While our society seems to sometimes pride itself on its systemic gender oppression, we frequently forget that misogyny is a learned behavior — one that isn’t simply taught, but rather inflicted upon young boys. This is perhaps best illustrated through a post that made the rounds across social media on International Men’s Day yesterday, depicting a list compiled by 9-year-olds listing what they don’t like about being a boy, based on their guided conversation about gender binaries. This is pulled from a 2012 post by Jeff Perera “Understanding Boys, Understanding Girls.” about his work with children and their responses to education “about men and masculinity,” and the harmful societal pressures for men to be aggressive and sexually assertive, and women to be passive and sexually submissive.
In his post, Perera thoughtfully explains the cyclical perpetuation of gender stereotypes and how they're harmful to both men and women. “Ideas of Social norms and cues come from individuals in our lives as well as from the world around us,” he says. “While girls struggle to understand how to handle the attention that comes with developed breasts or long legs: Boys struggle to understand what it is that they are supposed to be and not be in romantic, sexual and everyday encounters.”
Just a short dialogue with Perera opened the minds of young men and women about how and why certain gendered behaviors are problematic for both sexes. Imagine, then, if similar conversations were encouraged across institutional education. Perera sums up this necessity best: “These aren’t just women’s or girl’s issues, they are ALL our issues to hear, learn, understand and help address.” A full TED Talk with Perera can be seen below.