“What About the Boys?” by Sarah

The last twelve months have produced at least two amazing female-driven blockbusters (Star Wars: The Force Awakens and now Ghostbusters), and there are more to come. Putting it as politely as I can, this has led to many… colorful debates online about the value of female-driven scripts.

Isn’t it enough already?

Don’t girls have enough heroes now?

What about the boys?

Don’t BOYS need people to look up to?

The short answer is, yes. Of course boys need someone to look up to.

The longer answer is, no. It’s not enough. Women, people of color, and every other overlooked minority population needs more exposure. Diversity in entertainment is GOOD.

Let me explain my story a little.

Growing up, I wanted to be a boy.

Now, I did not want to be a boy because I had gender identity issues. I wanted to be a boy because from all the books I read and all the movies I saw, it looked to me like boys just got to have more FUN!

I loved everything swashbuckling and knightly. King Arthur was a personal favorite. I wanted to badly to be a knight of the round table. Why? BECAUSE THEY GOT SWORDS, DAMNIT! They got to save people and defeat dragons! They got to DO SOMETHING! What did Guinevere get to do? Cheat on her husband and basically destroy Paradise? How is THAT fun? (I’m speaking as a child saw the situation, of course there are more nuances to her character… but when you’re seeing it on screen as a child, this is what you see.)

I also loved Robin Hood. He was an archer! He could hit any bullseye from a million miles away. He stole from the rich and gave to the poor. He was a HERO!

What did Maid Marion get to do?

Fall in love.

Get kidnapped.

Yell and scream a lot.

Get saved.

That’s not me.

I never wanted that to be me.

The more I saw women being nothing but Damsels in Distress, the more I saw the MEN coming in to save them, the more I wanted to be a dude. Why wouldn’t I? If I was a boy, I would get to be the hero. I would get CHOICES. I would MATTER.

The only modern women I really saw in cinema were the stars of romantic comedies. I enjoyed these movies, but there weren’t women I wanted to be like. They weren’t HEROES. They essentially fell in love, and having a man in their life just fixed all their problems. I can barely even remember any of their names, they are completely interchangeable and generic. And that’s fine for what those films are, but when then those are the ONLY women I had to see on screen, there’s a problem.

The other women I saw on screen were the Bond Girl types, the femme fatals who existed to be leered at by men. The women who dripped with sexuality and betrayed everyone at the drop of a hat. What I learned as a child was that as a woman, I mattered only if a man wanted to make out with me. I mattered only if a man decided I mattered. If he didn’t pay attention to me, if I was (God Forbid!) ugly or undesirable, I wasn’t worth his time, and hence I wasn’t worth anyone’s time.

My value came from what men thought of me.

I didn’t like that.

I didn’t want to be a woman like that.

I wanted to be a boy.

James Bond was a boy, and he got fun toys and got to save the world.

How is that not better?

Whether intentional or not, as a child, these were the messages I took away from the stories that surrounded me.

Being a girl was inherently worse than being a boy.

Being a girl meant being passive and not getting to fight for anything.

Being a girl meant waiting to be rescued.

Being a girl meant falling in love with whatever guy paid the most attention to me.

Now, what about the boys? Are there negative messages bombarding boys? ABSOLUTELY. Is there toxic masculinity out there? You bet. Should this be fixed? YES!

But, boys have choices.

Boys have heroes.

Boys can be the hero.

When will it be enough?

When I don’t have to write this article explaining why it’s not enough.

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