Maturity is a Cultural Mirage

Flickr credit to: Calvin Z.

Girls are not innately maturer than boys. In fact, maturity is a social construct based on the premises of sexism and gender expression.

Maturity is little more than gender expression. 

I have only met a small handful of people who don’t believe in the concept of maturity. Most people, especially women, live by the idea that boys simply don’t mature at the same rate that girls do. But, I’m here to tell you that that’s not the case. Girls are forced to mature faster than boys because of sexist behavioral expectations. Such as:

1. “Boys will be boys”

2. “[Boys] sowing their wild oats”

As children, boys are both expected and allowed to behave as children for longer periods of time. Boys aren’t necessarily encouraged to “grow up” as a monolith, and there isn’t much backlash over men who still act like boys. The mental picture of a boy is one that is free.

The mental picture of a girl is one that is responsible. Girls are granted sexual power at an early age, while being held responsible for the actions of others. The act of becoming a woman is fraught with confinement: women aren’t encouraged to go out at night (especially alone – and God forbid to a club), a woman who travels alone is seen as being in perpetual danger, a woman who chooses to be single is seen as incomplete, a woman who doesn’t want children is seen as selfish and in denial, a woman who drinks too much is “asking for it”. Women bear the burden of the world – and this problem is exacerbated when confronted with racial privileges as well.

Because of systemic oppression and sexism, girls are forced to deal with the reality of their femaleness at an earlier age, and have to learn to steel themselves against things like street harassment, work sexual harassment and the constant accusations that being girl should be punishable by law.

When I was younger, my mother told me that I’d have to work harder than others because of my being a girl and black. The internalized inferiority complex some women have compels them to mature faster, to make up what they’re told they are lacking.

Meanwhile, men don’t have the same incentive to mature. Sexism and gender expression has allowed boys the freedom to do what they want for a longer period of time (if not their whole lives). While girls experience a confinement that starts so early, it would appear that girls mature faster.

People often look to psychology and neuroscience to create and establish psychological differences between boys and girls. People are hungry for research that debunks cultural influence, and instead points out that maybe humans are born a certain way. That girls, as part of the human race, DO mature faster. But this is ignoring the cultural context in which this “maturity” is taking place. This research is ignoring in what ways boys are treated differently from girls, and how people have subliminal and overt expectations for girls.

There’s no such thing as maturity – it’s just an expression that has embraced sexist mentalities and biased gender expressions. 


11 thoughts on “Maturity is a Cultural Mirage

  1. I had tears in my eyes when I read your post…no, I am not being corny when I say this–i am just unabashedly truthful.

    I grew up in a village in India & all wanted as a kid was to play. And I did; but only for a while. When I was 13, I couldn’t play badminton in my own front yard without hearing some nasty remarks from men who passed by the main road outside our courtyard wall. And when I complained to my dad about it, he said since my childhood was practically over, I ought to inculcate more discipline into my life. My neighbor (a woman in her her 40s) told me it’s high time I acted more mature–why on earth would a 13 year old want to play? But her 14 year son played everyday. And I realized that his childhood was still on; but mine wasn’t. After all, women older than him didn’t pass any nasty remarks while he played or roamed about freely in the neighborhood. For everyone, he was just a kid…& how intensely I longed to be perceived as a kid too so that I also could roam about freely, play & just be my self…

    Those days are over now. I moved into a rather big city with my parents & sibling. A lot of things are different now–and better. But I still feel traumatized when I hear that all familiar & seemingly innocuous remark: girls mature faster than boys. Because I know vast implications of it. And I thought I was the only one who thought differently about this–lateral thinking weirdo! I thought I was the only one who was aware the maturity myth! Now I know I am not & that made me cry!

    • Hey Raji! Thank you for stopping by and commenting. :]

      That’s really awful about what happened when you were a kid. And I think you bring up an interesting topic of innocence (re: wanting to play all the time versus having to act mature). And I also find it interesting that you were 13, which for some families is the beginning of “womanhood” (re: puberty) and that you have to start taking on different responsibilities as you age. Whereas with boys, the concept of manhood is significantly different and doesn’t seem to involve as much.

      I’m glad we are together on this! I definitely want more people to be aware of the fact that maturity isn’t real, and that if men and women were treated the same, then people wouldn’t believe in the concept of maturity based on sex.

  2. Excellent point made. I never related it to the concept of “maturity” but in terms of “girls are raised and boys are spoiled”. I think of maturity in terms of “age” and growing internally as a human being and learning from one’s mistakes, etc. Both men and women. But though we use different descriptive terms, I am right there with you. I felt it too as the only girl and oldest. I love my brothers BUT they definitely “got away” with more than I did. Now not sure how much was I was the oldest and how much was they were boys, at least 50/50. And my mom “knew”better. :O) But I did point it out to her on more than one occasion the unfairness of her decisions. Of course that was when we were grown and out of her house.

    That’s why I try and honor peoples right to be them and do life the way they choose and break free from the little “boxes” others want to put them in.

    BTW agreed with your comment on BGGWL. :O)

    • Thanks! I’m glad you liked my comment! I definitely feel passionately about not blaming media for our poor relationship with ourselves.

      I am also the oldest with a younger brother, but we weren’t raised together due to divorced parents, so I can’t really comment on my own experiences. But now that I’m older, I have noticed a few differences between how my mother and father treat me and my brother. And I’ve read online about how mothers baby their sons and often times expect the girlfriends/wives to do the same. Even as adults, men aren’t allowed to be grown, and are still catered to.

  3. This is the first i’ve ever heard out loud or in witten form that girls don’t mature faster or earlier than boys. It’s something i’ve believed for a very long time.
    FINALLY, i dont’ feel crazy.. I’m raising my boys to be upstanding little citizens and it’s so hard to fight the social pressures they constantly bombarded with until recently when i started homeschooling and since we’ve been traveling nomadically. it’s still an up hill battle though, because there is still T.V., the internet and ADULTS around us. SIGH..

    thanks see you around
    Annie Andre

    • Lol. I’m glad that you felt connected to the post! I definitely felt alone in my sentiment that girls don’t mature faster than boys!

      I checked out your site too! Your kids are really cute. It’s awesome that your daughter speaks french and english. I’ve been taking french since I was 14, but I didn’t get any good at it until I got to go abroad. :3

      But I’m glad that you stopped by! See ya around!

  4. Pingback: Young at Heart? | No, Seriously, What About Teh Menz?

  5. Totally agree and this has so many repercussions and I think #penelopetrunk’s recent blueprint article is an example. The message we get as women is that we have to take care of everything – to lead the decision for marriage, to lead the decision to have children, to manage the household finances and even to control out external appearances beyond reasonable doubt. Meanwhile guys are let completely off the hook – and nowhere is this more apparent (but more carefully hidden) than in the bedroom.

    • Oh you read Penelope Trunk? (Who doesn’t!?)

      I felt that her post placed a lot of emphasis on women to achieve pretty much everything. I think Penelope speaks from a realist perspective when she gives advice as well as from personal experience. She can’t write as a man, and growing up as a woman in today’s culture has a certain impact on one’s psyche (and opinions about the world). As it stands, women accept a lot of this burden because it’s positioned as being a “package deal” in terms of being a girl. Few people seem eager in questioning it, and women like Penelope are more interested in results and getting in what you want versus trying to find ways around the system (like how she suggest women don’t report sexual harassment in the workplace). It’s easier and more efficient that way, so I think her post was about trying to allow women to “take advantage” of a broken system instead of trying to fix it.

      Stuff like this tends to be a two way street. As fewer women challenge their male partners to step up and accept more responsibility, then there will be fewer men who are interested or expected to. And fewer women have to be less willing to accept all these responsibilities themselves.

  6. Pingback: Older Women with Younger Men

  7. Pingback: Young at Heart? — The Good Men Project

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s