Saturday, 12 May 2012

Boys will be boys

Another big part of my conversation with Jon was the subject of boys.  We are both the father of boys and we both were boys, of course.  We may not be experts, but we do have some specialist knowledge of the area.

Some of this goes back to my post about football a few weeks back, as well as the one a few days ago about being fourteen.  But Jon and I were talking about how the treatment of boys is often seemingly about containment or control of their boyishness in a way that does not seem to happen with girls.

I was at a school last year where I did an event that was poorly staged and poorly led.  The kids were hard work because they did not really know who I was or why they were expected to listen to me.  We can argue that they should listen anyway, but without a teacher or librarian priming the audience, a visitor has a lot of work to do to win them over.  We don't know the kids and we don't have the armoury of rewards and punishments open to teachers.

Anyway - at this particular event there was a group of girls who were constantly talking among themselves - even at one point where I was reading.  I had to stop and explain to them that this wasn't going to work and they stayed quiet.  For a while.

At the end of the event, the librarian stepped in and tore a strip off a boy who was by no means the most disruptive member of the audience.  In fact he had asked questions and had been pretty good-humoured, albeit a little boisterous.  But I will take a slightly cocky, cheeky kid over a sullen, silent one any day of the week.  The girls were clearly the problem in that event.  But it was the boy - he was big and quite loud - who was singled out.

It seems to be appreciated that there are all kinds of girls and these differences are celebrated - and rightly so.  But there are just as many kinds of teenage boy.  Some are quiet and studious.  Some are shy and withdrawn.  Some are loud and boisterous.  Some are sports-mad.  Some are sex-mad.

Some are all these things in a single day.

But there is little acknowledgement of this complexity on television, say, where teenage boys will be almost universally dim, lazy or threatening.  And again - I'm not saying that they can't be these things.  I spent much of my teens dodging boys for whom casual violence was a kind of pastime.

But not enough is said about how funny teenage boys can be or how enthusiastic, how brave or how resilient, how clever or how inventive.  Or, simply, how different they are.

I don't write exclusively for boys and I know that girls and young women enjoy my books.  But I do write from the position of having been a boy myself and in a way, I write for that boy I once was.  He is easily distracted and finds it hard to concentrate on any one thing for a long time.  He reads a lot of comics and watches a lot of TV and he's a bit of a dreamer.

I like him.

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