If I Were A Boy

Today, Gender Across Borders is having a guest blog series about masculinity. Since I had forgotten to submit my own story, I figured I could talk about it here. Which is really perfect since last night I saw How to Train Your Dragon for the first time.  I had heard about the hype, so when it came on close to midnight, I decided that it wouldn’t be so bad to give it a look.

And.. it was pretty amazing. Which isn’t atypical since I have a track record of preferring media aimed at young boys. Or just boys in general.

But why do I like (most) stuff for males?

Because the range for males is significantly larger. This isn’t to suggest that it is without (white or straight) privilege, but the emotional and personality range of boys tends to be different than it is for girls. Hiccup, in How to Train Your Dragon, is a non-violent, curious, and social outcast who doesn’t fit into the hyper masculine Viking culture. Then you have Astrid, who seems to be the embodiment of female masculinity. She’s physically violent, short tempered and egoistical.

This is rather similar to the scenario created in the film Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief. We have Percy, who while hesitant at first, comes into his own in order to save his mother and Annabeth who brags about being the daughter of Athena (Goddess of wisdom and warfare). Despite all her talk, I never once found her helpful when it came to actually fighting, assessing a situation or coming up with useful strategies.

The stuff that is made for boys tends to focus on characterization – growing as a person, achieving previously unconquerable tasks, coming into one’s own. Even movies like The Hangover and Due Date (as horrific as they both are) focused on male bonding and overall themes regarding friendship. This isn’t to suggest that all movies targeted toward males is good or high quality, or that they’re all about brotherly love – but in comparison to movies for women, it definitely seems that way.

Cinema for females seems to be the exact opposite. In fact, 90% of the movies made for women is centered around romantic struggles. Even Waiting to Exhale, an excellent film about sisterhood/friendship is about romantic shortcomings. Women are typically defined within the context of their relationship to men; it’s this idea that without a man, women have no identity while men can and do flourish and come together without the presence of a woman.

And I wonder why female media focuses so heavily on sex and love. It’s not even an issue of heterosexual love being glamorized or the never ending fixated of white women (or any other privilege for that matter).

It’s an issue because women never seem to love one another, whether or not the outlet in question is created by a woman. Why do women only seem to exist in contrast to men? This mentality can be seen in the futile attempts to create “strong, female” characters. The females in question (ie: Astrid and Annabeth) have blatant, stereotypical male characteristics in an effort to make them seem more independent and capable. Women, it would seem, try to apply male gendered attributes to girls in order to capture a piece of the elusive male privilege.

But what women need to focus on is that, in some ways, masculinity is about the brotherhood. Maybe we should shift our focus to creating a sisterhood.


What about you? Do your experiences or preferences differ or are they similar?

Aside from male privilege, why is it that men like each other more in movies and on TV?

* Of course I do want to offer a disclaimer: the movies in question focus on white, heterosexual males of a specific age. Privilege ignores the stories of people who don’t embody certain characteristics. So, my case sample is really small in terms of who it includes. But I wanted to talk about it since it seems to be a recurring issue whenever I watch movies or television.


9 thoughts on “If I Were A Boy

  1. Pingback: Ms. Queenly’s Response to ‘If I Were A Boy’ (via parisianfeline) « Elia's Diamonds

  2. *spoilers below for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie and wants too*

    I went to the movies to see something else but was at the wrong theater or something so ended up with How to Train Your Dragon. Ok, so even though I kindddaaa liked the movie and paid thirteen dollars to see it in 3D (when it came out, I was living in Seattle going to school), I was a little bit bothered by how he took this crazy cool dragon (a name like ‘the Night Fury’, come on, and it doesn’t even really breathe regular dragon fire but some kind of nebulous-looking lightning) and trained it like a pet and the story writers just went along with it like that. I mean he got his at the end, but the dragon had to get a prosthetic limb because of him (that, also, only he could help it operate).

    Read the rest of my dissertation here:


    • I can understand where you’re coming from. In a lot of movies with humans and animals, humans are often the ones who end up sort of enslaving/domestication the creatures in question. So the focus becomes centered on helping the humans the most. But I think in How to Train your dragon everyone ends up benefitting from the relationship. The dragons are no longer hunted, even if it means the become pets in the process. I mean, Toothless loved Hiccup, which I think is important as well.

  3. Love this post – it’s definitely frustrating that stories aimed at women (whether in tv, movies, or even books) are all about romantic relationships. Personally, though, I love the romantic stories… I fall for them every time and while I love watching action or artistic movies, the truth is I love romance! Maybe I fit the stereotype then – but I have to say that it’s frustrating that everything in pop culture tries to capitalize on and exploit this stereotype of women.

    Plus, there’s the issue of things like women backstabbing each other which always seems to be a theme. In real life, I don’t think women are so evil towards each other – but it certainly becomes a stereotype in movies.

    • Oh thanks! I’m not a huge romance buff, and actually prefer if movies had fewer (or no) romantic plot points. I feel like it perpetrates the preoccupation Americans already have with finding love in unexpected places and places a huge emphasis that “everyone needs love – even THIS guy [who is probably an action hero]” because it attempts to humanize otherwise supernatural events. But, the reason why I loved The Mechanic is precisely because there was no romance whatsoever. It made me so happy. But, like I said, I prefer it if romance stories didn’t exist.

      Yes, I don’t believe women to be as catty and as cruel as others perceive them to be. I don’t know why this theme keeps popping up in movies.

  4. I believe the reason why many films characterize women to be so romance oriented is that many people in society are afraid of seeing women being strong, self-sufficient, and not needing a man. Needless to say, it is mostly men who still hold on to the belief that women are weaker and should be protected…or more frankly, shouldn’t be alone. And men are the one’s who holds the movie making keys!

    I too am a little frustrated by the need for almost every movie nowadays to feature some sort of love story, regardless to what the plot or theme of the movie is. It’s not realistic to me and it gives so many people a romanticized view of life, especially women, that your prince charming and saving grace is on his way to save you.

    Lastly, I think a lot of people get the idea that women are really catty and backstabbers because of the way women carry themselves in public, at work, school, and at home. We are more likely than men to sit and talk about each other in negative ways. Men can do this and it won’t mean a thing. Women also spread rumors about other women for very petty reasons. You will be hard pressed to find a group of men who do this. And also, because women have always and will always be in competition with one another. Men dont give much weight to what another men think about him.

    We will not create the type of sisterhood that men are able to create with their “brothas” until we stop a lot of the foolishness. It’s possible, but we all need to take a look at ourselves and deal with our issues before we can bond together as “sistas!”

    Thanks, Kendra

    • Yeah. I definitely agree. Women are typically painted as being dependent on men to make them happy. There’s this romantic comedy I saw recently called “he’s just not that into you” and it’s all about women needing men and doing things in order to secure one. So when I saw Sucker Punch, a movie about 4 young women fighting, I really enjoyed the fact that there’s no romance, no love story. It’s about survival, and self-trust; which isn’t something you really see in a movie with female main characters. Granted, it was a film targeted to men, so maybe the females portrayed characteristics best suited for men. Which, if that’s true, is really telling of what expectations people have about men and women in general.

      Yes! I definitely feel that having a romance story in so many films caters to this idea that love can be found everywhere. I’m really starting to appreciate movies that doesn’t prescribe to this idea. Even movies for boys – like Transformers – plays into this idea of unexpected love for the male lead. It’s just a little bit worse because the women in question – ie Megan Fox – has to be extremely physically attractive, but playing into women’s perceived roles, she doesn’t end up really accomplishing anything or doing anything heroic.

      The perception of women being catty and backstabbing is held by real women as well. I went to an all women’s college and I’ve heard women talk about how they prefer the company of men over women. A friend of mine, her best and closest friends stopped speaking to over an incident with a boy when we were in college. You’d think we’d be too old for something like that, but when she told me about it, I realized that it still happens. And I’ve read that the way women torment each other is more emotional than physical, since women don’t really hit each other (at least in movies and some TV shows, women don’t go straight into throwing punches). So it seems a lot of straight women feel an intense competitiveness with each other when it comes to men and attraction, whereas the motto of “bro’s before ho’s” is a common mantra found in both movies and possibly real life.

      I definitely think a lot of women have internalized sexism and anti-feminine ideas, which creates a situation where women put each other down and can’t support one another.

      No problem Kendra! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. This is true and it’s tough because there are so many organizations who actively promote sisterhood, like sororities and social service organizations like OES, but even in those entities you still find cattiness and rivalry. Society doesn’t helps us either, they exploit it because it’s entertaining. We are our own worst enemies sadly to say.

    • *nods* Definitely. Attempts to build sisterhood are often thwarted I think because of “training”. I’ve read a bit about how girls tease each other differently than boys; how girls spread rumors and don’t really confront each other.

      This lines up really well with teen movies with social hierarchy in high schools; the concept of popularity exists more so with girls than boys. Movies about or made for boys don’t center about that sort of thing. I mean, I’ve never seen a movie with a male lead where the lead was the popular guy. Normally, he’s just some typical teen who wants the girl he cant have. I think it’s an interesting perspective. Also, boys seem to be more prone to physically fighting each other at some point whereas girls don’t normally engage in hand to hand combat.

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