A Reddit Post About A Little Boy’s “Boys Will Be Humans” Shirt Is Going Viral For The Way It Breaks Down Toxic Tropes
Sometimes, in order to question a bias you didn’t know you had, it takes years of reading well-researched reports or hearing enough stories from multiple perspectives. And sometimes it simply takes seeing the right t-shirt. Such is the case for one parent who shared their story on Reddit about a toddler wearing a “boys will be boys” shirt, making them rethink the familiar phrase. The shirt had the second “boys” crossed out and replaced with the word “humans,” making the shirt’s quote in full read “boys will be humans.”
“I just thought its simplicity was the best,” Redditor greengleam wrote in her original post. “Damn right, boys will be humans. Damn right I will raise my son to respect his fellow sister-humans alike and extend kindness, even when those around him don’t.”
Other Reddit users seemed to agree, with many sharing their dislike for the phrase “boys will be boys.” One Redditor said the saying feeds into a gendered double standard when it comes to boys’ accountability: “I think it’s so dangerous to continue permeating this idea through society that male/female behaviours are inherent.” They also added that the phrase further stigmatizes boys showing emotions rather than normalizing the idea that all people can feel all things. Another Redditor noted it hurts kids of all genders, saying, “It’s unfair to boys and harmful to girls. Nice to see parents actively combatting the idea.”
“Our sons deserve so much more than people who excuse or accept their behavior because of gender,” the original poster wrote, adding that seeing parents dress their toddler in the t-shirt “means everything.”
As another Redditor pointed out, the t-shirt sounds like something sold by Free To Be Kids, a kids clothing retailer working to combat gender stereotypes through fashion. Free To Be Kids sells a collection of clothes with the phrase “Boy will be boys good humans”.
“Is there any other phrase out there that so perfectly expresses just how little we think of our boys' capacity to be good, kind, empathetic people?” the website states. “Let's hold them to a higher standard, and not just because our girls deserve to be treated with respect — but also because our boys deserve credit for their kind hearts.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, not everyone is a fan of the literal fashion statement. In fact, Free To Be Kids wrote an entire blog post titled, “Some people really hate this shirt.” The blog post states the inspiration for the shirt came after seeing a few popular retailers selling kids clothing that donned the phrase, “boys will be boys.” So, they decided to make a shirt that provided “a positive alternative” to the clothes they were seeing out in the world.
“Clearly we had struck a nerve,” the blog post states.
Some accused the company of “man shaming” and reverse sexism. Others said their shirt suggests that being a boy is inherently bad. The company clarified their intent of the shirt in their blog post, adding the irony of such critiques actually applies more to the original phrase. “We know that there’s nothing wrong with the nature of boys or men,” the blog post continues. “That's our whole point! The shirt isn't saying that boys and men are bad by nature. The way our society uses the phrase 'boys will be boys' to excuse bad behavior is saying that about them.”
“‘Boys will be good humans’ is a rallying cry against toxic masculinity,” they write. “To see it as anything else is to willfully ignore the problems with gender and sexuality in our country. It’s to ignore the gross imbalance of power, the locker room talk, the sexual assault.”
Recently, an image with a similar quote circulated the internet and likely came through your Instagram feed: a cross-stitched quote reading “Boys will be boys held accountable for their f*cking actions.” Shannon Downey of @badasscrossstitch is to thank for that artistic interpretation of the phrase.
In light of the recent reckoning in Hollywood, stories of sexual assault and harassment across all spaces are finally being heard. In turn, people are acknowledging that this behavior doesn’t exist in a vacuum, that it is inherently tied, at least in part, to the sexist things we have been telling men since they were boys.
“We know boys are better than that,” Free To Be Kids wrote in their blog post. “We know they’re wonderful and deserve more credit. That’s why we want to rid the world of this insulting “boys will be boys” trope forever.” Thanks to things as simple as their shirt, we’re slowly but surely getting there.