pejorative just now. Fine.
The thing I can’t swallow, however, is this idea that all of these problems are exclusive to boys. Several times in the book Pollack makes statements like “this would never happen to a girl” while I think um, yes it would. Fathers use the word “disgust” more often in regard to their sons? Apparently no one in my family got that memo. Girls play cooperatively on the playground? Wow, what schools did he visit?
I get that I might have a bit of a skewed perspective, given that my father raised me, essentially, as a sort of revenge for his own perceived gender discrimination. Where my moody pre-teen sulks were mocked mercilessly, my brother’s adolescent tantrums were lovingly tolerated to the mantra of “It’s hard to be a boy.” This is the nicest thing I am going to say about my father, so make a note of it, if you’re the note-making type.
Pollack also has some interesting direct quotes, and by “interesting” I mean “I have never in my life met anyone who spoke like that.” There’s a section in the beginning about a kindergarten class in which the director, having a conversation with a new teacher about the different levels of separation anxiety for boys and girls, is quoted as saying “Boys, however, have to be more independent or their peers will call them sissies and make fun of them. It’s our job to help boys deal with this, especially if their mothers haven’t done it themselves.” Their peers? Seriously?
I don’t have a problem with a little creative latitude, but let’s not call something a quote if it’s a paraphrase, and while we’re at it, let’s not cite studies by saying “a recent study proved…” while providing no footnote or direct citation giving the reader an idea of exactly what study we’re discussing. It must be true – someone did a study! Proof is for losers.
I grew up a girl (I know! You’re shocked!) so part of me wondered if my reaction was just more gender stereotyping. I asked Not So to read a bit and tell me what he thought. His reaction? “That guy is a douche.” Well. There you have it.
But maybe that’s just the Boy Code talking.