“Boys Will Be Boys” Doesn’t Mean Anything

“Boys Will Be Boys” Doesn’t Mean Anything

“…’Boys will be boys’ is a logical tautology: It is always true,” writes The Good Men Project contributor Paul Harzer. “This is true semantically, but we don’t function solely in the realm of semantics. Semantics involves the precise definition of what words mean, while pragmatics refers to what people intend to communicate beyond the base meaning. When what we say is always true, there must be another reason why we said it.”

Why do we find ourselves excusing and justifying the behaviors of boys for being the behaviors of boys? As Harzer points out, there is a tautological logic behind the statement so obvious it makes the statement seem silly to repeat so often. If our boys are biologically and gender-identified as boys, they will continue to be boys, unless there is a scientific or personal change to that fact. The statement is like saying, “Flowers will be flowers” or “Horses will be horses”. Yes, they will be, unless for some reason, they happen to become something else. What Harzer argues is that there is a motive behind why we consistently assert this truth, another level of meaning associated with the statement. Boys won’t just be boys according to their biology. Boys will be boys according to their socially created and socially accepted behaviors. When we say boys will be boys, we are saying that boys will be the boys we allow them to be, the boys we encourage them to be, and the boys we accept them to be, because- boys will be boys.

How exactly are boys being boys, when boys are being boys? We might be excusing their aggressiveness, their competitiveness, their strong masculinity, their teasing, their picking fights, their emotional isolation, their timidness when it comes to talking about their sexuality or their interest in another person. We could be justifying the way boys act above the law, without rules, and without constraint. Regularly enforcing boys will be boys leaves out the fact that not all boys are the same. Boys will be who we teach them to be and who we reward them for being. When we fall back on such meaningless sentiments, we give boys permission to act and be however they want, regardless of consideration toward others or themselves. We erase all standards in a trade off for a hyper-generalized idea of who boys are, when they are being boys.

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