The phrase “boys will be boys” is commonly used to defer accountability from boys, and even men in some cases. The phrase shifts the blame away from the individual by infantilizing them.
Girls, on the other hand, are rarely afforded the same excuses. Instead, it is often said that they “mature faster.” Girls and boys are not treated the same in terms of accountability, which feeds into rigid gender roles in society.
Girls will often go through puberty before guys and are told from a young age to cover up to not be distractions. They are shamed for their changing bodies, while boys are given a free pass to sexualize them because “that’s how boys are.” This also applies to older men in that women are told to cover up to prevent men’s predatory attractions toward them as children and teenagers.
At 11 years old, I went for a run around my block when an adult male stopped his car just to shout and ask if he could join me. I ran home terrified. I was 15 years old when my coach, who had trained me since I was in elementary school, began making sexual comments towards me.
Women and girls everywhere have similar stories. Considering these dangerous situations, girls are forced to protect themselves. Adults teach girls to walk home with their keys in between their fingers, rather than teaching boys to not sexually harass them.
The phrase “girls mature faster” is hardly ever used to enforce positive goals. It is not used to give girls more independence and leadership roles, it is used to justify and normalize men’s attraction toward them. The phrase is not used to give girls a voice, but for men to rationalize their predatory attraction toward girls.
When a young girl goes through puberty, she is still a child, and sexualizing a child is never justified. Attempting to normalize grown men’s attraction to girls is abhorrent. “She looks older” or “they mature faster” are never excuses. We must stop normalizing pedophilia and allow girls to be the children that they are.
The sexist phrase is also used to saddle girls into stereotypical caregiver roles. Girls are often forced into their societal gender roles, such as cleaning or looking after younger children, while their male counterparts are not expected to do the same. Often, girls are forced to continue to do “women’s work,” which only further ingrains stereotypical gender roles into society.
Young girls are rarely allowed the same freedom as their male counterparts. Going through puberty a few years earlier does not justify forcing girls to grow up faster. In fact, girls mature faster simply because they must adhere to gender roles in society.
Holding men and women to different levels of accountability has negative results for all genders. It causes girls to grow up faster and robs them of their childhood while it fails to teach boys basic life skills.
Society continues to rely on girls’ emotional maturity while stunting the maturity of the boys. If girls mature faster than boys, then give them leadership roles. Give them a voice.