The Bullying of Young Boys Who Are Effeminate Needs To End

When I was in secondary school, one of the shows I loved to watch was Empire. It is a Black American series that has characters like Jussie Smollet, Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard.

The show discussed issues such as homophobia, sexism towards Black women and the struggles of people living with illnesses such as bipolar disorder.

In one scene which stands out for me, the young son of a chief character wore his mother’s shoes and came into the living room. Upon seeing his son, the father proceeded to beat him. He would go on to beat him whenever he saw him acting “feminine”.

Now, as a feminist, I greatly dislike gender roles and expectations for women and men that are entirely socially constructed. I believe that the only “roles” that should exist are those that take into cognizance the biology of men and women. To give an example, because women do lots of breastfeeding, I believe that more societies and workplaces should be designed in line with women’s bodies.

I also believe that due to how men tend to be physically stronger than women, it is more than okay to have separate categories for men and women in sports.

The only thing I would love to see is equal attention given to the abilities of women in sports such that women’s sports do not go underfunded and less consumed compared to men’s sports.

But I digress.

When it comes to the manner in which young boys who are effeminate or display “feminine” behaviours are bullied, I believe that it is one of the cruellest inventions on earth. 

Because young effeminate boys are exposed to beating and in some instances mandated sexual assault in order to turn them into men.

It can show up in telling them not to cry because crying is not for men. This is even when they are grieving or just plain hurt. It can show up in saying that they must not wear pink or colours deemed feminine. 

The problem with this is that the capabilities and personalities of most young boys become extinguished or at most hardened in order to fit into a box that society has described for the ideal man.

In extreme cases, the bullying of young boys also ends up affecting young girls and women. Sometimes, in order not to be outcasted by his friends, a boy considered effeminate in primary school may take to disturbing and bullying the girls in his class so he fits in. 

If he is in secondary school, he may pretend to like soccer even though he has zero desire for soccer and would rather watch fashion shows. If he is in university, he may have sex with multiple women just so he looks “manly”. He may even be one of those who solicits nudes from women or gets them online to share and boast to his friends that he has sexual prowess.

To further understand why the shaming of young boys who act feminine needs to stop, I spoke to a few people.

Speaking with Nana, a mother and Muslim, she explains that she uses religion to combat those who expect manliness from her children.

In her words: “My solution is checking people. I have a thirteen year old and a fifteen month old. One thing I have noticed is that people (extended family and strangers) are quick to say your child should behave like a ‘man’. Especially when they are sad or crying. Then there’s when they  wear colourful clothes…”

Nana went on to say: “I encourage my kids to explore and voice their feelings and tell those who try to box them into being emotionally distant persons to leave them alone. I tell the person to let them be. Then face my child and remind them that our Prophet cried on many occasions; from tears of joy to those of sorrow and hurt. 

Then I ask if the Prophet isn’t a man. This especially works for the older boy as he is in his teens and trying to figure himself out. I explain this to them in the presence of the person questioning their masculinity. And because no one likes to talk down on the Prophet, it usually shuts them up.”

For Christiana, a writer, editor and midwife, she explained that expectations of manliness from young boys in religious communities often leads to violence.

To quote her: “I’m Christian. One of the things I’ve noticed is how other Christians quote scriptures that show that the effeminate will burn in hell. 

It’s really bad because I see young boys struggling to hate “girly” activities just so that their friends won’t laugh at them. Parents also take their children for deliverance to bind and cast effeminate spirits. When those supposed spirits don’t go anywhere, they make these children really miserable.”

She went on to say: “It’s wild to me. It’s worse when these children cannot even wear pretty colours or play in certain ways. Because God forbid a boy is caught playing with dolls instead of carrying toy guns.”

The truth is that gendered expectations are only boxes that seek to erase our humanities and confine us to a shallow experience.

We must raise boys who do not have the imprint of aggressiveness and violence in their being because it would come back to affect women and girls.

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