Ever since Michelle Obama pointed out the ways in which parents inflict gender biases on children, we’ve been a lot more conscientious of the ways in which these impacts occur. In particular, we’ve become more concerned with how to teach young boys how to respect women and treat them responsibly. Recently a discussion on the site LipsickAlley about the use of terms like “ladies man” reminded us of another way that our culture and words can hinder these efforts.
LipstickAlley user Curlista93 recently asked users “who refer to their sons as “heartbreakers” and “ladies man” at a very young age” whether or not they thought using such terms were “more likely to encourage or allow fuckboi behavior” when their children get older.
It didn’t take long for women to come forward with all kinds of opinions and for us at FIERCE to nod our heads in approval.
Mostly because, as one user pointed out when terms like these are applied to young boys they often simply imply a “code for he ain’t gon be shit.”
Of course, comments like these are well-meaning. They’re intended really to tell parents that their child is attractive and even sweet maybe. Still, in a lot of ways messages to children, ones that they are “ladies men,” or “heartbreakers” indicate that these are admirable traits to beheld. Moreover, being defined by these characteristics is the goal.
As one user in the thread pointed out, it’s also extremely sexist. “Fathers/Mothers posting pics of their 2-year-old son calling them these names, and they usually never refer to their daughters as heartbreakers. I assume these parents are more likely to groom or allow certain behaviors during adolescence and young adulthood.”
Also, It’s oddly sexual
Some users on the thread strongly disagreed with this sentiment. As one user wrote, “It’s not that serious. It’s just another way to say he’s a handsome young man. Don’t think too hard about it. But there IS something oddly sexualizing about the comments. “I think it’s weird and inappropriate. Sexualizing underaged children, particularly infants and toddlers, reeks of pedophilia/grooming to me,” another user said in response to the question.
It’s a road map for a bad boyfriend.
“Some of y’all don’t understand the power of these messages we give to our children,” another user pointed out. “Telling the boys that they will be heartbreakers and telling the girls they will break a lot of hearts is all putting those thoughts into their minds that that’s what they should do and it’s fine. Just like telling them that they ain’t shit or just like Their sorry ass daddies.”
It sets the bar low.
As one user pointed out “Its code for he ain’t gon be shit.” Why tell boys they’re “heartbreakers” when you could call them “future feminists” and “activists in-the-making”?
It makes for an entitled man in the future.
“I think it sets up destructive and entitled mindsets and behaviors surrounding social and dating dynamics. I loathe anything and everything that sexualizes or fetishizes kids and promotes highly questionable and problematic behaviors, attitudes, and complexes.”
Sure, as some users pointed out, in the end, comments like these might not aim to be so serious.
Often times, admirers of your children might just be trying to implement a compliment. But words have power (have the last 4 years not taught any of us this??). No doubt, comments like these might be coming from well-meaning people but they are comments that stem from some pretty problematic cultural norms about male behavior.
Identifying whether or not we’re dating a man or a little boy can be hard enough as it is. Let’s avoid making it worse.