This is a problem. One that many of us see, (clearly not all, but many), and one that some people are afraid to speak about, fearing they will be misunderstood or ridiculed. Nevertheless, this is a major problem.
This article is in response to a recent Instagram IGTV video posted on the 22nd of November 2020 by Callum McGrath titled “Boys will be boys does not mean this”. This video, which began clearly outlining McGrath’s personal contempt for the recent Discord leak of thousands of nude pictures of Irish women, and CHILDREN, which were shared non-consensually among Irish men, quickly became a familiar ‘Not All Men’ argument, one that perpetuates gender-based arguments and internalised stereotypes.
In his video, McGrath largely focuses on the term “boys will be boys” and attempts to explain away the phrases’ origin and its new-found meanings in today’s society. McGrath employs the Merriam-Webster dictionary to do this. Its explanation of the phrase is as follows: “—used to indicate that it is not surprising or unusual when men or boys behave in energetic, rough, or improper ways // You shouldn’t be too hard on them for staying out so late. Boys will be boys.” The meaning of this idiom differs depending on the source, but the sentiment remains the same. The phrase began neutrally, first coined in 1859, it comes from a Latin proverb, “Children (boys) are children (boys) and do childish things.” But this phrase no longer means that, in fact, it perpetuates the notion that boys (or men) should be excused from their “improper” behaviour because of natural or biological impulses. This, in turn, creates an easy and comfortable excuse for men to fall back on to justify aggressive or inappropriate behaviour.
The phrase maintains gender-based stereotypes, in that men can effectively justify inappropriate behaviour because it is simply in their nature, when the same does not apply to women. But the fact that a similar phrase does not exist for women should not be deplored, this phrase is damaging to both men and women, it oversimplifies the problem and maintains casual sexism. However, McGrath does not believe this; he states: “No one says boys will be boys to justify sexual assault”. This is misinformed thinking; the words of someone in denial or largely uneducated on the topic. And undermines the female perspective entirely.
In justifying the use of this phrase, McGrath contradicts himself repeatedly throughout his video. The purpose of McGrath’s video changes consistently as it goes on, from supporting the criminalisation of revenge porn in Ireland, to ridiculing the ‘awkwardness’ of the act of asking for consent. In this context, McGrath forges a fictional situation wherein he asks a girl for consent in sharing a nude photo: “ ‘Here, Rosie, can I send a picture of your tits to this lad here’ – is that what you want us to do?”. Well, preferably you wouldn’t want to send anyone a picture of our tits, but if you really felt the need then yes, we would all prefer it if you asked for our consent. And, perhaps the awkwardness of it lies only with you, in that you’re asking such a ridiculous question in the first place.
It seems McGrath lulled viewers to the video under the false pretences of supporting women, only to assert that men are in fact the victims in all of this. One could argue that by writing this article, by giving Callum McGrath a platform, it is further perpetuating his misled assumptions. But this is not the case. We cannot consciously ignore this. And we shouldn’t. By ignoring this, you’re effectively saying that this is OK, or that there is nothing wrong with what Callum McGrath said. But there is. From the beginning of his video, it was clear that McGrath intended to open a conversation, but this conversation would be entirely one-sided and only from the perspective of a straight white man. McGrath consistently undermined female voices and experiences to benefit his own hypothesis.
But Callum McGrath is not the only point of blame in this situation. He is the product of a society that is persistent in undermining women. People are not born sexist or misogynistic, they are taught these things; from ‘minor’ instances of casual sexism which are ignored by all participants because they don’t want to have that conversation, to acts of outright discrimination, which the Irish government fails to do anything about. How are men and women supposed to be equal when the very structures of society are built to prevent this. As of 2017, the Irish gender pay gap between men and women was 14.9%, meaning, on average, a woman gets paid 14.9% less than a man in Ireland. In the last week, a discord server of over 600 Irish men shared over 6,000 nude images, non-consensually, of Irish women and underage girls. As of 2018, statistics from the Central Statistics Office and Irish Court system show that 90% of reported rape and sexual assault cases in Ireland do not end in a conviction. As of 2019, according to the Central Statistics Office, 82% of the victims of sexual assault and rape are female. This is the statistics for reported cases. It is far better to inform someone than to degrade someone.
The aim of this article was not to incite hate against Callum McGrath or Irish men in general, but instead to inform people who are lacking context, and general information on the topic.
Here are some articles which you might find helpful:
- ‘Why We Say “Boys Will Be Boys” But Not “Girls Will Be Girls”’ by Anonymous https://www.dictionary.com/e/unteaching-boys-will-be-boys/
- ‘The Danger of “Boys Will Be Boys”’ by Dr. Elizabeth J. Meyer https://www.psychologytoday.com/ie/blog/gender-and-schooling/201403/the-danger-boys-will-be-boys
- ‘Misogyny Online: A Short (and Brutish) History’ by Emma A. Jane, eBook: https://books.google.ie/books/about/Misogyny_Online.html?id=PxwZDQAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false