Saturday, 8 March 2014


I'm currently studying to be a Counsellor.  A huge proportion of my time in the last couple of months has been taken up considering prejudices and stereotypes.  A good counsellor needs to be aware of biased generalizations and aware of their own prejudices so that these don't impact the counselling relationship.

Many of the stereotypes we considered focused around religion, ethnicity, national tribalism, economy/social class, appearance, sexual orientation.  I did bring to the table my views about Gender stereotypes and I must admit, I have been rather absorbed about how I see Gender stereotypes played out all around me.

One of the first Nursery Rhymes I recall hearing was this one:

What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
Slugs and snails
And puppy-dogs' tails,
That's what little boys are made of.
What are little girls made of?
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice
And everything nice,
That's what little girls are made of.

What message does this conveys?   Girls are good, girls are sweet, girls are nice.  Boys are horrid, boys are nasty, boys are bad.  

Boy spelt backwards is YOB - a well-used term to describe a thuggish or uncouth person.   Thuggish behaviour is often also described as Laddish behaviour, but never Lassish behaviour.  Irrespective of the gender of adolescents behaving badly, the adjectives used to describe bad actions imply the male gender (yob/ laddish).  

This further ingrains the message into the subconscious that  girls are good, girls are sweet, girls are nice while boys are horrid, boys are nasty, boys are bad.  

This badness is seemly equated with a macho stereotype that suggests therefore all males must be aggressive and society exploits this to their advantage but moans when it goes wrong. Boys don't cry or are not expected to cry.  When boys cry they are told, "Don't be a baby/girl...only girls cry."   It's not cool to show your emotions so be a man, grow some balls, Man up etc.    Is it true that only girls cry when they are hurt?  Boys hurt just the same but are expected to appear to be tougher.  The older we get, the more absorbent we are suppose to be especially if the one causing us pain is our partner,  "You're a man, you can cope." or the insult often directed at men in a domestic agreement, " You're not a real man because...(Insert your failure to meet the male stereotype of your partner).

And so it continues...Girls are good, girls are sweet, girls are nice.  Boys are horrid, boys are nasty, boys are bad.  ..

If the relationship ends, the majority always assume it's because the male has done something bad.   ... .Girls are good, girls are sweet, girls are nice.  Boys are horrid, boys are nasty, boys are bad.  ..
There are many examples of experiments where couples have a public row.  No one ever questions or challenges when they see a woman striking her male partner.  However, everyone is horrified and motivated to take action.  when they see a male hit a woman.  Those asked why they didn't bat an eyelid when the woman was assailant respond with statements such as "we assume she'd caught him cheating" "we thought you go girl - good for you!"  

And so it continues...Girls are good, girls are sweet, girls are nice.  Boys are horrid, boys are nasty, boys are bad.  ..

The custody of children then comes before a judge AND because girls are good/boys are bad, the mother always gets custody.     There are exemptions to this, but they are extremely rare.

For some vulnerable children, granting custody is the worst possible decision.  I'd never given this any thought until I heard Erin Pizzey ( founder of Women's Aid and the refuge/shelter movement) comment that the biggest risk to children was their mothers as far more mums kill their children than fathers.  The next largest group to murder their children was the mother's new partner.  And yet, we see girls as good and boys as bad.

This week was a really tragic week as I noticed numerous stories in  the national media (sadly all giving credence to Erin's point):

East Belfast incident:Mother arrested as baby critical - BBC News Website 8th March 2014 

Young mum slammed for giving 12 year old a bottle of VODKA at sleepover - 7th March 2014  

Toddler. 2 died after drinking heroin substitute methadone 'given to her to keep her quiet' - 7th March 2014

Mum admits drowning baby daughter - Nottingham Post 6th March 2014

What little boys made of?  What are little girls made of?   We are all actually made of the same stuff so it's time to cast away the stereotypes that wrongly influence policies.   Girls can be nice, but so can boys.  Boys can be horrid, but so to can girls.  

However, because the powers that be maintain that girls are good while boys are bad, there is an abundance of support packages to help women.  Indeed in all the cases i cited above, the women committed those crimes NOT because they were 'BAD' (how could they be bad as they're female???) but because they were ill.   When men are guilty of crime, it's because they are deemed BAD rather than ill.   And what support is offered for men who face dire straits?  Very little. Devoid of any service to seek help and assistance from with all hope gone, 12 men a  day take their own live in the UK.  Nobody cares because they're male, because 'all men are bastards/bad.'

Any abuse is wrong and is not restricted to gender.  I long for the day when all domestic violence support services STOP being influenced by the gender specific nonsense that prevails   recognizing that victims are male, female and transgender (not just female) and acknowledging that perpetrators can be female, male and transgender ( not just male).