“Boys Will Be Boys (and Why That Is the Stupidest Thing You Could Ever Say to a Little Girl)” by Fortesa Latifi

when she was 7, a boy pushed her on the playground
she fell headfirst into the dirt and came up with a mouthful of gravel and lines of blood chasing each other down her legs
when she told her teacher what happened, she laughed and said ‘boys will be boys honey don’t let it bother you
he probably just thinks you’re cute’
but the thing is,
when you tell a little girl who has rocks in her teeth and scabs on her knees that hurt and attention are the same
you teach her that boys show their affection through aggression
and she grows into a young woman who constantly mistakes the two
because no one ever taught her the difference
‘boys will be boys’
turns into
‘that’s how he shows his love’
and bruises start to feel like the imprint of lips
she goes to school with a busted mouth in high school and says she was hit with a basketball instead of his fist
the one adult she tells scolds her
‘you know he loses his temper easily
why the hell did you have to provoke him?’
so she shrinks
folds into herself, flinches every time a man raises his voice
by the time she’s 16 she’s learned her job well
be quiet, be soft, be easy
don’t give him a reason
but for all her efforts, he still finds one
‘boys will be boys’ rings in her head
‘boys will be boys
he doesn’t mean it
he can’t help it’
she’s 7 years old on the playground again
with a mouth full of rocks and blood that tastes like copper love
because boys will be boys baby don’t you know
that’s just how he shows he cares
she’s 18 now and they’re drunk
in the split second it takes for her words to enter his ears they’re ruined
like a glass heirloom being dropped between the hands of generations
she meant them to open his arms but they curl his fists and suddenly his hands are on her and her head hits the wall and all of the goddamn words in the world couldn’t save them in this moment
she touches the bruise the next day
boys will be boys
aggression, affection, violence, love
how does she separate them when she learned so early that they’re inextricably bound, tangled in a constant tug-of-war
she draws tally marks on her walls ratios of kisses to bruises
one entire side of her bedroom turns purple, one entire side of her body
boys will be boys will be boys will be boys
when she’s 20, a boy touches her hips and she jumps
he asks her who the hell taught her to be scared like that and she wants to laugh
doesn’t he know that boys will be boys?
it took her 13 years to unlearn that lesson from the playground
so I guess what I’m trying to say is
i will talk until my voice is hoarse so that my little sister understands that aggression and affection are two entirely separate things
baby they exist in difference universes
my niece can’t even speak yet but I think I’ll start with her now
don’t ever accept the excuse that boys will be boys
don’t ever let him put his hands on you like that
if you see hate blazing in his eyes don’t you ever confuse it with love
baby love won’t hurt when it comes
you won’t have to hide it under long sleeves during the summer
the only reason he should ever reach out his hand
is to hold yours

~ Fortesa Latifi (@fortesalatifi), tumblr.

15 thoughts on ““Boys Will Be Boys (and Why That Is the Stupidest Thing You Could Ever Say to a Little Girl)” by Fortesa Latifi

  1. This made me cry. So powerful even to somebody who has the fortune of never being hit or abused. I hope to hell that I’m raising my son to never be that boy either.
    And oh, that movie…that book. I could write a dissertation on what I feel about that….and I just deleted the next paragraph. Different subject, different day. Loved the article you referenced on Twitter. LOVED it!
    In fact, I love you both

    Liked by 3 people

  2. What a great poem! I have to share it at every platform. I once spoke to an abused friend, she surprised me by supporting the person she loved, “People will be people. I don’t try to change them.”..Today, “Boy will be boys” reminded me of that. Yesterday, I saw a long queue in front of the Cinema. I wondered if they read the book and understood the message. It’s a strange world! Thank you for sharing the poem and the footnote. Happy Weekend, Christy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your nice comment, Archita. It really is a strange world, I hope your friend ends up in a healthier relationship.

      And for readers who may think we’re coming across unfairly harsh, I do know there is a difference between physical abuse and BDSM between healthy, trusting, consenting adults. Like The Atlantic article I linked to mentioned, I don’t believe the male lead in the books is healthy though, I think he preyed on someone who grew up hearing “boys will be boys.”; I think she fears him rather than trusts him and she is too scared to say no because she doesn’t want to lose him out of her own vulnerabilities and mental unwellness. And to me THAT is physical and emotional abuse, not consensual, trusting, BDSM between healthy adults.

      I love the empowering message in the poem: i will talk until my voice is hoarse so that my little sister understands that aggression and affection are two entirely separate things

      Happy weekend to you, and all, too, Archita!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I grew up in a country where every single person uttered the word “Boys will be boys”. That’s why the empowering words of the poem and the other one “To Fathers with Daughters” by Rupi Kaur made perfect sense to me. I agree with you on BDSM and what the book says too. Thank you once again.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Not unfairly harsh at all. In fact, your capture in the poem, the link to The Atlantic, and your words rise above above everything else I’ve read on the subject. Awesome, baby!
        Now, go have yourself a fantastic Valentine’s weekend with your sweetie…and chocolate…and naps!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thought a lot about your comment…
      I love work that stirs such emotion, though I hope you skipped the mascara that morning. 😉
      It’s so true how the two get bound–fused even–at such a young age, and we spend the rest of our lives feeling confused or guilty or conflicted even when we can’t understand why. Thank god for the people that shine a light and talk about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. No shit. I hate that this movie is out there, that these books, totally designed to make that woman (a fucking traitor to the sex) a gazillion dollars. What I am happy about is that I managed to raise a boy who also thinks this is total garbage.

    I also grew up hearing the words, boys will be boys. Always as an excuse for bad behavior. And I grew up with an abusive father who thought his wife (and his kids) were his property and his right because he was a man.

    Sorry for the rant. This is a sore subject with me, and one that I am so sad is still an issue in the world we live in.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Seriously? No apology Ever needed for a rant. Like I told Ruby (are you following her yet? If not, please do, you’ll love her), I love work that stirs emotion. That emotion is raw truth.
      I was raised with the mentality of “no means no.” There are no shades of grey, no in betweens. But that message is getting so mixed up out there now.
      It’ll never happen, but wouldn’t it be nice if “Ms. James” donated a portion of her gazillion dollars to helping victims of rape, assault and abuse?


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