I have said before that I try to write things on this blog that will make people proud of me, and the other day, I received one of the most amazing compliments I have ever received. One of my former students e-mailed me to let me know she’s been keeping up with this blog, and that she really likes what I’ve been writing. She also brought a situation to my attention that I think fits into the Girl Politics series. (This is not a cross-post, but something NEW that came out of them; I love the conversation!) Even though this situation is about the power relationships between girls and boys (not girls and other girls), it is imperative to look at these relationships as well.
Here is an excerpt from the e-mail I received:
I’ve noticed something though which, as a feminist, I thought you might be able to shed some light on: When it comes to humor, boys can dish it out, but they can’t take it. Maybe you already know what I’m talking about, but if not, I’ll try to explain. Throughout my high school career, I have constantly watched boys tease girls. Usually, it’s pretty good-natured humor which everyone can laugh at; however, when a girl teases a boy in the same manner, they treat her like she is rude or stupid. Why is it that boys can go so far as being rude in the name of humor while girls are not allowed to be genuinely funny? Or why is a girl a witch when she can’t take a joke but she’s also a witch when she joins in the joking? And obviously, I’m doing a lot of generalizing here, but in a high school classroom, though I never felt victimized, I observe such cocky teenage boy behavior daily. I avoided personal persecution by laughing at myself and not attempting to be humorous with certain males. BUT I FIND IT FRUSTRATING THAT GIRL’S ARE EXPECTED TO LAUGH WITH MEN AT THEMSELVES, BUT NEVER AT MEN. Have you noticed this too as a teacher, and is it a teenage boy thing that gets better with maturity or is this a dynamic which I will find in the college classroom and beyond in the workplace? (Yea, my former students are amazingly articulate and smart.)
Here are my thoughts on the matter:
I don’t think this young woman is alone in feeling this way. Of course, this situation is very wrapped-up societal constructs of men and women. In my experience (both as a teacher and as a woman), I’ve found that boys/men do not like feeling threatened and if a girl/woman pokes fun at him, she is, in essence, threatening him. From my understanding, this is the premise behind The Rules – girls must act a certain way to pique a boy’s interest without making him feel threatened in order to keep him around. As unfortunate as it is, a girl poking fun at a boy, no matter how mature or funny the comment may be, is seen by them as a threat. Girls, on the other hand, are expected to laugh along with boys in order to make them feel funny and empowered.
The advice I gave her: I wouldn’t stop calling guys out and poking fun at them, especially if it’s deserved. They’ll either get over it or they won’t, and the ones that do will be good friends to you and the ones that don’t… well, they will eventually.
Maybe this sounds spiteful, but I didn’t mean it that way. I meant it more in the sense that if we are ever going to rethink gender roles, it needs to start with one girl telling one boy that she isn’t trying to threaten him, she’s just trying to add to the conversation.
What do you think? Feel free to leave some advice for this young girl (and young girls everywhere) in the comments.
The Girl Politics Series (click to read them all) is a series of posts that first appeared over at my personal blog, and it was actually the response I received over there that made me think that keeping a feminist-leaning blog might be my calling. It also partially inspired my tweeting and Good Wife paper. I thought these posts might be breathed to new life and new conversation over here, and so here they are.